Passage 42 – Kaibab Plateau North

September 28-30, 2017

Given the access issues, the northern AZT passages receive their love in short, intense bursts. This year that included the annual steward event in June, the logging push on Passage 39 in July and now a three-day gate installation effort that resulted in six AZT super-gates on Passage 42.

The Kaibab National Forest and Arizona Trail Association partnered to replace the allotment fence gates that were reaching the end of their expected life. All were in advances stages of deterioration, and included simple wire “texas” gates that can be impossible for some users to close and galvanized panels more appropriate for suburban back yards than a remote spot on a National Scenic Trail.

ATA’s “usual suspects” convened at Orderville TH near Jacob Lake Thursday, September 28, and the early arrivals began work on the gate immediately across the highway. By day’s end the holes were dug and all material was on site.

Allison Ayers, our contact with the Kaibab Forest, joined the group for day two, which saw the gate near the TH and two more completed, including the most challenging one. About a mile south of Government Reservoir the trail passes through a gate in the bottom of a canyon. The closest access to the site is one-quarter mile cross-country through the sagebrush and down the steep slope to the canyon bottom. ATA’s new power crawler-hauler was a godsend for this work, hauling the gate, concrete, water, generator and jack hammer. Several crewmembers dispatched a large brushy deadfall at this location while others dug the holes and others assembled the gate. After hauling the tools back out the day, and half the project, was done.

Two of the remaining three sites were close together near the FS/BLM boundary, south of Winter Road. The other was a few miles south of that. After a quick pancake breakfast the crew headed up Orderville Canyon — a scenic but dusty drive unless you are in the lead. Weather was ideal, sunny, cool and breezy. By lunchtime the crew had the two gates near the border installed. Roger voiced the obvious question, “Can we do three in one day?” Doing so would be a stretch but everything was there, and it was an hour drive to camp each way. The group decided to go for it with the understanding that everyone would work at their own pace, no heroics involved.

Everyone turned to, rotating between jack hammer work, concrete mixing, fence re-connection and tread restoration. John helped Tom change his obligatory flat tire — for reasons defying understanding Tom seldom escapes a project without a flat. Bill advanced the tarp-mixed-concrete system with a novel bag opening technique — drop the bag so a corner hits first and it splits open, negating the need to chop it open with a shovel. (“You guys are getting a little too far into this,” you say? Fifty-one gates (and counting) thirteen bags per gate – 663 bags! Hey, seconds add up!)

Two hours later all six gates were in the ground! After sorting tools, driving back to camp and a quick clean-up, everyone convened at Jacobs Lake Lodge for dinner. No one felt like starting for home that late in the day so everyone spent one more night in camp and headed home Sunday morning.

Thanks to Tom, Lee, David, Bill, John, Joe, Roger and Rob. And a special thanks and welcome to Gordon and Duane who, jumping in with both feet, joined the gang on one of their first trail work events. Duane hiked Passage 43 the day before the work started, and finished the trip by hiking Passage 42 the day after while Gordon broke camp and provided shuttle service.

Shawn Redfield