Hart Prairie Preserve - The Nature Conservancy
An early summer Forum post by Shawn Redfield caught my attention - http://hikearizona.com/dex2/viewtopic.php?t=3284
. After exchanging a couple of emails, Lynn and I added to the reservation list. Unfortunately Lynn had to back out.
I arrived at the entrance of the Hart Prairie Preserve mid afternoon on Friday August 15th after catching lunch with Hannah at Flagstaff's Beaver Street Brewery. The skies were promising a late afternoon monsoon shower as I pulled up to the Mariposa Lodge where Shawn and Jordan were unpacking food supplies from their SUV into the kitchen.
I'm soon introduced to the TNC Site Manager, Neil Chapman, who shows me my room at the Mariposa Lodge - The Cocoon. Volunteers Lee and Anne soon arrive at the front porch as lightning put an end to their chainsaw activity. We decide to sample some choice English beers while watching the light show. A text message from my daughter indicates a tornado warning has been issued. A telephone call from Anne's home in Parks indicates 2+ inches of hail covers the ground. Cool!
By early evening about 15 other volunteers trickle in at the Mariposa Lodge and are assigned to their cabins. Most have familiar names -- Hikngrl, GTG, paintninaz, Tom Treks, desertgirl, chihiggs, wanderingsoul, jdahling, Hnak, oliverr99, beckett, JanM, jmzblond, Shawn - now I can associate a face. Neil Chapman indicates that we plan to burn some of the slash piles starting at 7:00am. Shawn indicates breakfast will be ready at 6:00am. That convinces most of us to turn in for the evening.
Saturday pre-dawn light arrives quickly (too quickly say my body). The smell of fresh brewing coffee stirs me from my bed. Linda has the coffee brewed for max-caffeine - perfect to jolt the heart into action and wake you up! Shawn and Jordan are baking fresh cinnamon rolls and chopping up fruit with military precision. A line-up quickly forms when those cinnamon rolls exit the oven.
Neil, Anne, and Lee arrive and start preparing the fire gear. With no wind and light rain in the forecast, burning the dried slash piles made by the Sierra Club a few weeks earlier was the plan. I was handed an asbestos fire shirt and a drip torch and pointed at the slash piles and told "Light â€˜em up!"
After the slash piles were burnt to the ground, I joined Tom, Tracy and Michelle gathering up Aspen rounds and slash chain-sawed earlier in the day by Anne and Lee. Using a beat up Chevy pick-up to transport the loads, we began forming new slash piles. One, two, fourteen, fifteen... The new slash piles keep growing.
Saturday lunch gives the muscles a break. After lunch I join a group led by Lee to remove invasive plant species from Fern Mountain. At precisely 4:00pm, a monsoon storm rolls over the San Francisco Peaks. Time to put the work behind us and enjoy... Relaxing on the front porch sucking back a beverage, I staggered by the number of humming birds flitting back and forth from feeder to feeder. Heavy rain and hail punctuated by cracks of thunder didn't deter the hummers. The temperature plummets rapidly. Time to uncork the Prickly Pear Vodka from Flagstaff for a quick warm-you-up!
Steaks on the BBQ start the hunger pangs. Food, food, and more food start rolling out of the kitchen courtesy of Shawn and Jordan. Just when you think you are beyond full, home made ice cream and peach cobbler is placed in front of you. OK, so I ate it all and had seconds - time for a midnight stroll...
Sunday morning had some free time to explore the Hart Creek Nature Trail before getting back to loading the pick-up trucks with rounds and slash. Lunch time arrives before you know it. Diane has her leg propped up on the front porch with ice packs. That doesn't look good (hear later that she broke her leg - yikes!).
That's probably the only downside to a fantastic weekend. Would do it all over again in an instant! Got those next dates fixed with Neil yet Shawn?.