What may be the first in-person gathering of Pima County Master Naturalists (PCMN) since we started Zooming our Board Meetings back in March of 2020 took place in the Tucson Mountains on Wednesday, June 16, 2021. Six MNs and a family member initiated the PCMN hiking Program with a four mile hike along a section of the Yetman Trail. Although it was already well into the 80’s at 0615 when we started, everyone was excited and prepared for the desert heat.
This particular route was selected because it is a great ‘novice’ desert trail. One goal of the PCMN Advanced Training Committee is to encourage members to enhance their appreciation of the Sonoran Desert by offering an introductory level course on local hiking. While together, the group discussed an informal curriculum that could qualify for either Advanced Training (Skills) or minimally, Advanced Training (AT) credit. Hikes, especially more challenging ones, would also be offered simply for recreation and comradery. Something we can all certainly use! Our new C5 colleague, Melissa, also suggested a family and friends options that we will explore.
“We have Master Naturalists, including me, that relocated to the Sonoran Desert, as well as local folks who have not hiked much. The AT Committee would like to offer various levels of hiking classes so MNs can hike safely, and learn new trails. Hiking with other MNs also brings the added dimension of their knowledge in specific areas, so much shared knowledge occurred on this awesome first in-person class since Covid hit!” Penny Marshal, Chair PCMN Advanced Training Committee
While there are several accesses to the Yetman Trail, this inaugural hike left from the Camino de Oeste Trailhead near the west end of Speedway at Gates Pass Rd. The first half mile is through a nice steep canyon so was shaded a bit from the rising sun both in and out. The historic Bowen Stone House is at the 1.5 mile mark. A good turn-around point and Southern vista is at 2 miles.
At the turn-around point we could see the Clearwater Renewable Resource Facility. Jean Boris subsequently researched it and learned that this is where Central Arizona Project (CAP) water is stored after it is pumped up from the aquifer before delivery to our taps.
As mentioned, an added advantage to hiking with other Master Naturalists is the knowledge that can be shared. Josh Ruddick explained/showed how rock lichen reflects local air quality. An amusing memory aid was offered; “Alice algae took a lichen to Freddy fungus but we hear their relationship is on the rocks”
The group also observed and discussed the abundance of Saguaro blossoms this year. The theory being that it’s a species response to the challenging conditions of draught and excess heat. Everyone was also offered some of the ‘candy of the desert’.
We were able to develop a strong curriculum of ‘best practices’ for hiking in the desert which we’ll begin offering on future hikes. Topics range from trail safety and protocol to hydration and equipment. In the meantime you can contact the Advanced Training Committee with any specific questions. Our hiking sub-committee includes Paul Stillman C3, Deb Huie C1 and myself.