Monday, October 31, 2011

FUNSAR Training Weekend in the Superstition Mountains, Tonto National Forest. . .

As part of the Fundamentals of Search and Rescue (FUNSAR) course I'm taking at the Mesa Community College, we took an overnight trip along the Second Water Trail in the Superstition Mountains. This area is located near Apache Junction in the Tonto National Forest off SR 88. It had been some 18 years since I last hiked in this area and the years are certainly catching up with me. It wasn't as easy this time.

Old injuries and age made this outing quite a bit more challenging. I'm sure the pizza I ate before leaving slowed me down a little bit, too. The trail was rocky in places and I had to work harder than normal to keep my balance. My pack also changed my center of gravity, so I had to compensate for that as well.

Our destination was the Garden Valley. Upon reaching our destination, I unrolled my foam pad and lightweight sleeping bag. I didn't bring a tent to save on weight. I slept under the stars and got a good night's sleep. I usually don't sleep this good at home. The temperature dropped into the 50's, making it perfect sleeping weather.

Several other US Border Guard volunteers, including Patrol Leader J.T. Ready are also taking the FUNSAR course and participated in this event. USBG members took this opportunity to meet other individuals involved in various activities and explain our scope of operations in the Sonoran Desert.

National Association for Search and Rescue

A man with Alzheimer's wanders away from home, a hunter or hiker is missing, a group of school children is stranded in a flood... Search and rescue is a life-saving vocation. And the ability to save a life is often dependent upon how quickly the person can be found and accessed. If the missing person is one of your loved ones, you will expect well-equipped, well-trained search and rescue professionals to bring your one home safely to you. The National Association for Search and Rescue (NASAR) has dedicated itself to preparing those involved in search and rescue to meet your expectations.

Welcome to Tonto National Forest

The Tonto National Forest, Arizona, embraces almost 3 million acres of rugged and spectacularly beautiful country, ranging from Saguaro cactus-studded desert to pine-forested mountains beneath the Mogollon Rim. This variety in vegetation and range in altitude (from 1,300 to 7,900 feet) offers outstanding recreational opportunities throughout the year, whether it's lake beaches or cool pine forest. More...

Garden Valley Loop

From the trail head, start hiking the Dutchman Trail #104. After .4 miles take the left fork at the junction with the Second Water Trail, #236. Follow the Second Water Trail across First Water Creek and continue on it for 1.5 miles to Garden Valley and the signed junction with the Black Mesa Trail, #241. Continue on the Second Water Trail another 100 feet to an unsigned trail heading off to the left (Northwest). Take this unmaintained horse trail across Garden Valley. The view is great and the trail is easy.

The Garden valley was a relatively flat area dotted with cactus and small trees. We were surrounded by mountains. Weaver's Needle was just visible to the east.

Trails Co-Op... Second Water Trail

3.3 miles long. A heavily-used trails that passes through Garden Valley.

Elevation: 1,940 - 2,420 feet.
Termini: Trail 104 near First Water TH, and Trail 103. No more than 15 people are allowed to be in a group. No more than 15 head of livestock are allowed in a group.

This was a rather popular trail. The parking area at the trail head was almost full and people were observed everywhere. This environment was quite different than what we encounter in the drug smuggling corridors in the Sonoran Desert National Monument.

Upon emerging from the trail on Saturday morning, I was greeted by a friendly park ranger. In my neck of the woods, we don't have friendly rangers. We have BORTAC and SWAT teams. This was a real contrast to what I normally see.

BORTAC is the global special response team for the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP).

Although I'm not a big fan of crowds, I was pleased to see people enjoying our public recreation areas without having to worry about being shot at by bandits, rip crews, smugglers or sicarios.

“These smugglers, many of them present in trafficking through my State of Arizona, create false Social Security cards, false green cards, visas and a variety of other fraudulent documents as an essential part of their smuggling activities.” --John Shadegg