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Monday, May 16, 2016


Coconino National Forest, Flagstaff
Orange paint marks tress to save during 4FRI (Okay Orange)
The heat is on and with it comes the annual migration of Valley hikers to the cool forests of Northern Arizona. While trekking along high country trails, you might encounter trees bearing orange or blue paint blazes. These colorful codes are part of the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI), a planned 20-year effort to restore fire-adapted ecosystems in Kaibab, Coconino, Apache-Sitgreaves and Tonto National Forests through hand thinning, logging and prescribed burns.
Orange paint designates trees that will not be cut (and may also indicate treatment area boundaries) while blue marks those to be removed. An easy way to remember this: Okay Orange, Bye Bye Blue.
Scars of the 2010 Schultz Fire

Many Arizona forests are rife with unhealthy, tinderbox conditions. The major goals of 4FRI are to reduce fuels that contribute to unnaturally catastrophic wildfires, protect watershed resources, increase plant diversity and preserve wildlife habitats. The project is currently active in Flagstaff's Dry Lake Hills area. You can observe some of the prep work by taking a hike on the Oldham Trails. The tour begins in Buffalo Park with an easy half-mile walk north to the Lower Oldham/Arizona Trail junction. From here, follow the Arizona Trail signs.
Blue means cut. (ByeBye Blue)
Numerous, unmarked secondary trails run through the area and can be confusing. Oldham Trail runs to the east, nearest the mountain, but if you miss it, no worries---just keep heading north and you'll end up on Elden Mountain Road roughly 2.5 miles north of the park. Along the way, stop and contemplate the woodlands and see if you can figure out the logic behind the save/cut markings on the Ponderosa pine trees. Once on the road, signage improves and you can continue on to Upper Oldham or any of the Dry Lake Hills system trails. To keep with the theme of forest health, hike Upper Oldham Trail to Sunset Trail, turn right and walk 1.3 miles across a barren ridgeline to the summit of Mount Elden. Here, the devastation caused by the 2010 Shultz Fire is clearly visible on the mountain's flanks. This is exactly the kind of disaster the 4RFI is trying to prevent.
Logging activities in treatment areas may cause temporary trail closures, so be sure to check the forest service website before heading out.
Upper Oldham Trail
All distances include the 0.5-mile park access trail.
Lower (Easy) Oldham: 2.5 miles one-way to Mt. Elden Road
Oldham #1: 3.2 miles one-way to Mt. Elden Road
Upper Oldham: 5.3 miles one-way
To Mount Elden: 6.6 miles one-way
RATING: easy - difficult
Lower Oldham: 7,040' - 7,380'
Oldham #1: 7,040' - 7,590'
Upper Oldham: 7,040' - 8,920'
Sunset Trail to Mount Elden: 8,920' - 9,299'
From Route 66 in Flagstaff, go 0.6 mile north on Humphreys St. to Fort Valley Road (US180). Turn left and continue 0.3 mile to Forest Ave., turn right and continue 1 mile to the stop light at Gemini Drive. Turn left and follow the signs to Buffalo Park.
INFO: Coconino National Forest
Four Forest Restoration Initiative

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