The Wildlife Corridor is an important connecting tract of land just outside of Patagonia, Arizona. The corridor connects the Sierra San Antonio Mountain range from Mexico to the Patagonia Mountains. The wildlife trail that we worked on will connect the Arizona Trail into the Santa Rita Mountains. It is home to an impressive Agave parryi patch which we know has been a food source to the people of the desert for 9,000 years. Many birds and wildlife call this 1,300 acre of protected land home.
Every Thursday at 8:00 a.m. locals and friends meet at a trail head. Today 16 volunteer “dirt bags” met just outside of Smith Canyon in the wildlife corridor to work the trail. I asked a volunteer Joe, "how long he had been a dirt bag?", and he joked “all my life”. The name dirt bag comes from a leather or canvas bag with 2 handles used to haul dirt or tools.
We wasted no time as we trekked through the desert landscape and arrived at a hillside marked with flags that Chris Strohm, whom has 13 almost 14 years working trails for the United States Forest Service, had strategically placed using GPS to track inclines in the landscape and keep record of points of interest. Chris talked about the importance of safety and carefully guided us along the ½ mile trail that the dirt bags are currently working on. He gave us each a pick and a tool called a McLeod. The McLeod is the #1 tool used to make trails, created by a US Forest Service Ranger Malcolm McLeod, and is somewhat like a rake used to move sediment and shape trails. We got to work picking into the brown rocky soil, moving the dirt off the trail and making sure the width and slope were correct.
I left having a deep appreciation for the work that dirt bags do. The dirt bags play a important role in preserving and keeping pristine trails. This specific trail will connect to the Arizona Trail that runs the whole length of Arizona. It will have panoramic views of 4 mountain ranges, an impressive geological area, and has a vast amount of botany. The trail will showcase many of these areas where the land looks washed away uncovering large rocks and creating washes. The trail goes alongside parts of the desert that look like it is still being moved and created by the elements. Chris and the Dirt Bag crew are dedicated individuals whom are creating a wonderful place for generations to visit, enjoy and cherish for many years. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to work alongside them.