We returned to the Kiavah Wilderness for Hitch 8 for another exciting and challenging hitch! With Charlie as Hitch Leader, we headed to the desert.
Kiavah Crew began this particular desert stint finishing up several restoration projects and eventually finishing all of our work in Horse Canyon. Earlier in the season, we started a project to build a hard barrier arc and make another campsite along the road. However, the soil was too rocky and at a rate of about 6 inches an hour, we decided the manual digging was not worth our time. Luckily, the Friends of Jawbone came out to help. The Friends of Jawbone are a group of responsible OHVers that partner with the BLM and are generally nice folks, but most importantly- they have an auger!! With the auger and the chainsaw, we got the campsite finished in a single day! Thanks Friends of Jawbone!
Mid-hitch our dusty trusty diesel truck had some issues with the security system. While it got towed to be fixed, we got a flashy rental truck with XM radio- what a treat!
As usual, there were many beautiful sunsets, sunrises, and amazing cloud formations above the Eastern Sierras. Yet, the most beautiful moment of all came on our last day of fieldwork. Waking up in the morning to fog, the weather quickly turned. Soon, the largest snowflakes we have ever seen (Even Molly from Wisconsin thought so!) began to drop from the sky by the bucket load. Taking advantage of the moisture, we broadcast seeded some desert seeds on the hill we restored two hitches before. With intermittent snowball fights and general rejoicing, we finished out Hitch 8 cold, wet, but in good spirits. Never have I seen the El Paso and Southern Sierra mountain ranges so picturesque! We returned to our green monster for tea, toast, and to wrap up a successful hitch.
Welcome to the desert.
This is your new home.
Let me drink you in,
I want to swallow you whole.
Your dust chokes me instead,
Tell me your fears,
Listen to my story.
I will tell you of the seasons,
I will show you the ocean.
Your jokes kill me,
Tell it again.
Don’t touch that,
What did I just step on?
Does anyone have tweezers?
Drip, drip, drip.
Canvas proves stronger than any rain.
Sadly, holes unleash frustration.
It is 4 a.m.
It is dark.
Good morning Mojave.
My back is breaking,
I’m mining for rocks, it seems.
This pick-mattock weighs at least a ton.
It’s laughing at me,
It’s taunting me.
Who threw that dirt clod?
The thermometer must be broken,
It’s twenty-what degrees outside?
My toes will surely fall off,
Call an ambulance,
Call my mother,
She’ll want to hear about this.
It’s happened: I have transformed.
I have scales.
Must. Seek. Moisture.
Where am I?
A picture from home,
A song sparking nostalgia.
I miss you too…
Wish you were here…
How many days left?
Don’t tell me what I don’t know,
Show me what I dream of.
Balls of fire shoot through the sky,
There is beautiful clarity.
Here I sit,
Why didn’t you warn me?
Where were the signs telling me to “Turn Back Now”?
I must not have been paying attention.
Eruptions of laughter resurrect my soul,
Smiles welcome me into consciousness.
“Good morning, the eggs are ready. The coffee is hot. How did you sleep?”
A grumble of appreciation,
But soon I am alive and I have joined in.
So I had this crazy dream last night…
What is the price we pay for knowledge?
How much do words of wisdom cost?
Not $10.99 at Barnes and Noble,
Or $20,000 a year for a nap during a lecture, no.
Anger, frustration, joy, excitement, sweat, tears, blisters, aches.
For some, it’s unbearable.
For all, it’s tiring.
Why are we battling a place we have come to love?
Our efforts futile,
We give in.
Enjoy the silent beauty.
We stand as one,
No man left behind.
We adapt to the unfamiliar,
Do not fold under difficulty.
We are desert rats,
Hear us roar.
After a very exciting Allcorps hitch, it was back to the six of us in the Grass Valley Wilderness where we didn’t see another person for six straight days. We were lucky enough to revisit Golden Valley Wilderness and finished two decent sized restoration sites. We were able to drive our “favorite” bumpy rocky route to the Golden Valley southwestern corner to create a hard barrier with fence t-posts a mile into the wilderness. We were creating a chokepoint at a wash to prevent future riders from accessing the wilderness through the wash. This required us to hike in 85 t-posts. It put our forearms and back muscles to the test. Bemis wins the award for carrying the most t-posts for a total of seven!! We spent the rest of the hitch in Grass Valley where we completed five restoration sites, planted 100 bushes and made four berms. Cat is really proud of her 82.63 meter berm.
The highlight of the hitch was Cat surprising us with pizza party in the field. It is amazing how good pizza tastes at the end of the work day. Smiles all around. Gimme Pizza….P I Z Z A. Thank you Mary Kate and Ashley for getting that song stuck in our heads the entire hitch.
We had post hitch day a few days early because we are going to be teaching 6th grade girls on the Navy base about the desert tortoise to get them interested in science! We are excited for this opportunity and to have a live desert tortoise as a house pet for the weekend. Therefore, we are working hard today to get the cooking and cleaning done so we have more time to prepare! Erica is working hard kneading some garlic bread, Bemis is eating a cooking while making homemade bagels, Zoe and Jeff are running errands around Crumville, and Cat is with our new truck (still working on the name) getting an oil change.
Things we learned this hitch: desert centipedes are scary looking, the difference between millipedes and centipedes, bugs like me (including that desert centipede), the short game of monopoly really isn’t that short and green grass/flowers do exist in the desert.
Next hitch we will be welcoming our new crew member Adam and the Grass Valley fence is finally approved!!!!!
Peace, love, pizza Lizzzayyyyyyy
It was the first day of All-corps. WildCorps pulled up into the makeshift campground on Tecopa public lands and were greeted by a line of eight Dodge Ram 2500s. Slowly, a familiar pack of desert rats retreated from the cabs and welcomed our arrival with stares and awkward waves. The mildercorps had arrived the previous evening. “Uhh... welcome to your event,” the other crews said. They climbed back into their masculine ruminant vehicles and took off to enjoy the local desert offerings of the sand and mud (dunes and hot springs), leaving WildCorps XII in a cloud of dust, alone, to erect their green monster of a tent and do some real work in preparation of the days ahead.
A short drive from the campsite led us through a remarkable canyon to the China Ranch Date Farm. BLM contacts from Barstow and Brian Brown, proprietor of the farm and member of the Amargosa Conservancy, met with us to plan out the upcoming five days of trail work along the Amargosa River. We hiked out to an overlook where we could view the river. The wind picked up as our minds were blown by the beauty of Rainbow Mountain, the canyon, and the river. A quick Trimble talk was given by DRC guru Matt (The Knife) Duarte, and with that, WildCorps XII was prepared to co-lead pods of corps members with BLM partners.
The following days were a whirlwind of hard work and the chaos of group camp life. The hot days were spent working on various river trail projects, such as battling an infinite thicket of mesquite (the mesquite won), building bridges and rerouting and improving trails. The WildCorps crew enjoyed being bossy leaders and helping direct projects and take GPS data with our slightly temperamental Juno Trimbles. By night, WildCorps shined as culinary gods during the hectic themed potluck nights where we received rave reviews for our fried mini calzones and night of deep fried things (including deep-fried cabbage, pistachios, and avocado slices). The company and commotion of camp life was an enjoyable change from the usual quiet camp of our quad (now quint).
After saying goodbye to Rands and Jawbone, we moved camp to the town of Shoshone, population 10, to attend a two-day conference, The Sierra Club Desert Committee Meeting. We listened to many speakers and learned the hidden horrors of solar and wind farms in the desert. At the end on the day, WildCorps got to lighten the mood as we presented about the work we have been doing and our daily crew life.
We explored the quirky town of Shoshone during our free time. Our campsite was a surprising glamping experience for the DRC. Our ammenities included flush toilets, hot showers, a swimming pool heated by a hot spring, and a cozy library room filled with juicy novels. We made friends with the locals and some members were interviewed by Susan, the owner of the town, for a local paper.
This hitch was also our introduction with our new leader Sterling. We had a great time with him and we are looking forward to getting to know him better on our future hitches.
The Mojave has been in the midst of a grand flux these last months. The winter’s determined silence has been finally broken by bird song and the thumpings and rustlings of those amongst the shrubs. The lizards were perhaps the first to join the birds in spring celebrations, pattering from their subterranean abodes to luxuriate in the sunshine and all seventy of the degrees. Jack rabbits have returned to quiver beneath the white bursage, poised to explode from invisibility at full tilt at the approach of clumsy steps. Even the darkling beetles have surfaced to continue their endless wanderings, butts ever pointed skyward. There is new grass beneath the hop sage, and a subtle green has settled onto the plain.
All of this nature business sets quite a stage for our daily restoration. After six sweet days in Jawbone we had come to the very end of our work schedule, such efficiency! We hiked Bird Springs Pass in celebration, getting our first glimpse of the Pacific Crest Trail that runs from Canada to Mexico. Grandiose thoughts and dreams inspired by that historic route were shattered by a two day enslavement in the Rands Mountains. In a final desperate act of rebellion we fled to the Panamint Valley at dawn of the third day. Looking out for our winged friends, the Inyo California Towhee, we hiked the wind-torn Southern slopes capping mining pipes that are enticing but deadly nesting places for native birds. Matt then led us to a retired onyx mind for some rock hounding, what a blast!
Our display of solidarity made quite an impression on our oppressors and on our third and final day in the Rands area we actually had the privilege of working in conjunction with the dastardly crew. On the subject of evil men, Jawbone watched Polansky’s Chinatown and delved into the world of Western water politics this rainy Friday. All’s well that ends well.