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Silly Mountain

 Silly Mountain Trail Map


IT’S A DRY HEAT
Silly Mountain Restoration Update

Cyndi Ruehl, Restoration Ecologist

I have heard, “Gee whiz, that old off-road scar up Silly Mountain isn’t looking too good this summer, what happened?” What is happening to our restoration site is exactly what nature is naturally doing all around us when we have a fairly dry monsoon season: sitting and waiting. The seeds, not given precious life sustaining rain to germinate and set roots, incredibly sit in wait year after year after year. Maybe twenty years, maybe even longer, if necessary. In late spring, as our wildflowers and grasses on the site began drying up and dropping their seeds for slumber, the heartier perennial bushes and trees came forth scattered hither and yon. I have been encouraged to see some creosote bush, bursage, and brittlebush youngsters establishing themselves on the site. They are the first to begin the process of establishing their roots and holding the soils in place.

Most importantly, the hydrology earth work is holding well through the winter and monsoon rains, restoring the mountain’s natural drainage. The restoration of the hydrology slows erosion and creates mini-ecoclimates which capture and shade prospective seedlings.

Restoration of desert lands is a very long term wait and see process. I don’t anticipate seeing a significant difference on that scar for another 8-10 years. All the more reason to stop destructive off road activity before it happens. With our poor, thin desert soils and scant rainfall, some devastated desert lands NEVER restore.

We must be ever vigilant to stay off the restoration area and continue to “encourage” others to do the same. Just one foot print could obliterate the hope of a tiny seedling and its potential to add its roots to the efforts of restoration.

On another aspect of user impact on “Our Little Gem in the Desert”, wildcat trail building within the park is only adding other future eroded and devastated slopes of the mountain. Let us remember this is city property and it is not open season to dig out a trail wherever one wants. The 11 trail system created by SALT volunteers is a holistic system planned with all ecological elements considered first. Those who are building their own trails throughout the park are creating imbalances, erosion, increasing user impact and decreasing wildlife habitat. If this behavior continues, soon there will be little left in between the hard packed dirt pathways. Sometimes we humans just love our desert to death. Park rangers will systematically try to cover these illegal, harmful trails and site hikers on these illegal trails, but the damage and devastation has already been done. Please carefully stay on the designated trails, don’t cross cut trails, don’t use trails that have no signage, and discourage those people building their own personal trails to abandon them for the love of the mountain.

I am looking forward to working with Kara Butterworth’s Environmental Science students from Apache Junction High School. Silly Mountain will be their living-lab as we partner in field work and field study.

IT’S A DRY HEAT
Silly Mountain Restoration Update