On September 4th, Portland had its town kick-off meeting for Solarize Portland. We weren’t sure what to expect for attendance, but over 60 people showed up, 37 of them wanting a solar consultation! Solarize works by selecting a single installer who has been vetted by the Town and running a 4-month long campaign to sign up as many people as possible for residential solar. It uses grass-roots organizing to increase participation and the more people who get involved, the lower the price for everyone becomes.
There are 5 tiers of pricing and the price for solar lowers at each tier once participation thresholds are met. They only need 75 people to sign a contract for solar in order to get to get to the lowest tier and the cheapest solar by December 14th. This model heavily incentivizes residents to get their friends and neighbors involved. With current state rebates and federal incentives, the payback on solar is 5-7 years, which is almost double the rate of return than it was just a few years ago! I am excited for the first person to actually install solar on their home.
Hitch Ten saw the WildCorps cohort returning to the Palm Springs field office to conduct some of the most anticipated work of the season: tortoise monitoring. While all of our work has at least indirectly involved the desert tortoise, this was our first project directly working with the animal that the DRC has come to love and idolize. This particular project involved surveying a square kilometer parcel of land in the Palen McCoy wilderness, looking for any traces of tortoises on the desert floor. While attempting to slowly walk in a straight line for one kilometer and inspect the 10 meters surrounding your grounded graze (much harder than it sounds for some), any traces of tortoise—scat, burrows, tortoise carcasses, bone fragments, tortoises in the flesh—must be recorded in a GPS device and categorized in our handy-dandy tortoise dictionary. The particular site of our survey happened to be a fascinating, albeit dangerous, historic site; nestled within the dense ironwood forests, steep canyons, bajadas, and desert pavement of the Palen McCoy Wilderness hid the leftovers of General Patton’s WWII Camp Granite, just one camp a part of the larger Desert Training Center. Shells and landmines littered the ground of the camp that was used by the United States Military intermittently between 1942 and 1964. On the tortoise front, we managed to find quite a few instances of fresh scat, and inactive and active burrows. The second part of the hitch involved monitoring and effectiveness monitoring in the Palen McCoy Wilderness and the Big Maria Mountains Wilderness. We monitored sites that had previous restoration done as well as sites that had solely been monitored on their OHV activity. Fortunately, most of the sites that had been restored within the past 8 years had remained intact, and many sites with installed signs or previous monitoring had improved naturally. Seeing how well the restoration of these Wilderness areas has held up was an encouraging moment for me, as we (along with the rest of Wild Corps and the DRC) have been doing projects with fates that are up to the public and their respect for their public lands. On the last day of hitch, we helped BLM contact Beth Wood at the Big Morongo Canyon Preserves spring celebration with environmental education, and conducted some wildflower-themed arts and crafts. Lauren and Parker took turns as Smokey the Bear in the federally funded Smokey the Bear costume, and both exhibited some dance moves that gives the slogan “Get Your Smokey On” a whole new meaning. Getting out and interacting with the public in the land we have been living working was a great and relaxing end of the hitch, and gave us all a chance to take prom-style pictures with Smokey without feeling ashamed.
Hitch 12 marked the beginning of the end of our long desert sojourn here in the majestic Mojave. What a spectacular finale it was! Bobcats and BBQs, river plunges and hot spring soaks, Palm Springs adventures and fourth grade field trips. We rounded out the season with a variegated array of exciting experiences that could only have been had in this magical slice of xeric Californ-I-A. The hitch began with a BLM hosted BBQ at which all the crews were in attendance. This was to be the last formal gathering of all the 2013 DRC cohort and our lovely friends at the BLM. A bittersweet affair! We feasted on a delicious mix of goodies and mingled with our amigos and BLM buddies and said some sad goodbyes to our contacts at the BLM. They gave us some wonderful parting gifts, including awesome stickers, National Park passes, water bottles and hats. We will miss them dearly! Our second day of hitch we had a wonderful time helping out with the Sand Canyon Environmental Education Program (or, SEEP), spending the day in pretty Sand Canyon playing with fourth grade students from local Ridgecrest schools, teaching them about local flora and fauna, among other environmental related topics. The art station was a big hit; many a satisfied student walked away with pretty paint drawings adorning their faces and/or appendages. It was a fun day! We were all very excited to depart on day four of hitch for our Leave No Trace (LNT) training certification course which was held at the Whitewater Preserve just outside of Palm Springs. Sadly, one of our crew members, Mr. M. Bemus, was left behind in Ridgecrest in order to take care of some of his pre-Peace Corps checklist items...And before we left we were forced to say goodbye to the Rands and Jawbone crews who finished their season and were heading off to pursue new adventures elsewhere beyond the desert. We hope they are having fun wherever they are! Our first night at Whitewater we couldn’t resist the pull of the big city, and we spent the afternoon wandering wide-eyed around the bustling metropolis of Palm Springs. We were particularly enthused to see a Trader Joes, and then went to watch The Great Gatsby at the movie theater. Mama Cat bought us popcorn and candy. Happy mothers day, Mom! We also paid a visit to a Ben and Jerry’s and stuffed our faces with some delicious ice cream. The next few days we spent learning from the LNT master, El Cuchillo (aka Mr. Matt Duarte), about Leave No Trace and teaching techniques. We went on some splendid day-hikes along the Pacific Crest Trail, and each had the opportunity to present to the group on a specific LNT principle (such as “dispose of waste properly,” or “respect wildlife”). The highlights of our hikes included refreshing dips in the Whitewater river, spectacular aerial views of the austere Whitewater canyon and surrounding desert mountains, wildlife sightings including a bobcat (!), a Red Racer snake, a surfeit of ants (which forced us to cede the ground and set up our sleeping areas on top of the picnic tables), a couple of pesky nocturnal raccoons, and a brief sighting of a bighorn sheep by Lizzie and Cat! We also got to meet some really cool PCT thru-hikers one morning (they were Nolene from South Africa and Bill from Chico, aka Mike the Mechanic, his trail name), and invited them over for breakfast and coffee. Nolene, tragically, lost here sun hat that morning and so Cat offered up her own, earning her the epithet of “Trail Angel” (a term that PCT thru-hikers use to describe people of exceptional kindness they encounter on their 6-month journey). Nolene and Bill inspired us, and now Lizzie and Adam are making plans for their 2014 attempt to thru-hike all 2,600 miles of the PCT. At the end of LNT training, we spent an afternoon at Joshua Tree National Park scrambling around on rocks and lounging in the shade of the cacti. We also paid a visit to Pie for the People, a delicious pizza shop in the town outside the park. Then we said our goodbyes to Matt Duarte, our dear friend and mentor, and began the long drive back to Ridgecrest to finish up the hitch working on the remainder of the fence in Grass Valley. Two days of building H-braces for the fence in Grass Valley later, (during which we were blessed with some welcome cool weather), and we had wrapped up our work in Grass Valley and the High Desert for the season! Our emotions were varied; part excited and relieved, and part sad and nostalgic to be saying goodbye to Grass for the last time on our final day of work. Our last day of hitch we spent a day of fun and relaxation at the hot springs along the Kern River near Lake Isabella, about an hour and a half outside of Ridgecrest in the Sequoia National Forest. Carlie (Cat’s dog) joined in for the fun, and we had a wonderful time soaking in the springs, splashing in the river, and swinging from the rope swing (Lizze is particularly adept at swinging from the tree; she adopted the “limp body” technique, sort of just flopping gracefully into the river). It was a splendid way to finish up the final hitch. And now, as we enter these last stages of wrapping up our time here in the California desert, together for the last time, in Ridgecrest, in our little home on East Church Ave., reflecting on our experiences, I am reminded of the sage words of Mary Austin: that “for all the toll the desert takes of a man it gives compensations, deep breaths, deep sleep, and the communion of the stars.” One might also add the “communion of friends.” We will miss you, desert! Thanks for all the experiences. Love, The Grass Valley CrewP.S.Hi Lizzie's Mom! (And Zeus!)
Season Review During the 2012-2013 season, the Jawbone crew completed a whopping 16,140 square meters of restoration across three polygons in Jawbone. The crew restored 76 incursion sites and planted 3703 vertical mulch bushes over the season. The crew also Site effeteness monitored over 250 sites of past restoration. The crew also spent three hitches working near the Fremont/Kramer Junction Area doing restoration for the Transition Habitat Conservancy. Restoration work in Jawbone can be both physically and mentally challenging due to the unpredictability and intensity of the weather as well as potential for monotony in the work, but the crew did a great job of managing these circumstances.<br>Thank Yous On behalf of the Jawbone crew, I’d like to thank all the BLM Ridgecrest staff who contributed to our successful season. In particular, I’d like to acknowledge the immense amount of time, support, effort, and tasty treats Dana Jacobs dedicated to the Jawbone and Rands crews this season. I’d also like to thank Craig Beck for overseeing the projects and being supportive of the needs of the crew. Many thanks to the Salt Wells Fire Station and Don Washington for S-212 Chainsaw training, and Jason Woods for ATV Safety Training. We are greatly appreciative of all that the BLM staff has done to make our season so wonderful. Conservation Work Totals Restoration Sites Restored 76 Sites Monitored 80 Line of Site Meters Restored 7447 Square Meters Restored 16140 Polygons Restored 0 Vertical Mulch (#) 3703 Seed Pits (#) 3703
Well after three final crew member visits to the doctor for poison oak we are finally done with Markley Cove and back to Smittle Creek Trail. It has been a busy nonstop four weeks filled with training and new projects. Over the past month we have maintained 3,425 feet of trail, relocated one 12 foot bridge (with new footings), removed seven old steps, added thirteen new steps, added three new drainage structures, dismantled one bridge, assembled one burly twenty foot bridge from scratch, moved 5,460 lbs of concrete down to the bridge project site by hand, moved 900 lbs of concrete back up the hill from the bridge project site, created three rigging highlines, mapped several trails using GIS, gained six new Leave No Trace Master Educators, five S212 approved B sawyers, dug two very big holes and had one Easter egg hunt. I think it would be safe to say we have accomplished a lot in the last month and we were ready for a break. So naturally when Ryan mentioned that we get would our first real days off in a couple months and that he had rented a boat for us to go waterskiing, tubing, and wakeboarding we were a bit excited. When Wednesday finally arrived we drove over to Markley hopped onto the boat and headed out for some fun. After going only a few hundred yards from the boat slip we to found ourselves making a quick u-turn to admire the stairs we built on pullout thirteen and fourteen before we made a quick sprint across Lake Berryessa. Once across the lake Chris was the first one to break out the water skis and jumped into the chilly water. He easily made it up on his first try. After a few runs Chris called it quits and jumped back into the boat to warm up and it was Andy’s turn to try and wakeboard. It took him only a few tries to get the hang of it and considering he had never been on a wakeboard before it was pretty impressive. As it began to warm up, Ben and I jumped on the tube and tried to hang on as we were slung around the turns. We weren’t successful. We spent the rest of the afternoon soaking up the sun and alternating between skiing and tubing. Both Ben and Megan found that waterskiing was much harder than Ryan and Chris made it look but both successfully managed to stand up even if it was only a moment. After Chris and Ryan took their last turn waterskiing we headed back to the marina. Not long after we arrived at the marina a life flight helicopter landed only a few hundred yards away. If it had not been there for a real emergency it would have been a really awesome way to end the day. That being said it was a great day and a lot of fun.