Project Leader: Matt Duarte Project Dates: September 13, 2011 - May 19, 2012 Phone: 760-780-8039 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Address: 300 Richmond Avenue Ridgecrest, CA 93555
On behalf of the 2011-2012 Golden Valley Crew, I want to extend great thanks to the entire Ridgecrest Field Office Staff. Their unwavering support, vision, and dedication were integral to all that we were able to accomplish this season, both in terms of conservation service and personal fulfillment. Over the past several months, we had to address different needs – project guidance, technical instruction, workers’ compensation assistance, and trailer repairs, to name a few – and thus, we had the pleasure of interacting with countless staff members throughout the office. Without fail, they all showed us courtesy and prompt, thorough assistance. In particular, I want to thank our agency partner, Marty Dickes, as she is a never-ending wellspring of great ideas, and we were fortunate to not only bring many of those ideas into reality, but also to be given the trust and direction to make those ideas our own.
With the Ridgecrest Field Office, as well as countless other sources of support, we were able to provide outstanding stewardship efforts to two remarkable Wilderness Areas – Golden Valley and Grass Valley. Given the already extensive track record of service in Golden Valley, we focused on intermittent monitoring and fortification projects related to existing restoration and fence construction. With that said, the bulk of our season was spent in Grass Valley, and there we completed countless restoration projects, including an extensive network of incursions near the northeast corner, as well as the deconstruction and removal of a thirteen-kilometer barbwire grazing fence. Our final, major project of the season was the construction of a one-mile smooth wire fence securing the southeastern boundary. All season projects are reflected in the work totals below.
Field Work Totals
Intern Conservation Service Hours 3,761
Restoration Sites Restored 22
Sites Monitored 25
Sites Effectiveness Monitored 15
Line of Site Meters Restored 4,995
Sq. Meters Restored 9,530
Vertical Mulch (#) 1,187
Seed Pits # 1,374
Berms (#) 4
Berm (meters) 148
Hard Barriers Installed (#) 10
Hard Barriers Installed (m) 46
Fence Constructed (m) 1,947
Fence Maintained (m) 52
Fence Removed (m) 13,527
Signs Installed 48
Signs Removed 4
Trash (lbs) 11,102
As the season came to a close, two things were apparent: 1) our crew felt intense pride for all that was accomplished, and 2) we also felt an immeasurable love for the lands that we had come to know so well.
Adios for now, and if you would like a more in-depth look at our season, feel free to reference the attached End of Season Report.
Golden Valley Crew 2011-2012
Hitch 14 was a lot of things for our crew; the last hitch of our season, another Allcorps, and a farewell to the areas of the Mojave we have come to know so well. The work load seemed lighter and the presence of the other crews for most of hitch made the atmosphere around camp buzz with energy. Our first two days had us out in Golden Valley and Grass Valley while the rest of hitch centered on preparation for Allcorps in the Jawbone area. Perfect weather combined with the comrardery that the entire DRC brings out when we are all together made for a most excellent last stint in the Desert.
Fittingly the first day had us driving to Grass Valley for some monitoring and fencing to say farewell to tasks we spent a majority of the season on. The second day had us split up into two groups, one went into Grass Valley and one went into Golden Valley to do some GPS surveying of plant populations in certain areas of the wilderness for California Fish and Game. Armed with our Trimbles and plenty of water, we set out on a stress free day hiking between different regions of the wilderness to find the plants that were listed in the areas. The day was perfect and gave us quality time to say goodbye to our beloved wilderness.
This led us to Allcorps in Jawbone, a mass DRC gathering in the beautiful Southern Sierra Nevada hosted by our dear friends from the Jawbone crew. The work project was largely restoration based with a few bollarding side projects in there as well. By this point in the season we were all highly skilled dead plant builders so those incursions did not stand a chance. We knocked them out with about half a day to spare and they looked incredible! The Allcorps experience was fabulous. We were showered with gifts from the BLM and the SCA for our hard work all season long. Each day people brought us goodies like ice and fruit and gatorade which kept spirits up through the heat. The evening entertainment was also quite engaging. For starters there was the super moon which was approximately 14% larger than a regular full moon according to scientists. Then there were games and ice cream and even a very nice slideshow recapping the season through each crew’s photos. There was also a time for recognizing how outstanding the program has been to us and each individual was recognized for unique traits they brought to the crew dynamic.
Now it finally seems like the end. We knew this was coming but the feeling doesn’t actually hit you until there are no more Trimble points to take or t-posts to pound or creosotes to build. From here we go our separate ways, embark on new adventures, and change other people’s lives. DRC: It has been phenomenal, we have grown in ways we never thought we would have. This is a very special group of people to have been a part of, and all of us were brought here to do a very special job. From the countless stars at night to the bitter cold winds, from the dirty faces to the fruit salad morning, from seeing every sunrise and sunset to going to bed before 6pm; We will miss it all, but all of us will be taking some of it with us too.
With the fondest of farewells we say goodbye Golden and Grass Valley, and goodbye DRC.
Greetings Golden Valley comrades, hitch 13 brought us new challenges and some of the most physically exhausting work yet. We started the hitch with a joyous trip to the Abundant Harvest Organics alliance farms where we get our CSA box each week. We were able to harvest some chamomile, tour the chicken coop, thin the nectarine trees and try our hand at food packing. It was really interesting to learn about the different organic techniques and Vernon, our host, was a delight to meet.
Throughout the rest of hitch, we were able to wrap up a plethora of projects for the season in Grass Valley Wilderness, including finishing our first and second fences, laying out over 100 hay bales, repairing BLM fence, completing three restoration projects and installing bollard barriers all while the heat was in the 80-90s and the workdays were long. The days and nights got so warm, all of our coolers became hot and some of our food went bad, but even that did not lower our spirits- much. There was the Lyrid meteor shower one evening and the next morning we saw a huge meteor, and I think it brought us great luck with finishing our work. At the end of hitch, Marty came out to visit, and she brought us the most succulent frozen watermelon and refreshing soda. By then, most all of our food had spoiled and her re-supply of peanut butter, bread and watermelon really made the whole hitch for us; I think we each ate three or four peanut butter sandwiches that day.
With the sun staying up later each day and nights growing warm, we spent a lot of time hanging out together back at camp. There were kit foxes nearby with new babies, which we watched from afar with binoculars, a few more wild flowers were in bloom, we saw hundreds of lizards out and about and learned to identify ten different airplanes. It was great to really enjoy our surroundings, the stars and each other’s company. I know we will all miss the wilderness when we leave, but these were a great last set of days working in the sun and nights sleeping under the stars in Grass Valley Wilderness.
April Fools started off Hitch 12 for the Golden Valley Crew after a wonderful breakfast of none other than coconut grits. Thankfully, it was just (appropriately) a joke that we (once again) had to do Owens’ work. The rest of the day we continued chugging through Pre-Hitch chores and ended with a wonderful trip to Red Rock Canyon. Tucked into a sand cove, we had the pleasure of listening to Audrey’s Environmental Ed presentation on the Kawaiisu (thanks again Josh Jones for the book)! That evening we got to roll our own vegan sushi! Yummy. After dinner, since we did not venture into the field, many crew members took the opportunity to nerd out on Game of Thrones Season 2 premiere!!!!!! It was epic.
We woke up to sushi rice turned into rice cereal! But wait…sushi rice is made with vinegar. The interesting mixtures of flavors lead most of us to eat evil chewy granola. After breakfast, project leader Jon brought us into the Rand Mountains area. We continued the day helping start a large hill climb restoration project and trading snack goodies with our dear allusive friends. Milkshakes in Ransburg would have concluded a hard work day wonderfully...maybe next time. We came back to the house to enjoy delicious graten and watch the finals between the Kansas Jayhawks and the Kentucky Wildcats!
Day 3 brought us to Sand Canyon in the Owens Peak Wilderness Area to help out with SEEP (Sand Canyon Environmental Education Program). We assisted Peggy in setting up different stations and got pumped for the children to come! After an exciting day of bird watching, art, aquatics and hanging out with fourth graders, we spent an hour exploring the incredible depths of Sand Canyon. Then spotted a Chuckwalla lizard on the way to a wonderful Mexican restaurant in Inyokern-thanks Matt!
The next morning, we got ready to go home-Grass Valley here we come! The morning started out smoothly, aside from some moldy cupcakes, but as we hitched up our trailer the wheel on our jack broke. After a while of finessing, we got the trailer hitched up securely. However, as we went to fill up gas, we realized that one of our Wex Cards had been misplaced. Coincidences or Bad Omens?! We then started our 3 hour car drive out to our campsite spotting three beautiful gopher snakes along the road. About 20 minutes away from camp, we stopped to stage some fence supplies and realized our trailer was leaking: “UMM…WE HAVE A PROBLEM!” Quickly, we unloaded all of the contents of our trailer and managed to stop our gushing water tank by squeezing a plastic bag into the whole. Losing 35 gallons of water to the dusty desert road, we were thankful that this misfortune came to us on a short field hitch. After weighing our options, we decided it would be best to all stay in the field and fix the trailer after hitch. Because of the many mishaps, we got to camp in time to set up, start dinner, and create a makeshift well system to access our water. Mock Duck Salad was a hit (Ryan’s new favorite meal) and afterwards we played an intense game of Eucher, the better team coming out on top. Dappled in the beautiful sunset, the adventurous day ended well.
Finally, we got to dive, head-first, into our fencing project! The day started off with our routine stretch circle and riddle of the day. Even in the intense desert wind we pounded in a ton of t-posts, tensioned multiple strands of wire, dug to China and sawed off many bollards in preparation for our h-braces. The next morning we got to admire the start of our marvelous fence as we cruised down the road to the next corner section. The rest of hitch flew by as our fence grew longer and our fencing techniques sharper. We encountered a few minor setbacks: broken wires, stuck bollards, a dysfunctional chainsaw (day 7), and a one-eyed pirate! However, we conquered all and returned back to hand sawing. Chauncey quickly recovered from a scratched eye and we went back to the joys of Ridgecrest aching and dirty; yet admiring our growing muscles, the warm sunshine, ice cream and the prospect of watching GOT.
Until next time Grass Valley!
Sending our desert thoughts,
Golden Valley Crew
The Golden Valley Crew pulled out its arsenal of skills this hitch taking on some monitoring, restoration, and fence building in both Grass and Golden Valley. We began the work week by removing the last of the barbed wire from Grass Valley. Finally we are done with that heinous fence. I can’t tell you how glad we all are to never have to work with barbed wire again. Our wounds can finally begin to heal. The next day we split into teams and monitored the North, South, and Western boundaries in Golden Valley. Besides some minor fence repairs and a wilderness sign that had been blown to smithereens (see photo), the boundary and some previous restoration sites were still holding. Revisiting some of the old restoration sites in Golden was pretty sweet…Some of the places that we monitored hadn’t been visited since our first hitch.
The rest of our hitch was spent in the southeast corner of Grass Valley. It’s a long drive out there along narrow, dirt roads and we were sure to take a couple of breaks to pose for some random photos along the way. The main task to be done at the southeast corner was to build a mile long fence at the boundary. Before we could do that, we had to restore an incursion at the beginning of the proposed fence. The crew tackled that project in a day and we were ready to begin fencing the following morning. Alex from the BLM came out to help us sight the entire fence line and once all the corners had been established, we got started digging holes for the H-braces. The next couple days were spent pounding in t-posts and stringing the steel wire for the fence and by the time we were ready to head home, we’d done about a ¼ mile.
We wrapped Hitch 11 up with a tour of the famous petroglyphs on the China Lake Naval Base. The Owens crew wasn’t doing anything (as usual) and decided to tag along for the day. After going through security we were led by tour guides through Little Petroglyph (Renegade) Canyon. The place was littered with thousands of drawings, everywhere you looked, some as old as 16,000 years. The half day tour onto China Lake was a great way to end Hitch 11 and head into a much deserved break…
This hitch began on our home-turf. We set up camp at our original Hitch 1 campsite on the south side of Golden Valley. We’ve been around long enough now that instead of monitoring sites that were constructed by previous crews, we are revisiting our own work to ensure that it is holding up. We did some monitoring of the southern fence-line to make sure it was intact and to put in some step-overs to allow foot-traffic to enter wilderness.
There were some firsts on this hitch, despite being so far along in the season. We had our first campfire, which was started with a combination of flint, steel, and cheat grass. We ate haggis (vegan haggis to be fair) for the first time. For some of us it was also our first time visiting Joshua Tree National Park.
We continued the removal of the barbed wire fence in Grass Valley. The days were long and we lost another trailer to the bumpy roads, but we managed to make over a thousand dollars in returns from the scrap yard. We developed a relationship with the workers at Golden Empire Salvage Yard as we returned day after day to drop off our spikey loads of barbed wire. We will eventually be donating that money to a charity.
We also got to take part in a Leave No Trace Trainer course that was set in Joshua Tree National Park. We rolled over to Yucca Valley to temporarily occupy the Wildcorps house and their orange shag carpet. Over the course of 3 days we learned all about the principles of Leave No Trace and got to go on a delightful hike led by Darren and Jamie. We each presented on one of the 7 Leave No Trace principles and learned a good deal about teaching techniques and strategies.
Overall it was a great hitch. Be sure to admire the only recorded photo of Dave smiling featured below.
Hitch nine was yet another great hitch for the Golden Valley crew. This hitch we added some new faces to the mix over the long, President’s Day, weekend. Five volunteers from the Sierra Club joined us in Grass Valley to help finish up the massive fence take down project. Not only did the extra hands make the take down move much faster, the volunteers were also great company. One night we even had a scrumptious potluck with the volunteers and our BLM contact Marty Dickes. The night was filled with tempeh stir-fry, pasta salad, chili and extremely tasty desserts of raspberry truffle brownies and seven layer bars. We somehow managed to squeeze all fourteen of us into our green monster tent, including Marty’s cat Skidoo.
After two days of pulling t-post out of the ground, we decided to take the volunteers on a hike. We ventured over to Golden Valley for a pleasant five mile hike though the now familiar wilderness. After our hike we drove into the historic mining town of Randsburg to grab some milk shakes and check out the sites. If it wasn’t for the paved roads, and cars and OHVs roaming around, you wouldn’t know it wasn’t the late 1800s. The streets are still lined with hitching post for horses, and the buildings are straight out of an old western movie. Our first stop was the Desert Museum. The two room building was filled with pictures and facts about the desert mining towns. Rocks and precious metal samples also lined the walls. The yard of the museum held a rusty steam engine, dilapidated mining carts and various other mining contraptions. Next we headed to the general store for their raved about milkshakes. We happily sipped our shakes while admiring the witty sayings and autographed posters of celebrities on the walls, including Clint Eastwood. After our visit to the general store it was time to say goodbye to our volunteers and thank them once again for coming out in the field with us.
Our next day was spent racing to finish our fence take down. We spooled the last quarter mile of rusty barbed wire and yanked the mile of t-posts out of the ground. It felt so good when we finally removed the last stubborn t-post. Now all we had to do was haul out all the barbed wire and t-posts. This task consumed the rest of our hitch. We grabbed some trailers from the BLM office and headed back to the field for fence material pickup. At first it was slow moving, but we eventually found a rhythm and managed to haul out about half of the fencing material. We were even able to put our chainsaw training to good use. We suited up in our bright orange chaps and hard hat and felled large wooden support posts. Once we hauled out the material we took it all to a salvage yard where we scraped all the t-posts.
Hitch 8, past the halfway mark of our stint in the desert. To some degree it brought normalcy back to our crew as it was the first time since hitch 4 that we stayed out in the field for a majority of hitch with just the Golden Valley Crew. We also got to venture to a new campsite in Grass Valley, the most remote one yet. A new place to explore, new scenery for us to wake up to, and new places for our rocket boxes! We had a familiar assignment too, barbed wire takedown. With the Shoshone Desert Conference to look forward to at the end of hitch, nothing could put a damper on our spirits. Hitch is so easy and fun when your crew is excited and happy all the time.
Grass Valley is really a beautiful place. Temperatures in the mid 60s during the day with a pleasant breeze and temperatures around freezing at night make living outdoors wonderful. The views you have of surrounding features like Red Mountain, the unnamed mountains in Grass Valley Wilderness, the Lava Mountains, the Almond Mountains, Cuddieback Lake, Fremont Peak, the Black Mountains, the Sierras, the San Bernardinos, the San Gabriels, and the Panamints breathe life into me every time I see them. Joshua Trees are stunning and the weather has been so warm that wildflowers are starting to blossom. I look forward to every sunset and sunrise because there is a good chance that it will be spectacular and a 100% chance that it will be better than what I could see at home. There is not a prettier night sky than one you’ll witness in the Mojave. Falling asleep to the most stars I have ever seen with a chorus of coyotes serenading me into slumber every night never gets old, never.
All that being said there is not much uglier than a barbed wire fence. Four ratty strands of sharp wire attached to rusty t-posts, now that’s just gross. If you have been blessed to have never been given the opportunity to work with barbed wire, I envy you. We were asked to remove an 8-mile long fence that spans the entire width of the wilderness. The way you disassemble a barbed wire fence is by removing the clips that hold the wire to the t-posts and cutting the wire into manageable sections approximately 30-50 yards in length. One then coils the barbed wire into what looks like a wreath that was hand crafted by Frankenstein or Quasimodo and leave it staged near the fence line for pick up. Barbed wire is also a real jerk to your hands and gloves. Most of the crew suffered from glove failure on the first day of wire-takedown. Our hands resembled pincushions and the whole crew is infected with tetanus. Only kidding, all of our shots are up to date. The 15 minute car ride from camp to the fence was spent passing around a roll of duct tape to fortify our gloves before heading to battle. There is a whole bunch of repetition involved and you spend the whole day walking in a straight line down the fence just coiling and coiling. We were only in the field for 7 days this hitch and each day was spent on the fencing project. The voices in your head keep great company during times like these. Of course it’s not all that bad, I mean remember how awesome this place is. Sure the work was not keeping me on the edge of my seat, but we are bringing the area back to the wild which is incredibly gratifying. And my forearms are more toned just in time for beach season. Had we worked on the fence for a normal hitch we would have finished. But the Shoshone conference was calling us and we had to wrap up work in the field a little earlier than normal to make the trip.
Shoshone was such a mystery to us. We had heard numerous stories about the place and people. My mind took off with outrageous ideas of the town and people in the days leading up to our excursion. This was the most excited I have been for a hitch event to this point. It was finally time to see what this shindig was really like.
To start things off on a good note we decided to caravan with the other hoodlums living in Ridgecrest. Naturally they were all late and smelled bad. That is a lie, we love all the other crews in Ridgecrest. For a nature geek like me the drive was so exciting! Four hours crammed 5 to a truck through Death Valley National Park while on the job, yes please!!!! The drive was beautiful but it had to come to an end. We had made it. I thought that Shoshone was a town of some size; I mean why else would you have a conference there right? Well it turns out Shoshone is a one road town with a gas station/general store and a bar/restaurant that takes less than five minutes to walk from end to end of. There is no cell phone service and the crowd drawn to the conference (about 60 people) probably tripled the population of Shoshone. During the actual conference we learned that there are multiple conferences all over southern California and that they make a conscious effort to stay away from cities. I find that fitting for the ethics taught at the conference. Shoshone is a perfect place for people who have intense passion for the desert to have a meeting.
We arrived in Shoshone early in the afternoon with plenty of time to set up a tarp for sleeping. Our campsite was kind of humorous for the passersby. About 40 young adults sleeping on a lot behind our caravan of trucks and trailers close enough to the highway to throw a rock onto it made me chuckle. The conference building was a one room building painted blue with flowers all over it. The floor was concrete and there was just enough seating for most everybody at the conference. Getting to Shoshone the day before the conference gave us time to explore the town before dinner. Wildcorps was familiar with the area and took us to some hot springs for a relaxing night of scalding water and sulfurous mud. Huge ups to them for taking us! It was such a pleasant night! The conference didn’t start until noon the next day and the DRC way has us waking up with the sun. This gave us so much time for morning activities! Wildcorps came through again and conjured the idea of going to a date farm near the area. China Ranch Date Farm was an oasis in the desert. We drove from badlands straight down into a setting that looked like something from a Jamaican postcard. The property was surreally beautiful. We had time to hike and explore before the farm opened up for business. There are so many types of dates and they are all delicious! The store served date shakes among other date goods and desert accessories. We bombarded them with an order for 30 date shakes at 9 in the morning. After inhalation of our shakes and too many brain freezes to count we headed back for the conference.
When we arrived back to camp there were people crowded outside the building waiting for the conference to start. They were old timers for the most part, people who were extremely well versed in desert issues. Most of the people were reconnecting with friends they had not seen since the last conference when we pulled in. The meeting was called in session shortly after we got back from the date farm. As soon as introductions began the down to business attitudes of the meeting started to show. The people presenting were so passionate about protecting their homes. There were so many issues discussed ranging from the desert tortoise to renewable energy sources destroying the desert. The first night ended with a potluck and a really cool bird talk from Len the birdman. His love of birds made for quite a show. He also did the best Virginia Rail call I have ever heard involving artful handfarts and headbobs. The next morning the conference resumed and my brain continued to swell to the rapid discussion of so many topics. This day focused on the BLM and renewable resources, two things that most of these people have distaste for. It was interesting to watch these people ask tough questions to people who have influence in policy making and land use throughout the desert. Tensions were not high and there was not much hostility but people were all business and spoke their minds. The conference ended at noon and it was time for lunch and clean up and our drive back to Ridgecrest. Shoshone certainly left its impression on me and has encouraged me to become more knowledgeable about the issues regarding the Mojave. I could not hold a conversation with most of the presenters on the issues they stood for, but what I could relate to is a love for this place. With one stop at beautiful Zabriske Point in Death Valley, we were back home and our hitch had come to an end.
I’ll leave you with a quote from Shoshone. There are a lot of reasons for these people to be discouraged. Many of them are individuals taking on large corporations. These people have spent five to ten years fighting a losing battle or simply prolonging the inevitable. Some of the people have racked up personal debt fighting for what they love. Still the attitude of the people is best summarized by a man named Tom who stood up and said this: “I don’t want to hear the reasons why you can’t do something, I want to hear what you are trying to do to accomplish something.”
Hi Mom and Dad.
The Golden Valley Crew
Hitch seven brought the Golden Valley gang a plethora of spills, thrills, hills and carrots. We spent the first half of hitch at All Corps 2012 down in Blythe, Ca hosted by Wild Corps and we got to spend time with all the wonderful Desert Restoration Corps crews and trade tips. Meals were one of the many highlights from All Corps 2012, dinner themes of:
Things you can eat with your hands between bread
Breakfast for dinner
We enjoyed the carnival feel of sharing food among crews. The large quantities of seitan, however, left the green monster pretty fuggy and the rocket boxes dangerously full.
We got our first taste of real desert sand driving and while, unfortunately, we lost a tire that first day, (see picture below) we also had a lot of fun driving up the dunes. The weather was beautiful and warm and the sunrises were perfectly timed with our breakfasts. We all had a mega blast hanging out with the whole gang and we even got to take an educational excursion to the Colorado River to swim with shoes on.
With all of our powers combined we were able to help Wild Corps out with a variety of projects up the steep hills and dunes and as a giant team we completed a huge hill climb fire lining chiliads of rocks to fill in the incursion. All Corps seemed to go by very quickly, and we’re all looking forward to the next one.
Day 7 was a drizzly, algid and cloudy day but we excitedly headed out to Grass Valley and took down a bunch of barbed wire. While we were working, we heard a mega loud bomb go off near by behind the clouds—pretty thrilling.
The next two days we teamed with Owens Peak to help us transport about 100 bails of hay to Grass Valley for future projects, as well as help Owens move fencing supplies. Between the 4 trucks and trailers we were able to transport over 16,000 pounds of wire and t-posts and we’re all pretty buff.
We ate a lot of awesome foods this hitch and the special ingredient was crickets. We discussed entomophagy to great lengths and ate crickets for dinner one night in a stir-fry. Our carrot challenge didn’t even end up challenging us as we finished days ahead of time, and nobody even turned a little orange.
Enjoy the glamour shots we’ve included below.
There are bugs in your food,
xoXo Golden Valley
Hitch 6: Golden Valley vs. Owens Peak. Location: Grass Valley. Outcome: Immense Fun, Bomber Work and The. Best. Pep. Talk. Ever: SKCID.
Grass Valley welcomed us into the New Year with sunshine, breath-taking moon rises, and the Owens Peak Crew. Finding themselves homeless for Hitch 6, Owens Peak decided to help us undertake the looming mission of camouflaging the 975m incursion on the north east wilderness boundary. After our holiday break, both crews were pumped to embrace the Mojave once again and this time with two green monsters!
We started the hitch off splitting up into two pods after an exciting game of freeze tag. Pod 1, the best, finished up a restoration project from hitch 4 managing to loose only one member due to the stomach flu. The other pod started digging, decompacting and mulching for the 975m incursion. Matt and Clayton embraced the secret mission to outsmart the Skyline bandit, which Kelsey and Ryan finished passionately. We hope our efforts will scare him away. Brendan came back feeling stronger than ever, so we had all hands on deck for the 975m incursion. In order to satisfy the incursion’s mulch hunger, we took out two to three trucks on daily mulch runs. Finally on day 6, we finished the site after a massive bet was placed on how many bushes we planted. The result was 504 shrubs, leaving Audrey Hommeyer the winner with an almost exact guess of 500. After everyone had mulched, dug and decompacted up to their eye balls, we switched from building small brush to gigantic creosote in order to de-nude the denuded area! Resulting in more mulching, digging and decompacting. However, the Toco (hitch leader) huddled everyone together (football style) and gave the pep talk of a lifetime ending with a loud cheer, everyone’s spirits rose and they were up for the task ahead. The sun managed to shine the whole hitch through, which helped us end the last day a little early after planting a total of 600 bushes including the biggest creosote Matt Duarte has ever seen (props to Dingles).
Even though we faced the most extensive project of the session so far, Golden Valley insured there was enough enjoyment to go around (defeating Owens Peak’s serious attitudes). We started every day off with amazing breakfasts and ended with timely dinners and delicious cookies. Spontaneous dance parties took place multiple times and we incorporated games into our morning warm-ups. Every night the sunset and moonrise were appreciated, leaving us stunned mid-hitch with the most incredible full moon any of us have seen. We successfully defeated the dreaded Day 7 (besides the horrid oatmeal incident) and had an exciting night of star gazing and constellation mythology. We enjoyed sharing a few Golden secrets with Owens Peak and ended the hitch with a drum circle ceremony.
Maybe next time we will have age appropriate trivia.
Many windless thanks Mojave!
The Golden Valley Crew
Ho Ho Ho you crazies…Christmas came early for Golden Valley this hitch. Four days of scheduled trainings kept us working out of the house. Although we were terribly upset to not be camping out in the freezing cold nights, we enjoyed coming back to a warm nest everyday.
We started things off with a good ole' kick in the pants..barbed wire fence takedown was first on our agenda. The project took us on a 6 hour car trip to the mysterious corridor road in the southern part of Grass Valley Wilderness. An old grazing fence had been causing some problems with the land and an order for its removal had been placed. The crew managed to take down a good chunk of the barbed wire before calling it a day and heading home.
Next we headed into 3 days of chainsaw training at the BLM Fire Station with the "Owen's Peak" crew (look em' up). We learned all about chainsaw safety, maintenance and the right way to cut down trees. Training days were long and intensive, especially for Owens as they struggled to comprehend the information being fed to them, but in the end both crews managed to come out with some chainsaw training certifications.
The long awaited ATV training day had finally come upon us and needless to say, we were all stoked. We picked up some ATV's from the BLM field office and headed out to Teagle Wash. Once there, the instructors showed us the fundamentals of driving ATV's and shared some horrific stories about people dying on these grizzlies. The Golden crew was the least bit intimidated and after hours of perfecting our hill climbs and backflips, everyone walked away with yet another certification.
The remainder of Hitch 5 was spent flagging the Southwestern boundary of Grass Valley. A proposed fence for the area will be installed next year and it was our task to sniff out the exact location of the boundary and flag it in order for the pros to make sure the ground is ready for such a project. The next 3 days were devoted to this and our favorite person, Marty Dickes, hung out with us for the first day helping us hone in our compass and orienteering skills. The whole process pretty much involved us using GPS coordinates and marching through the desert flagging bushes every 6 to 9 meters or so indicating the wilderness perimeter.
Perhaps the crew's only weakness this hitch was fruit cake. A challenge was set up before the start of Hitch 5 and those who accepted had to eat half a loaf of fruit cake in 5 minutes or less in order to receive a prize. Everyone started off strong, but by the halfway point, the candied fruit bread proved too much for people to handle as stomachs began to turn and pain quickly set in. I won't share with you the details of the nauseating aftermath, but let's just say I considered calling in the the rescue choppers.
Despite some upset stomachs, the Golden Valley crew once again achieved great success this hitch. Could you possibly expect any less from the best?
Hitch number four brought us back into the undulating hills of Grass Valley. We arose every morning to the silhouettes of Joshua trees amidst a pink sky. The weather was inclement as usual – icy nights and windy days. Nonetheless we got a lot of work done and shared a lot of laughs and thoughtful conversation.
Our hitch began in conjunction with the beginning of OHV season and we saw countless dirt bikes, dune buggies, ATVs, and even some things that looked like golf carts. We heard the roar of engines and smelled gasoline more often than usual but overall their presence didn’t really affect our work very much.
Some of our best work (In my opinion, anyway) was done on a project to restore an illegal route into a foot path. We lined the trail with small rocks to guide foot traffic along and built top-notch creosote bushes to give it a generally inviting feel. We also got the opportunity to walk the full length of the wilderness along the road that our footpath funneled into. We found some signs of the infamous “skyline bandit,” an individual who has been troubling the BLM by putting up “Skyline Trail” signs along illegal routes.
Hitch involved a number of oddities and quirks as well as solid work. I found a strange orange bombshell (our worksite neighbors military lands), which we determined to have no present danger (fortunately). We also attended our first ever webinar and learned about the logistics of our Americorps award. We ate strange new foods. Our excess of persimmons provided us with the opportunity to make persimmon bread and cookies, which turned out to be delicious. For many of us this hitch was the first time ever eating barley or tempeh, and it turns out they aren’t that weird after all. No such luck for the beets.
Our new scheduling of the day left us with about an hour of extra time in the afternoon to eat delicious meals, play card games, and Kelsey’s catchphrase game. It also provided Stuart and Dave the opportunity to get to sleep extra early as they continue their pledge to never sleep in tents.
Till next time...
Hitch three finally took us to Grass Valley, that far off, Mars like landscape we’d been gawking at for the last two hitches. As we crested the rolling hills we were greeted by Dr. Seuss tress (commonly known as Joshua trees) and cautious kit foxes. Once again we camped in a gorgeous spot, with awesome sunrises.
We kicked off our work with more fence monitoring. This time on the western boundary of Grass Valley, this also happens to border an Airforce gunnery range, for a large portion of the boundary. The rugged barbed wire fence was plastered with faded Keep Out: live ammunition signs. The hope is to one day link up a fence of our own with the gunnery range fence to keep illegal OHVs out of wilderness. However, this project is a little ways down the road so for now we installed signs to designate the wilderness boundary. In total we pounded thirteen signs in the ground, while lugging our 40 lbs carsonite pounder fourteen miles.
Our second task required us to head back to good old Golden Valley. We installed yet another carsonite sign and spruced up a trampled restoration site. Having monitored many incursions last hitch it was nice to break out the tools and get our hands dirty at this hitch’s three final restoration sites. Luckily one of our sites was nestled amongst some gigantic creosote, which made one of our favorite activities, building massive creosotes, easy. The last two days of hitch were rather challenging due to cold and windy weather conditions. Collecting vertical mulch was especially taxing. Carrying large amounts of vertical mulch would act as a sail, nearly sending crew members soaring over ridgelines. Weather aside our restoration sites looked excellent!
Peace from the Mojave (where Mylar balloons go to die),
The Golden Valley Crew
So it’s back to Golden Valley for our second adventure in the wilderness area that is slowly becoming home. This time our journey begins at the north end of the wilderness, an area with new sights to see and miles of fence line to monitor. Our camp was nestled into some hills dotted with Joshua Trees. Everything was business as usual for the Golden Valley Crew. We started off the hitch with some trash pick-up at the northwest boundary quickly followed by some fence monitoring. We were walking along the northern boundary headed from west to east in hopes of finding that the fence was intact and there were no vehicular trespasses in the interior of Golden Valley. For the most part the fence looked great! There were some t-post clips missing from time to time and occasional staples that needed replacing but our perimeter was mostly secure. We did find one breach into what we thought was our impenetrable wilderness but our worries were quickly subdued with some quick fence fixing.
The monitoring was good exposure to the area we are protecting but we had really only seen it from the fence line. Halloween Day gave us the opportunity to explore the interior of Golden Valley. Our mission was to walk into the wilderness to see if we could find any recent signs of illegal trespass in the area. We crossed the boundary at a step over along the northern boundary and started walking along an old vehicle incursion towards the western boundary. Our goal was laid out by Marty, our trusty companion and supervisor from the Bureau of Land Management. She wanted us to see if people were taking their vehicles into the wilderness through the western part of the boundary, an area which has no physical barrier. On our quest for trespass evidence, we found nothing, which is GREAT NEWS! We also made incredible time and decided to use the rest of the day to venture further into the Lava Mountains. Our new goal was to climb Dome Mountain, the tallest peak in the range. The cross country excursion was exhausting but extremely rewarding. The views of the surrounding areas were rather prodigious and the entire crew was able to get a feel for the land we work so hard to protect. It was a full day of exhausting hiking but by the end of the day everyone was in a fantastic mood and it’s a safe assumption to say the day certainly left a lasting impression on most of the crew.
The next day it was time to pack up camp and head to the south boundary of the wilderness, the same campsite we camped at for our first hitch. Marty has an insider by the name of Tom who can give us all the deets on OHV activity in the wilderness because he is always hiking around in it. He said there were fresh OHV tracks running along some old routes and washes throughout the south western part of the wilderness. We had our calling, our mission was laid out. We had no other choice but to find these tracks and terminate them.
The journey to find these OHV tracks was not easy. Mother Nature seemed to be trying to thwart us with hurricane force winds through the nights, monsoon like rains one morning, artic temperatures, bees, and a mountain lion. She even froze our water supply, which makes it incredibly hard to mix Kool-Aid in our nalgenes. Despite the obstacles, we conquered the tracks, found where they were entering and exiting the wilderness, and noticed that the OHVers were probably scoping out the existing guzzlers (water caches) in the wilderness for hunting purposes. With this intel and our prestigious stealth and restoration skills, our crew will make this wilderness truly wild.
The food was also grand- some of the favorite dishes were burritos, pumpkin soup, green chile stew, a veggie stirfry, and pancakes one morning.
All in all Hitch 2 was a great success! We felt like Kings of the Castle atop Dome MTN. Can’t wait to be back out in the field!
Keeping it real since 2011
The Golden Valley Crew
Our first stop on hitch one was the Ridgecrest BLM Office. The crew headed down the road for a grand orientation to our public lands partner, a gathering spearheaded by our agency contact, Marty Dickes. Marty arranged for several employees from this local branch to speak about their roles, and in doing so, shed light on the plethora of management concerns facing the office. After gaining perspective on the reach of the BLM, as well as eating tons of pizza for lunch, Marty held a focused discussion with our crew about our upcoming work projects. There’s a lot work to be done, and there’s a crew ripe for the job!
The following day, after nearly a month of training, the crew finally ventured out to Golden Valley Wilderness to throw some dust on our Carharrts. We were greeted by an abundance of wildlife on the drive into our basecamp including kit foxes, a tarantula, and believe or not, our first desert tortoise sighting of the season. That night provided pleasant temperatures, as well as a spectacular sunset over Red Mountain.
Our work projects were varied and provided a solid foundation for future service. The hitch was centered on monitoring and reinforcing a long fence along the southern boundary of the wilderness, a fence constructed by the 2010-11 SCA Golden Valley Crew. We scraped the bottom of post-holes with camp mugs to construct h-braces, used the bocce ball method of placing rocks alongside foot paths, and sited some seriously awesome vertical mulch bushes (this crew has got a knack for the creosotes). All in all, the many miles of fence monitored were in great shape, which is a nod to the previous season’s crew, although the wilderness is all the better for our recent efforts.
Other highlights of the hitch included celebrating Kelsey’s birthday with songs and a delicious, even if slightly burnt, chocolate cake; playing four-square on the concrete pad at our campsite; listening to a crazy barn owl that hunted at a nearby mine shaft each night; and feasting on many amazing meals (crowd favorites included seitan and broccoli with homemade bbq sauce, as well as a rendition of an Indian classic, chana masala).
A great season is brewing, and we’re stoked to get back out!
The elegant cliffs of The Great Falls Basin towered over us as all week as we took part in our 17 day training known as Septoberfest. We set up camp by erecting giant canvas tents and forming a circle of large storage trailers. The landscape surrounding our encampment was otherworldly – filled with abstractly cut stone and mountains that looked like heaps of gravel. With the dramatic jutting cliffs surrounding our mural-coated trailers, the encampment at Septoberfest looked something like a hippy tailgaiting party set on the opening scene of The Lion King.
We awoke every morning to the gradual illumination of the eastern skyline as the sun peered up over gravely-mountains. We were all roused from our early morning grog as the heat rolled in around morning circle-up. Through sweat-glazed eyes we spent the first days admiring the desert in all its arid glory. We saw jack-rabbits hop fearfully from bush to bush, all manner of lizards crawling on vertical rocks, small side-winders in the day, large ones at night, and flocks of thrumming quail flying in formation. Every night we saw a luminescent scattershot of stars, some still and some blazing briefly across the periphery of the sky. Near the end of our training we saw rain clouds lumber in and felt much-need water fall timidly down. We smelled the rain – wet sand mixed with the scent of cheese bush, it was as if the desert was lifting its arms to embrace the rain and thereby exposing its earthly armpits.
But I guess we did other things besides just look at cliffs and smell stuff. Initially, we spent a lot of time talking about how to create an intentional, functioning community. We had group discussions in a shaded cove about everything from sexual harassment to how to poop in the desert. We played lots of games, all of which were essentially designed to make us look as foolish as possible. We mingled with other crews, ate delicious meals, went on day hikes, learned about leave no trace principles and how to confront someone about eating your precious Chinese food.
We also did some restoration work in the area that we stayed in. We covered-up two areas that were torn up by OHVs. We learned about all the tools and put those skills into use by swinging them into the sand. Personally I enjoyed the clearheadedness that came with wandering the flatland in search of dead branches. I was surprised to find there's a bit of an art to creating fake desert bushes from scratch. Ultimately it was encouraging that after 2 days of working we were able to make a seemingly noticeable change on the landscape.
Our final 9 days were spent doing a Wilderness First Responder course taught by two savvy ski-patrolmen. We spent a lot of time in the cove and learned the ideal chair-placement to avoid being burned by the sun during a long lecture. We spent a lot of time doing scenarios on how to aid people who've experienced medical issues or physical trauma. Basically we blindly groped at each other in search of hidden wounds and squirted fake blood at each other's faces. Honestly though we learned a lot, and I feel confident that any DRC member could help me out if I got injured.
All in all it was a wonderful time that felt far too enjoyable to actually be considered work. I think the connections we made with other crews will make our social lives off-hitch much more interesting and the work-related skills we gained will make our time on-hitch more intentional. Now I suppose its time to actually do some of that work.
Tryin' to get to youuuu and that desert.
-Golden Valley Crew
The crew arrived in Ridgecrest rip-roaring and ready to go! The first five days were a wonderful experience to learn and get to know one another. Our house serves as a cozy abode where all sorts of fun games and activities can go down, I must say 713 E. Church is a pretty sweet place to live. Our impressions of the town are that the people are splendid and quaint while the area surrounding is mad beautiful. We have been on a grand tour to see the sights of the town and had a brief opportunity to introduce ourselves to the other crews while indulging with some za. The pizza fiesta was a great way to relieve our minds after a few days filled with information and community building.
The highlight of the first five was our night out in the wilderness. We embarked on an adventure filled night/morning to the Golden Valley Wilderness, a place that we will all come to cherish over the season. We arrived after dark to a sky filled with more stars than any of us had ever seen. The temperature was perfect and we had little idea what the area around us looked like since the endeavor out to the field began after dark. The sun came up and our eyes caught our first glimpse of a serene valley filled with the beautiful colors of the sun cresting the horizon. After breakfast, our courageous leader led us on a hike up to a peak in the wilderness. The views were fantastic and the peace we found on top was unmatched. It was like putting on noise cancelling headphones with a view that took our breaths away, truly beautiful.
We set out for all kinds of training tomorrow and all of us are excited to get out into the field for 17 days. None of us know what to expect but this is also what we came to the desert for. A day of preparation and packing is all that stands between us and the wild.
Keeping it real since 2011,
Golden Valley Crew
|Map of Grass Valley Wilderness|
|Map of Golden Valley Wilderness|
|Learn about the BLM and our Wilderness Areas|
|Final Report 2011-2012|
|Hitch 14: Farewell|
|Hitch 13: Live Mas- the 11-day hitch|
|HITCH 12: The revenge of the WEX CARD|
|Hitch 7: Golden Valley vs. 25lb bag of Carrots|
|Septoberfest, aka Corps Member Training|