Passage 23 – Mazatzal Divide

May 4-7, 2017

This 4-day work event installed 7 new wilderness signs on segment 23c from the Barnhardt Trail junction with the Divide Trail and The Park, 7.7 miles north. The 3-man crew met at the Barnhardt TH on the evening of May 4th to hand-off 63 lbs of signs, a 15 lb. digging bar and a 5 lb. crosscut saw to horse packer (and super generous AZT volunteer) Bill Vicary.
The two crew members on foot left the trailhead with loaded backpacks at 6:00 am the next morning in order to reach the junction with the AZT 6.2 miles up the trail by roughly the same time as the horses with signs and tools, who BTW, left 2 hours after the backpackers. After caching 3 signs for future installation south of the Barnhardt junction, the crew installed 2 new signs and an AZT placard on the existing post at the junction.

Next up was a new post/sign/placard directly below Chilson Spring. As this area is quite rocky, we were lucky to find a spot where we could dig a 24″ deep hole on a very steep slope for the new post. BTW, just before getting to Chilson Spring, we were passed by a northbound Wounded Warrior from Missouri thru-hiking the entire AZT.

Just up the trail 0.2 miles, a new post, sign and placard were installed at the junction of the north end of the Brody Seep Trail and the Divide Trail. While working at this location, we met another northbound thru-hiker, this one from New Hampshire. Sure is rewarding to see people from far away enjoying the AZT!

Chilson Camp is just south of the Brody Seep Trail junction. If you haven’t been there, it is a very special place. We had a late lunch there. Shade for the crew, grass for the horses and spectacular views. The crew continued on to Horse Camp Seep, our base camp for the next two days. After a 12 hour day of backpacking, digging and mounting signs, we all appreciated the water, shade and serenity of this place. However, the horses took some time getting used to the frogs croaking after dark.

May 6th had a long list of things to get done. The two crew members on foot left base camp at 6:00 am followed by the horses at 7:00 am. Our plan was to make our way to the farthest sign location at The Park, 4.2 miles north, and work our way back to base camp. On the way to The Park the crew had to clear three medium size Oak trees and two very large Ponderosas (18″ and 24″ diameter) that had fallen across the trail so the horses could get through. After lunch at The Park, a new post/sign/placard was installed at the junction of the North Peak Trail and the Divide Trail. On our way back to base camp, a new post/sign/placard was installed directly downhill from Hopi Spring. It was easy to find the spring as the trail was soaked below the spring. It took only 11 hours to get the work done today.

May 7th had only two tasks; install the last post/sign/placard at the Horse Camp Seep junction with the Divide Trail and head for home. After working from 6-7:30 am on the last sign, we had breakfast, packed up and left Horse Camp Seep by 9:00 am. Funny how fast the horses made it back to the trailhead!

One member of the crew likes to share his answer when people ask him “Why do you work so hard on these volunteer work events?” His answer: “Cuz it feels so good when you stop!” No kidding!

Thanks to Joe Longbotham for his continuing ‘tireless’ contributions to the ATA! Thanks also to Bill Vicary who lives in Elgin, AZ and made the 12 hour round trip to help get these wilderness signs installed before the heat sets in. Oh, and thanks to Sugar and Rocket. We couldn’t have done this trip without you.

Roger Smith