Project Leader: Shannon Y. Waldron Project Dates: August 8,2010-May 17,2011 Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
There is no greater self test of being a true leader than to experience the role of a leadership position itself. A position that requires you to call on the help of others (i.e. delegation, trust and reliability) to accomplish tasks rather than doing it all yourself. How about taking a go at being a hitch leader of a DRC crew? It seemed like a well-done, brain-frying waiting to happen when trying to prepare and organize the hitch. Luckily, when you know you’re being backed by a project leader that has full confidence in you and strives to push you forward, and your crew is ready to support your goals and efforts by following your lead...this helps to slowly lift the weight off your shoulders as you feel reassured and fully charged to lead.
The hitch started with the hitch leader's education/teaching presentation: an introduction on watershed ecology and basic topographic map interpretation. A watershed is defined by an area of land that drains water, sediment, and any dissolved particles to a common point along a body of water (i.e. stream, river, lake, or ocean). It's important to note that wherever you are on land that you are always in a watershed and affecting it in some way before the water flows somewhere else. Water is such a precious resource in the desert, and since the plants and animals have adapted "wise" ways to conserve it, why don't we? After discussing basic topographic map interpretation, we plotted a potential route to Almond Mountain (elev. 4155ft). It was here at the top where we truly did get a view of our valley. It was interesting to see the fluvial patterns carved into the nearby mountains and it's not hard to find respect for the powerful moving force of water on mountains that have been around for years.
We left our wilderness for a while to get trained by BLM's Wildland Fire Department on how to maintain and safely use chainsaws. Our BLM Wildland firefighting instructors were Don Washington and Sue Rocha. Sue advised us to "dig our dogs" to let the saw do the work for us, and Don showed us that he means business when cutting down trees as he approached a mounted bollard with a revved chainsaw. In all seriousness, both instructors were adamant about the importance of practicing safety and maintaining control regardless of our use with chainsaws. While our intentions were not to get trained in chainsaws in order to "limb, buck or fell trees" (defined: saw limbs, saw fallen trees or saw standing trees), learning this skill will greatly help us construct H-braces for fences that we build around our wilderness. Soon enough, we were all certified!
And finally, we were able to come back to our wilderness to spend the rest of our hitch. This time, we were camping somewhere new along the Southern side of the valley. We found ourselves in an almost flat grassy plain, if not dominated by the typical Mojave creosote-scrub desert that is speckled throughout the area. Isolated clusters of mountains surround us as they drop into the valley. Light from the sun hits these mountains and pools through the valley, and it creates a mysterious landscape depending on the time of day. Combined with the lack of wind, overcast clouds, and a peek-a-boo sun that we got to experience while we were there, it was almost as if we were being welcomed back to build our fence in perfect fence building weather conditions. It almost felt like Golden Valley was showing us its moods, by showing us different colors and shadows across the land without moving the slightest inch.
We were lucky to camp in an area near three tamarisk trees whose centers had all been occupied by owl nests that seemed to be shared by other birds as we heard them call occasionally. Kit foxes even came out on the first night, and we have a new kangaroo rat friend, Maria. Starry night skies greeted us on most nights, and on our last night before leaving Golden Valley some chose to astro-bivy. It rained on us during the early hours of the night, and while a couple of us ran to our tents, the others roughed it out. Was Golden Valley sad that we were leaving so soon? Probably not, but I sure was. There is nothing like the fragrant smell of the desert after a quenching rain. It’s like an awakening, or maybe just a “remember me until next time”.
This hitch was exciting for many reasons, but personally exciting because we got to begin our fence! We had three working days to spend in our wilderness, and in this time we completed a quarter mile length of fence. This was the project goal of my hitch, and the whole crew exceeded my expectations by beginning another quarter mile extension off of the existing fence line. I am so proud of and happy to be a part of the Golden Valley Wilderness DRC crew (all seven of us). Hooray for our budding fence! May we all continue to grow as leaders as the valley continues to welcome us for many hitches to come!