After doing a vast amount of research on stars for my Environmental Education, I realized that every ending is just the start to a new beginning. Massive blue giants, 20 times more massive than our Sun die and give birth to new stars, to planets and in the rare case of Earth, life. When we humans die, the atoms that compose our corpses become a part of the Earth’s environment. According the first law of thermodynamics, energy is neither created nor destroyed. Nothing can truly be lost, just reformed. This is now a prominent philosophy, among many others, that fuels my mentality. Even though I won’t see many of the friends that I made in the DRC for some time, maybe never again, my experiences and knowledge gained will stay with me for the rest of my life.I will no longer breath the dry desert air, speak to creosotes like a mad man during mulch runs or have the pleasure of pooping while watching the sunrise over a land liberated almost completely of other humans. However, now I have the luxury of breathing the humid air of Tennessee, laying out my life plans to my pets and being able to have access to shower on a daily basis. Perspective seems to hold a lot of weight in this conversation. I could have been angry and dissatisfied with living in a tent, pooping in an ammo container or having no internet access. But instead I saw opportunity. I began to not only play guitar more and exercise regularly, but I also found time to just think. To think about my past, present and future self. To really scrutinize my actions over my entire life. The desert, as dry and dead as it may be, has been an exceptional environment for self-realization.As my crew will often say – “welp it’s about that time”; time to end this phase of our lives and to begin something new. Many members will be distraught following the end of this season. People we have leaned on emotionally for several months will now be ripped from beneath us. But how else will we learn to stand properly if we are not picked up and pushed down every once and a while? Life seems to constantly do that to humans. We are taught to go one way and we trust this way until our eyes are directed to a new path by someone else or out of our own volition. And that is what we want. Humans desire variety and excitement. Sure, there may be a healthy dose of fear that comes along with the unknown but that is part of the excitement. We keep attaching the word “last” onto everything towards the end of the season. I am putting an end to that with the last blog post for our crew. And the final quote of the season from Carl Bard – “Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”-David Sellari
The final week of the program found the crew at Agua Fria - Riverbend site. It was timber work skills week for the crew. SCA Alum and work skills instructor, Tanya Henderson, taught the team the finer points of working with timber. Hopes were high as we set out to built a timber retaining wall to stop soil erosion. The juniper provided a tough obstacle as far as getting the wall built. In the end we joined together several logs and made large check steps as an alternative to the retaining wall. We also built a rock retianing wall and resotred the erosional area. It was ice to be back in a familiar place for our final work week. The crew is looking forward to graduation next week.
The end of hitch 11 has brought us one hitch closer to the end of this program. Both bringing a little sadness and a little excitement. Long gone are our nights of single digits, not seeing another person except our own crew for 12 days straight, and not seeing one insect or little critter poke it's head out during an entire hitch. This hitch we were greeted by all the other crews during our All-Corps event, some desert tortoises, a mini OHV event, a rave, and a pizza pool party. Which is why this blog may be a little late in it's posting, nap time was needed. Also, as a disclaimer, there may be many grammatical errors due to post nap grogginess.As hosts to this year All-Corps event, we had a lot of prep work to do to get ready for 30+ people working on a fence bordering the Grass Valley wilderness area. Which meant lots and lots of materials were needed: t-posts, bales of wires, bollards and more bollards. Luckily Jawbone and Kiavah were up to the challenge of helping us haul a ton of wires and a couple tons of t-posts out. Which meant we all got a lot of Ridgecrest radio time (Ridgecrest radio is the best radio) or sleeping time (you know you've perfected your jelly fish when the bumpy roads begin to lull you to sleep). All the while we got to advance our fence sighting techniques, the task in which we try to site a straight line armed with only a compass and binoculars among many tall creosote bushes. We went from trying to see through the creosotes, to attempting the sit on another's shoulders (that barely lasted a second..it was not in the JHA), to finally bringing out a ladder to see over the creosotes....which by far works the best.With Jawbone and Kiavah's help we were able to spend a day away from our All-Corps organizing to help one of the BLM archaeologists at Portuguese Canyon. We learned about obsidian tools, as well as their creation process. And we got to play archaeologists, finding and marking bifaces and milling features.And then there was All-Corps. As hosts we arrived at our campsite for the event a day early, in order to get ready for the other crews. Driving to our campsite was easy, as all we had to do was follow “Scrappertown Urinal Target” signs, which we later found out lead to an OHV gathering at the next campsite over. When we arrived at the dry lake bed we were camping at, we were greeted by the tail end of a rave. At 11 am there were still speakers piled in a messy pyramid style, blasting some continuous rave beats, which could be heard from the corner of the lake bed we claimed as ours. After trying to find another campsite, to no avail, we settled on calling the other crews to make sure they brought out extra earplugs and glow sticks. Which turned out to be unnecessary, as it was only a one night party and the group slowly dwindled as the day went on.We had our own little party once the other crews came out. Which involved Jurassic Park viewing on a trailer, catchphrase, multiple games of Settler's of Catan, tortoise viewing show at Will's tent, and a firework show put on by our neighbors Burning Ham. Plus over 2 miles of fence being completed in over 90 degree weather. The hitch ended with a pizza pool party at our BLM contact's parents' home. There couldn't have been a better way to end a hot hot hitch and say goodbye to Jawbone and Rands.
Welcome to hitch #11! Our final hitch before the end of the season and Chorefest. We were all very excited to victoriously end our season by meeting both our restoration and effectiveness monitoring quotas. We celebrated with a trip to Sand Canyon to hike around, hunt for, and identify wildflowers. During the hike, we found some obsidian arrowheads and stopped for lunch under a lone pine tree with ample shade. Silly Corinne got pine needles stuck in her pants, which was quite a sight. After our hike, the boys went to the water hole for a swim to cool off. The next day was spent in Portuguese Canyon assisting Ashley, the BLM archaeologist, in recording data about milling sites and obsidian artifacts that were used for tools by Native Americans. The big event, however, of this hitch was the final Allcorps hosted by the grassholes on their turf. With only two hitches left in the season, the grassholes were given a ginormous fencing project, a whopping 3.5 miles! The entire DRC was called upon to come to their rescue, like Rohan to Gondor. The days were long and hot, the sun tested our strength with temperatures in the mid to upper 90’s. Our BLM contact, Dana Jacobs, was kind enough to relieve us with everything from ice to Gatorade to keep us safe and comfortable. She even jumped in to give us some hands-on help with the fencing project. For the Jawbone crew, fencing was an entirely new experience but it was a welcome change to our usual restoration. Although we were new to the fencing game, we still managed to learn quickly and helped out as much as we could. You’re welcome, grassholes.By the end of the four days in the heat, we were sweaty and dusty from the dry lake bed. After getting back home and having a welcome shower, we all gathered at Dana’s house for a pizza and a pool party. She was kind enough to open her home to 30-some desert dirtbags. Thank you, Dana. It was a refreshing end to the work we did at Allcorps.XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO,Suradee Thongkiattikul and Corinne Dagmar Erickson
The week started off strong with nice weather and lots of surveying. With nice weather comes lots of visitors to the Army Corps parks and that, of course, means no rest while surveying. The sun left its mark on all of us, giving some nice tans and a few burns. Nobody was complaining about this beautiful southern weather. Even much of the local wildlife was out and about. Herons, ducks, geese, turkeys, cardinals and the occasional bluebird could be seen at some parks, along with deer, and rabbits. Eventually the heat and sun subsided and made way for some spring showers that will no doubt help to green up the vegetation. The rain also brought along some fantastic thunderstorms that lit up the night sky while constantly bombarding it with a strong rumble. Our two conservation days were successes. We were lucky enough to host the Atlanta crew again. Together we helped out the Nashville Food Project (http://www.thenashvillefoodproject.org/) again. Together the 6 of us turned over a bed and planted beans and cucumbers. It was an incredibly productive and enjoyable time for everyone. Also that day, Eva, Sophie and Mike participated in a festival that promotes ‘green living’. We partnered with a local business called Worms Way to help spread the word about composting and vermiculture, and how easy it is to apply it at anyone’s home. In exchange for this we got 1lb of worms to use to start our own worm bin at the Nashville house. On our second Conservation day, Sophie and Mike met up with Leah and Clatyon from the Atlanta crew at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to participate in a trash pickup day. There were many volunteers that helped out that day and prizes were given away for the most trash picked up by a team and also the weirdest item picked up. To our amazement the SCA team of 4 out-competed everyone, and won 4 free pizzas from a local pizzeria outside the park. It was an awesome day. The team camped at a secluded spot just across the North Carolina border. There the team met some botanists who were part of an ongoing study in its 7th year that measures forest structure and lichens. Mike was able to help out with their final day of data collection, which was a great way to network and gain some professional experience. It’s been a great two weeks and we are all preparing for the end of this spring season. Sophie is busy finding housing for her summer crew in Oxford, MS, while Mike heard from his first intern that will be staying in Nashville. There is a lot of work still to be done but we are all happy to be doing it!Written by Mike Vasquez