Our Wonderful Whirlwind Tour of the Mojave Desert

Wild50 2014 Crew

Our Wonderful Whirlwind Tour of the Mojave Desert

The past 12 days have been jam-packed with different adventures spanning across the Mojave. We had 3 projects to conquer: fencing at AllCorps, rebuilding trail at Salt Creek ACEC, and presenting at a Sierra Club Conference. Despite being our longest hitch yet, we held strong throughout the span and returned to Ridgecrest with many good memories and new friends.

We kicked off our journey just north of Ridgecrest at Jawbone-Butterbredt Area of Critical Environmental Concern, or as people in the business like to abbreviate to ACEC. There, we met the rest of the Desert Restoration Corps (DRC) to collaborate on a fencing project. Together, we built a mile or so of fence around Robbers Roost, a popular nesting area for birds of prey. The fence will prevent Off-Highway Vehicles (think dune buggies and motocross bikes) activity around the craggy set of rocks, harboring a quieter, less disturbed habitat for the birds. Wild50 was dispersed into different teams during the projects, giving us a great opportunity to make new friends and learn from other members of the DRC the odds and ends of fencing.

Though we were apart during the workday, our group reconvened afterwards to cook. Each night there was a different theme for dinner. I’m not sure if I can speak for all of us, but my favorite dinner was the “Top Chef” night. Just like the show, we were given certain foods to cook with and a set amount of time to cook and present the food. The ingredients we were assigned were eggplant, avocados and waffle cones. Leslie and Matt almost instantaneously decided upon eggplant parmesan, with waffle cones as the breading. That left me with avocados. I thought about making an avocado shake, but Leslie suggested that I try to make a pudding out of it instead. I’m really lucky to have been placed with such master chefs! This lovely dinner was short-lived as windstorm blew through the canyon were we camping in. We found out the next day that the winds were so strong that some of the nearby roads were closed. As crazy as the situation was, it was inspiring to see how ready and willing the DRC crew was to help each other.

Just as soon as it seemed we had settled in to our campsite in Jawbone, we had to break from the group to start our second hitch. After three or so hours of driving the Wild50 four found our new home at Salt Creek ACEC. We camped out just north of Salt Creek at Little Dumont Dunes. The dunes reminded me of the sandy SoCal beaches I’ve spent so much time lounging on. Needless to say, the sand was the perfect consistency for getting a good night’s sleep on! During this part of our journey we did some trail maintenance on an interpretive trail that had been washed out by a flash flood about a year ago. We built rock retaining walls to prevent erosion, and raise up a new trail that we also built. We did this by clearing out mud and grasses from the flood, and using trail tools to bench out a nice even trail. We also built rock stairs coming off a bridge that had damage done. We spent some time cutting back branches around a picnic area and created stepping stones for the trail. Leslie and I also had the opportunity to collect GPS data for the BLM one day. This data will help them create more comprehensive maps for visitors. Out of all these tasks, the most challenging was the creation of stepping stones. Leslie, Leah and I dragged very large over mud and water. It was a great excuse to get dirty!

We worked hard each day, but we still found time to unwind, whether that be through reading, playing the guitar, relaxing by a campfire, or playing golf in the world’s largest sand trap! Another new hobby we’ve all enjoyed is watching the moonset when we wake up in the very, very early morning. I highly recommend it as a great incentive for getting out of one’s sleeping bag. Since we knew we were coming up on President’s Day weekend, we expected a lot of OHV traffic. We were curious to see what all the hullaballoo was about, so we took a quick drive up to the main OHV site at Dumont Dunes. We knew there would be a lot of RV’s, but what we weren’t expecting was what seemed to be an entire (incredibly noisy) aluminum city up there! It was an interesting look at OHV culture during its most active weekend of the year.

Our final stop was at the Sierra Club Conference was in nearby Shoshone. We listened to environmental interest groups and government entities present on issues of the desert. Perhaps the most interesting (and also the most emphasized) topic of the conference was the resistance by interest groups against corporate solar groups. Before the conference I was all for large-scale wind and energy projects, but now I have been exposed to some of their negative impacts, namely the local economic (most energy will go to larger cities) and ecological (changes to water flow and large-scale avian mortalities) affects. Along with the DRC Wilderness Crew, we introduced SCA and various projects our crews have completed. It was fun to hype up the crowd about our Wild50’s goals and the awesome projects we have completed and will be part of. There was a lot of positive feedback from the audience, and people seem excited that our group’s theme centers partly on the Wilderness Act’s 50 celebration. We also were informed by the BLM personnel present that we will be working up in Bishop (aka our collective favorite place ever) and Fort Ord near the end of the season! Awesome!

Thus ends what seemed to be a non-stop month of training and work. It was really empowering to know that if we were able to survive this, the rest of the season should be cake. For now, we are all happy to finally have 5 days off to relax and explore the surrounding area. Leslie, Matt and I are also super pumped to go to Yosemite for our Wilderness First Responder at the end of this week, so stay tuned for Leslie’s report about our adventures there!

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