Hiking with SaddleBrooke

On October 26th, 2018, 14 students from Mountain Vista Elementary School embarked on an adventure into the Santa Catalina Mountains. Using Marshall Gulch Trailhead on the Arizona Trail, these youth were excited and ready to explore the pine fresh mountain tops. On this day, we all had the special pleasure of hiking with Ray Peale and Elisabeth Wheeler, and meeting SaddleBrooke hiking club president Norm Rechkemmer. Presented by Norm Rechkemmer, the SaddleBrooke Hiking Club donated $1000 to The Arizona Trail Association’s Seeds of Stewards program. This is an incredible donation, and we knew the perfect way to celebrate it — a beautiful hike on Mt. Lemmon.

Our hike began when the students decided to climb down into the creek. For most of them, this was their first time on Mt. Lemmon, their curiosity and excitement could not be contained. When we finally pulled them away from the creek, we introduced them to Elisabeth, Norm, and Ray from the SaddleBrooke Hiking Club. The students were really grateful for the donation and excited to introduce themselves. Together we took a group photo, then started up the trail. Norm returned to SaddleBrooke, but Elisabeth and Ray stayed with us to spend time with the students and see just what Seeds of Stewardship does.

The students were immediately fascinated by the variety of shaped and colored rocks that littered the trail. They began to fill their pockets, then hands, then arms with the many rocks that captivated their hearts and minds. I described to the kids what Leave No Trace means, and why we can pick up and admire the wonderful things outside, but we cannot take them home. The students were not excited to learn they could not keep their treasures, but were understanding. So, we continued along the trail, still admiring the rocks, but leaving them for others to find and admire too.

At this time, fall had come to change the leaves to their sunset colors. The reds, yellows, and greens that formed the canopy above also painted the floor below, and suddenly it was as if we were in a mirror house of colors. The students had never seen anything like this before, and their eyes were wide with excitement. Elisabeth and Ray were wonderful to hike with, and they shared so many wonderful tips lessons with the kids. The students seemed to of gravitated to their presence and were excited to hike with them. Together we found a boulder that stood over the creek and gulch below. We stopped here to discuss photosynthesis, and what it is that makes the leave change. What does elevation have to do with it, and what is color anyway and why do we see it? The students were fascinated by this conversation.

Then we began our way to the creek below and began hiking along it. This became very adventurous, and it might have been the students’ favorite part. Sometimes we had to slide down smooth granite rocks, other times we had to walk along or duck underneath logs. The kids did wonderfully, and with the help of Elisabeth and Ray, we were able to show the students that adventure and learning are perfect together. We used rocks to get across wide stream paths, and pushed through overgrown vegetation. By doing this, we were not only able to move and explore in ways we had not, but we were also able to see the creek and mountain more intimately. We discussed aquatic and non-aquatic ecosystems, exploring the many plants and animals that thrive together. They were very interested, if not skeptical, to learn that these mountains had black bears, mountain lions, and the elusive jaguar. This sent their imaginations into a frenzy.

By this time, we had made our way back to the vans. The students were tired but full of experience and joy. We were able to explore and learn so much from this trip, offering these young people the opportunity to learn and experience things they had never before, and might never have. Of course, this would not have been possible without the SaddleBrooke Hiking Club. Their donation is an example of true altruism, supporting the development and education of children from Mountain Vista Elementary School, and many other schools, too. It was an amazing day on the Arizona Trail.

Also, thanks to Resolution Copper for their support of this outing!