The last two weeks couldn’t have been more eventful for the Atlanta crew. Their endeavors took them to lakes and mountains, creeks and climbing gyms, parking lots and the sides of highways. On sunny days and rainy ones, through dark thunder and intense heat, they surveyed, surveyed, and surveyed some more and met many a character along the way. It’s been a whirlwind, and a fun one at that.Surveys were the primary activity of the first week of the hitch. Sitting on the roadside, fashionably clad in fluorescent yellow vests and the freshest SCA gear around, the Atlanta crew chatted up the lake-visiting public with smiles, good humor, and, you guessed it, utter class. Many projects were undertaken in the moments between work; Michael perfected both the paint can woodstove and pop can alcohol stove after putting the finishing touches on his modified compost tumbler (patents pending). Leah broke ground on the Hillbilly Hilton’s backyard trail, the aptly named Punky Brewster, which is surely soon to be one of the most prestigious hikes in the world of trails. Clayton wrote a lot of wimpy poetry about the birds, trees, and flowers of North Georgia, while designing birdhouses to compliment the Punky Brewster.But rocking N. Georgia like a hurricane wasn’t enough for the ATL folks. Seeing a chance to diversify their portfolios of raditute on their days off, the ATL hauled up to Nashville, Tennessee for a country music fueled conservation project adventure. For a day they split ways, Michael riding off into the sunrise on his motorcycle, destined for the infamous Dragon’s Tail, Leah and Clayton heading off straight for the land of the Grand Ole Opry. The crew reveled in the company of Nashville’s finest folks, Sophie, Mike, and Eva, and exchanged stories of wild and wonderful survey periods of the past few weeks. This was no mere leisure trip though, folks. There was business to be done and that business was a day working in one of the gardens of the incredible Nashville Food Project. The crews painted their thumbs green for the day and set to planting arugala, spinach, fennel, and most importantly the cucumber garden, which they helped, from clearing the ground to planting. It was unsurprisingly a real good time and everybody in the crew left feeling smarter, prettier, and inspired by the awesome work of the NFP. Check them out, folks! They are cool beyond my ability to explain. After a tearful departure from their esteemed colleagues up north, the ATL crew headed back for the bread and the butter they had left behind…more surveys! Michael and Clayton diversified their worldviews a bit by switching survey schedules, Michael heading for the western reaches of the state at Carter’s Lake and Allatoona, Clayton moving closer to the homefront at Lake Lanier. A sadness was noticeable in the fearless leader, Leah Cantor, as she realized her days of surveying were coming to a close here in Georgia. She made her last few survey days count, and engaged the public with wit and jubilance! Don’t worry Leah, you’ll be surveying again in Kansas soon enough!At the Hilton, a call was heard from the North. The Great Smoky Mountains were summoning. There was trash needing picking up, and we were the folks to do it. Only two of our three could go – Michael, ever mindful of the call of the survey, graciously volunteered to stay behind so that Clayton and Leah could sally forth. He spent his time bettering a community near and dear to his heart, the climbing one, creating a brochure of helpful tips and resources for climbing safely and mitigating detrimental environmental impact. Leah and Clayton, aided by their allies Sophie and Mike V., took on the litter-strewn roadways entering Great Smoky Mountain National Park as a part of their annual Earth Week festivities. With tenacity characteristic of SCA members when faced with mass amounts of garbage, the combined teams combed through the roadside like a vigorous dog groomer, and came out with 5 heaping bags of trash and a few odd items. To the delight of the trash hounds, the SCAers won awards for most trash collected and weirdest item (a restaurant pager found by Sophie). The spoils of victory? Pizza and ice cream! The crew gave thanks for their feast and shared their bounty with fellow campers and AT through hikers, which gave back its own rewards, new friends, and potential co-workers. It could not have been a more fruitful experience. Reunited again at the Hilton, the team closed out the hitch with a few slow, stormy days. Michael and Clayton, surveying, got well acquainted with the spring showers of Georgia, which although miserable to sit through, brought the beauty of the hills and lakes into full bloom. Leah worked tirelessly on setting things up right for her crew in Kansas. Sunday, the first day of the hitch, the rain broke, a sunny welcome into the newest and final phase of the initial ATL crew adventure. Thanks for reading, Herbert the Deer Head.
This week found the team going back to Copper Mountain where we started building trail there earlier in the season. We went back to finish what we started and then some. We built a good section of trail our first day out. Almost double the amount of trail we were building at teh begining. We also came accross a mine on our way back to camp. It was fenced, but we were able to look down into it. There was still an old ladder inside the mine that the miners used to use. It was a reminder of the many uses of the land.The rest of the week we hiked to the other end of the Copper Mountain loop. It was hot and the most hiking we encountered all season almost 4 miles a day. The trail was much more rockier on this section and progress was slow. By the end of the week all were exhausted ready for some rest and relaxation back in Phoenix.
The past two weeks have been very transitional for the Waco team and they both kicked off to a great start. The crew managed to attract a small fan base. They received big thanks for picking up trash at the survey sites from a few of the visitors at Temple’s Lake Park. Let’s all give Big ups, to team Waco for doing their part and kudos to Stacy for the big idea. Annie and Stacy transitioned back and forth as hitch leaders. Annie started her second conservation project for the season. Josh finished out group C of surveying for the season. Annie and Stacy completed group 2 survey rotation. The end of the current week marked our mid-season point which meant we would be expecting a visit from Alex Olsen, our program coordinator. Lastly, to ensure our visit with Alex went A ’okay! We made final revisions to our projects for the current and upcoming week.
4/15-4/18 Getting over the hump
The survey traffic has picked up quite a bit now that summer is around the corner. This week the team continues survey group 2. Stacy stayed at Waco Lake, where the park attendants offer you cold beverages, they’re always friendly. The animals are never too scared to show their faces. You can always count on the squirrels to wrestle with each other. The birds are always singing and the deer are never standing too far away. Josh surveyed at Stillhouse Hollow Lake. There is always and occasional hoopla going on, but for the most Part it is nice and quiet. Annie surveyed at Stillhouse and Belton lakes. The Lake view at Belton is very beautiful. It’s really cool to see the sunset over the lake during site break down on your late days.
4/19 Legacy River Foundation
Today the team drove to Arlington, Texas to work on a service project planned by Annie. They finished two seating benches that were donated to the Legacy River living Science center and they cut and removed green briar from the walking trail. The team members also received a history lesson on the foundation and learned how they use education to provide children and adults a way to explore the land around them.
4/20-4/23 Back down the hill!
As this week ended and the next week starts things slowly start to wine down a bit. Annie and Stacy finished out group 2 survey rotation and transitioned back into the original survey groups. Josh finished out survey group C. for the season. This gave him plenty of time to catch-up on paperwork for the team and run errands for the house.
We welcomed Alex Olsen, Ace Vus Program Coordinator. He was a nice addition to the team. Also we couldn’t wait to put him to work. When Alex arrived at the house, he was greeted by josh and Stacy. Annie met with them later that night. She got stuck in traffic on her way back from Arlington, Texas. The following day the crew had the opportunity to enjoy some great eats at Georges bar. They fed their bellies with some good southern cooking. Annie and Alex tried the famous chicken fried steak with all the fixins. Josh had a big ole juicy steak and Stacy mixed it up a bit with the veggie platter. After eating the team engaged in friendly conversations and headed home for the night.
4/24 Waco Wetlands here we come!
This project was a collaboration between Stacy stone and Annie Armstrong. The team headed to the wetlands for some good old fashioned lopping, weeding and berm repair. Stacy and Annie put Josh and Alex right to work, but not before explaining what to do first. The guys got a little lesson in ecology and tool safety before starting the projects. We all enjoyed the tour of the facility that Nora gave. She really knows her stuff. The team worked together to weed and lop all along the walking platforms throughout the wetlands. Alex got a game going that intrigued their imaginations. The name of the game they played is called, “Would you rather.” It’s a pretty cool game if you let your imagination run wild. The game is also great for playing in a working environment. We started off lopping and weeding with Stacy ended with the berm repair project. Today was a fun filled day even though it was a work day.
4/25-28 Current events, Dr. pepper Museum and The Mammoth Site!
Throughout the past two weeks we had couple of serious events take place. There was a terrible explosion in West, Texas, a city a few miles outside of Waco. A fertilizer plant blew up and lives were lost. Barack Obama, President of the United States of American visited Waco for that very reason. Baylor University held a memorial service on campus. The memorial was in honor of the 12 first responders who died while battling the fire that caused the explosion last week in West, Texas.
Even though there had been a lot of things going on in around the city of Waco, Texas. We ended our hitch on a good note. The entire team including Alex Olsen enjoyed some much needed down time. We checked out some of Waco’s cool tourist attractions. First we stopped by the Dr. Pepper Museum where we learned about Dr. Wade Morrison and Free Enterprise. We also quenched our thirsts with pepper shakes and soft drinks. After visiting at the Dr. Pepper Museum a few of the crew members Josh, Annie and Alex headed to the Waco Mammoth Site. They explored the fossils and engaged in a healthy conversation about man vs. nature. After visiting at the Mammoth site we said goodbye to Alex. He headed back to Boise, Idaho for leadership training stuff. The team also said goodbye to Josh, but not for good. He needed to take care of a few things in Tulsa, Oklahoma .He will return this coming Monday. All in all, the last two weeks have been pretty interesting and the crew looks forward to the weeks to come. Good job Team Waco, keep up the good work!
It's the stretch run now, folks. We're down a man, the temperature is creeping up, and the future looms, summer beckons. Hitches always seem daunting at the beginning, as the desert is slow and the days plod along like our heavy-booted steps through the sand.
Hitch ten, though, has passed in the blink of an eye. It seems that just yesterday we were in Sand Canyon helping fourth-graders discover the wonders of the desert, like just hours ago we came back from a magical trip into no-man's land (i.e. the naval weapons center) to see petroglyphs (and wild horses as a bonus!), that we just now drove out to Yucca Valley to begin Leave No Trace training... but suddenly, it's the end of the hitch and our adventures that took us to so many corners of the Mojave are all behind us, lingering in our memories like dust trails in the wake of our Dodge Ram.
This hitch certainly racked up the memories: entertaining elementary school kids with our particular Rands charm in Sand Canyon; holding our breaths and our bladders as we traversed through a canyon filled with petroglyphs; taking in the Dr. Seuss-like scenery of Joshua Tree National Park; inhaling the mouthwatering pizza aroma at Pie for the People after two days of backpacking; giggling over the antics of our BLM contact's nephew at our dinner party chez Rands; sliding down obsidian deposits at Fossil Falls.
We were spoiled this hitch with so many activities outside the norm that restoration now seems like a distant haze-dream, a foggy relic of our old days. We certainly took advantage this hitch of the lighter side of DRC life: trainings and outreach and environmental education enrichment and good ol' road-trips north, east, and south through miles of creosote and patchy forests of Joshua Trees.
We are true students of the Mojave now. We've learned of its secrets, its undisclosed wonders, its ebb and flow. We know its plants, its wildflowers, its geology, its whispered history, its storied past as a land of lakes, innovative peoples, and megafauna. We know how dynamic and diverse it actually is, and we know this in our bones, in our lungs, in our skin, a knowing that enters through subconscious means, at a depth we may not have even fully realized yet.
This year wasn't the best for wildflowers, but still our heads turn with every flash of green or burst of color. We celebrate the desert's small victories, and we rejoice in its subtle diversity. We have one hitch left, one more stint out in the dust, the final exam, the graduation ceremony. It's all coming together in one final synthesis, and at the end we'll raise our dusty Nalgenes in a triumphant toast to the season, to our new status as scholars of the dust and the sun.
This week we went to Ajo,Arizona to visit the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge. On our first day there, we met up with our contacts from Fish and Game and went out to a wild life water tank where the endangered Senoran pronghorns can drink. There was still heavy equipment tracks everywhere from the installation of the watering hole. We covered the tracks and spread out vegetation to rehab the area and make it look more natural. We made short work of the project and thoroughly impressed our agency contacts.
The next day we went out and brushed an old original road as the reroute wasn't in accordance with the Wilderness plan. WE made short work of what the agency thought would take all day (there seems to be a theme here!) Along the way we encountered border patrol and had a discussion about the politics of managing border lands between different agencies. We really got to witness first hand how agencies are dealing with illegal immigration. During this week we saw several endangered species including the Pupfish and Senoran Pronghorn.