When SaddleBrooke Hiking Club member Jim Strickler, a founder of the club as well as a former president and chief hiking guide, died earlier this year, it seemed the best way to honor him was with some memorial hikes and a special work day.
Three events were scheduled for this fall. First off was a group of 14 who hiked 8.7 miles of the Arizona National Scenic Trail in Oracle. This hike was significant because Jim was a segment trail steward of a passage on the AZT for eight years and the club now has taken over maintenance of the Oracle Passage.
Jim’s widow, Helen, greeted the hikers before they drove off from SaddleBrooke and Elisabeth Wheeler and Sandra Sowell pointed out flora and vistas along the way. The hike began at the American Flag Trailhead and ended at the Windmill.
Just as hikers began to ask how much farther it was to the Windmill (and lunch), hikers spotted a sign on the trail saying it was 0.3 mile to the Windmill. How appropriate—Jim’s signature response to “how much farther” was always “three-tenths of a mile!”
A second memorial hike was led by Walt Shields and Marv Rossof to Brown Mountain. Known as Jim’s favorite hike with his family, the trail is a five-mile ridge ramble in the Tucson Mountains east of the Arizona Desert Museum. Helen Strickler again came to send off another group of 14 hikers and the group took time during the hike to remember Jim with a few stories and quiet thoughts.
The final memorial event was a return visit to the Arizona National Scenic Trail for the club’s first work day on the Oracle Passage. The passage ambles eight miles through washes and across low ridges just east of Oracle State Park. The work event focused on two miles south of the American Flag Ranch Trailhead. Sixteen enthusiastic club members received training on the safe use of tools from Arizona Trail Director Shawn Redfield and Regional Steward Don Washco and then spent three hours clipping, brushing, raking, pruning, building cairns and developing or clearing erosion control devices.
The group include: Mary Croft, Tom Detinger, Elaine Fagan, Kathy Gish, Jackie Hall, Roger Hove, Fred Kennedy, Glanda and Paul Molgat, Fred Norris, Ray Peale, Garrett Ressing, Walt Shields, Sandra Sowell, Cheryl Werstler and Elisabeth Wheeler. In honor of Jim Strickler’s commitment to the AZT, the Hiking Club plans to maintain the Oracle Passage on a regular basis.