Passage 15 – Tortilla Mountains

The Arizona Trail Association, with Bureau of Land Management funding, just relocated 0.8 miles of the trail south of Florence.  The trail passed very close to a key water source which raised concerns from the grazing permittee, and BLM had committed to eventually moving the trail.  Environmental clearances were finished just days before the funding expired, so this week was it!  The weather forecast was less-than-ideal, but delay was not an option.  Three “ground crew” joined the mini-excavator to knock it out.

Access to the area is over 4-5 miles of two-track off the Florence-Kelvin Highway.  Recent drilling activity has improved most of the route, but the last couple miles were a bit sketchy.  Once at the north end of the project, the crew got right to it.  The mini-excavator does the heavy lifting and the ground crew finishes the trail with hand tools.  Several wash crossings received the “rubble dam” treatment to limit erosion.  When done correctly, that is, with a lot of rocks, this has proven effective in the area.  The work went quickly with over half the distance completed the first day.  Then back to camp for a quick dinner and set up for a cold night in the tents.

Day two, the crew was up at the crack of dawn and the accompanying rise in temps at about 7:00 AM.  No sense freezing out there.  Work progressed steadily southward in pleasant sunshine until lunch, when some ominous clouds gathered and prompted a bit of a race with the weather.  It passed and by 3:00 PM the new section was complete.  The machine headed back on the old trail, closing and obliterating it.  The crew installed new signs at the road crossings and everyone got back to camp about the same time.  Then load up and head home!

Traffic on the AZT continues to increase. During the 36 hours the crew was on this remote location, at least 4 hikers and one cyclist passed by.

Another couple of great days on the AZT.


Let’s put it here, the cholla may help keep the ATV’s off the trail.


Well underway, the machine does the heavy lifting.


OK, make a trail out of it.


Like that.


Wash crossings got the rubble dam treatment.


New trail through the desert.


Last task is to obliterate the old route.