Arizona Trail News - June 22, 2021

Coconino & Kaibab National Forests Close on June 23

Due to fire danger, dry conditions, and persistent wildfire activity during a time when firefighting resources are sparse, the Coconino and Kaibab National Forests will close for public safety beginning Wednesday, June 23 at 8 a.m. This closure order includes 300 miles of the Arizona Trail between General Springs Trailhead (Passage 27) and Winter Road (Passage 43) near the Utah border. A full forest closure means that the public is prohibited from entering any part of the forest at any time. Campers and visitors to the national forest should vacate their campsites before the closure begins, and the public should cancel any plans for visiting for the next several weeks.

Though parts of the national forest may receive rain from sporadic storms over the next couple of weeks, this closure will not be rescinded until sufficient precipitation is received to adequately reduce the risk of wildfire, and hot, dry weather conditions are no longer forecast to continue. The violation of closures and fire restrictions carries a mandatory appearance in federal court, punishable as a Class B misdemeanor with a fine of up to $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or up to six months in prison, or both. The Arizona Trail Association fully supports Forest Service leadership in making this difficult decision, and we ask for your patience, understanding, and compliance with closure orders. We know this will ruin many volunteer opportunities, family vacations, youth programs, and personal adventures you’ve been looking forward to for months. We also acknowledge the painful sting this will deliver to gateway communities, local businesses, and the people they employ who rely on Arizona’s outdoor recreation economy. Let’s work together to protect the trail and the forest, respect wildland firefighters who are being called to incidents all over the Southwest, and look forward to a time when we can find our peace on the Arizona Trail once more. Before you head outdoors this summer, thoroughly research closures and restrictions, wildfires, and have a Plan B and C in place in case your primary destination is closed, full, or inaccessible. Stay informed about wildfires through Inciweb.

See all Arizona Trail closures here.

Which Animal Embodies the Spirit of the Arizona Trail?

The biodiversity experienced along the 800 miles between Mexico and Utah is what makes the Arizona National Scenic Trail so special, and wildlife encounters are integral to the Arizona Trail experience. The Arizona Trail Association is looking for your opinion on which animal best represents the AZT. Should it be something seen along every passage, like a red-tailed hawk? Or something not found on any other National Scenic Trail, perhaps a Gila monster. Or what about something that embodies the character of the trail, maybe a desert bighorn sheep? Or something completely different, like cochineal or humpback chub? In order to determine the official critter of the AZT, we want to hear from you. Give it some thoughtful consideration, and submit your answers through Facebook, Instagram or email us here. We'll choose the most popular submissions and launch a Facebook survey in two weeks. Then, you'll have an opportunity to vote on the final. Results will be posted shortly thereafter, and you'll begin seeing the chosen animal integrated into our posts, merchandise, printed materials, and more. Did you know the ATA has been monitoring wildlife on various passages of the AZT for the past three years? Through the use of remote cameras, we are documenting animals on and near the trail to inform a research study into how non-motorized recreational activities may impact wildlife and wildlife corridors; potential benefits of recreational trails to wildlife; and collecting data on trail use (type, frequency, duration, seasonal trends, etc.) at the same time. Please make a donation online to help sustain our Wildlife Monitoring program! Click Here to donate. DONATE Central Arizona Backcountry Horsemen Support Gate Installation Near Grandview Lookout Tower

Last month, ATA staff, volunteers and friends worked together to replace a dilapidated wire gate on the Kaibab National Forest with a steel AZT Super Gate. The gate was funded by Central Arizona Backcountry Horsemen and Starfish Riders, and installed by a crew of Arizona Trail supporters from far and near. Everyone was excited to work together to make this small but important enhancement to the Arizona National Scenic Trail. Did you know the ATA has replaced over 100 wire gates along the trail with steel AZT Super Gates? These gates keep out motorized vehicles and protect the trail, are easy to open and close, and accommodate all trail users (including fully-loaded pack stock and wheelchairs). For some, they’re an iconic structure that help define the Arizona Trail experience. We love ‘em because they’re built to last 100 years or more, are maintenance free, and fabricated locally. Individuals and organizations who sponsor a gate receive acknowledgement on a metal plaque affixed to the gate to celebrate their support. Last summer, Carolyn Lee reached out to the ATA to see what it would take to replace a wire gate west of Grandview Lookout Tower with a steel gate. The ATA’s Executive Director navigated the approval process with the US Forest Service while Carolyn raised the funds through her local riding group, Starfish Riders. After a successful Facebook fundraising campaign, Carolyn waited patiently while the Kaibab National Forest conducted a thorough process in compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Once the project was approved, a date was set for installation and after four hours, the structure was successfully in place.

“I'm so glad I pursued getting this improvement on my beloved AZT!” said Carolyn. If you’d like to learn more about gate sponsorship opportunities, or how your family, club or group can support our mission, please reach out to Brittany Chavez, Development Director, at brittany@aztrail.org. Backbone Fire Forces Closure of Arizona Trail and Evacuation of Residents of Pine and Strawberry

The Backbone Fire has forced a closure of the Arizona Trail west of the town of Pine. In the interest of public safety, AZT Passage 25 (Whiterock Mesa) and a 30) and Bray Creek (mile 462). Trail users are discouraged from visiting any portion of Passage 26 as the fire advances further west. Nearby communities of Pine and Strawberry have already evacuated. The Backbone Fire was first reported on June 7 and has grown to over 37,296 acres. If you have ever enjoyed a zero day in Pine, or a post-trail refreshment at THAT Brewery or another local establishment, please send them your thoughts, prayers and messages. We’re all hoping the fire stays away from these wonderful communities, and spares the trail we recently built nearby. To stay informed about the Backbone Fire, visit the Inciweb page here. New Signs Increase Safety Within Arizona Trail Corridor

Anyone who has ever visited the Arizona Trail’s Passage 6 (Las Colinas) may recall the sound of gunfire as you near Barrel Canyon and cross Forest Road 231 on the Coronado National Forest. This is a very popular recreational shooting area on the Nogales Ranger District, and numerous Arizona Trail users have feared for their safety as the pass through this area of dense mesquite and oak trees while gunshots ring out from multiple directions. Thanks to the advocacy of Arizona Trail users who had a particularly harrowing experience here during the winter of 2019, the ATA has worked closely with National Forest staff to develop and approve signs to inform recreational shooters that the Arizona Trail is nearby. These signs were recently installed along all roads within close proximity to the Arizona Trail, and we are confident they’ll improve safety for all trail users. It’s one small step toward public education, and working together to make sure everyone who is on the AZT is safe. Thanks to Adam and John at the Coronado National Forest, and the Student Conservation Association members who braved summer temperatures to get these into the ground. If you ever experience unsafe conditions along the Arizona Trail, please contact the ATA, our Trail Stewards, and/or local law enforcement.

Arizona Backcountry Llamas is a proud supporter of the Arizona Trail Association. Arizona Backcountry Llamas is a family owned and operated business. Janice and Chris Dunn have spent decades exploring Arizona and the West, and have been packing with llamas for 25 years. They are ready to share their love of the outdoors with anyone who is interested in exploring and learning more about the natural and cultural history of Arizona. Arizona Llamas offer day trips in the Prescott area, and multi-day adventures near Williams or north of Grand Canyon. Learn more at arizonallamas.com. Arizona Backcountry Llamas is a Business Partner of the Arizona Trail Association. Please support the local businesses that support the ATA.

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