Well it finally happened; the NV-RES crew went on its final hitch and is closing out the season. The crew spent 12 days out in the Desetoya Mountains building check dams. The dams are the very first part of a 10-year project the BLM has going that will turn that area back into a brood ground for Sage Grouse. Before that can happen, the water table has to be raised and we built the check dams to do that. The project let the NV-ES crew get creative in how they built their dams. Some were elaborate dams for stone and logs, designed to let only a small trickle through, others were made of felled trees and rabbit brush with the hope that it would slow down the water flow and prevent erosion. Some areas were artistically rock lined. All of the dams should be useful in the future. Outside of the great project, the crew loved the Desetoyas. The temperature during the day only got into the low 90s, and at night, it got down right cold, a nice switch from 104 degrees every day all day. Likewise, the mountains were beautiful and the crew got to camp in a stand of Aspens next to a stream. Yes a stream, real running water. It is amazing how different the desert can be just from a change in elevation. The crewmembers took full advantage of their down time after work. Wade went on daily nature walks and Gabriel and Nick spent a lot of time practicing songs on the guitar and harmonica. The author of this blog (that is to say, Charlie) managed to read two books in the 12 days he was there. Even our crew leader Leigh got to relax a bit. As far as last hitches go the NV-RES crew could not have asked for a better one, but now it is time to say goodbye. We are all heading our separate ways, some back to back their homes and others to other trail crews. No matter where we go though, none of us is going to forget the summer we all spent in the Nevada Resource Stewardship Corps.
It was a super short hitch for the NV-RES crew this time around. We headed out to Sand Mountain for three days of trail maintenance at the giant sand dune and the near-by pony express station. Sand Mountain was impressive to look at, and the pony express station was an interesting piece of history to see. It also inspired a lot of mock old west-style gunfights.
It wasn’t all fun and games for our crew though; we spent our first day rock lining the half-mile interpretive trail around the pony express station as well as just making the trail better defined. Our crew also removed a number of old carsonite posts marking the trail and replaced them with tougher, metal signs. That night was exciting because the desert, as ever the stormy lady she is, sent a full on sand storm our way. It turns out that a rain fly, while great for rain, isn’t the best thing in a sand storm. Most of the crew woke up the next morning in a decent covering of sand.
Our next two days were spent both pulling and replacing carsonite posts along the large camp ground corridors near the base of Sand Mountain or riding with one of our BLM contacts in a UTV in search of fallen trail markers on the backside of the Sand Mountain. Both jobs were necessary and important, however getting driven around sand dunes in a off-road vehicle certainly adds a little more excitement to the day. Or second night out brought a real-life thunderstorm, pouring rain and everything. Our crew saw this as an opportunity to take a ride down the road, after a run through rain, to middle gate junction. What’s in middle gate junction, you ask? Awesome cheeseburger, strange folks and over 1000 one dollar bills nailed to the ceiling of the restaurant we ate at. It’s a worthwhile stop if you’re ever heading down Highway 50.
All in our hitch was a short one, but it didn’t stop us from getting a lot of impressive work done. The trail around the pony express station now looks like a trail and the carosnite signs near the camp ground and on the off-road trails are all replaced and standing. As Tom, the BLM maintenance guy said, “it really makes the place look like it’s not abandoned.”
With that in mind we headed back toward Reno to eat some burritos and do post hitch work.
The NV-RES crew got back at it for an eleven day hitch out at Walker Lake. Where is Walker Lake? It’s outside Hawthorn, Nevada. Where is Hawthorne? Out in the middle of nowhere. Still, our crew had a nice salty lake to live by and plenty of shady, spider filled cabanas to hide under when the sun became unrelenting.
Our goal this time was to help the BLM turn a dilapidated campsite into something worth staying at. To that end, the crew got to work building three staircases, installing new welcome sings and kiosk, painting bathrooms and staining fences to spruce up the area. The days were long, and the work was challenging. Putting a staircase and retaining wall into a hillside made of sand is a lot tougher than you might think. Still, it all got done and looks amazing.
As our hitch went on, Walker Lake started to grow on us. Yes, the water was very salty, but there is nothing better than going for a swim after a long days work in the desert. Yes, spiders controlling almost every inch of the campground, but they served as food for all the desert spinney lizards and skinks that were there too. The night sky and sunsets were amazing as well.
Overall our hitch was a success. We really made Walker Lake look like nice place to stay. And while it seemed like an unpleasant place to stay at first, Walker Lake turned out to be pretty cool. Though, if I never see another damsel fly it’ll be too soon.
We started our second hitch on Sunday, June 24th in Winnemucca. After we met Nancy, who we would be working under for the next week, we drove one hour on paved roads to reach a thirty minute stretch of dirt road out to the east side of the Montana Mountain Range.
This land was silent and beautiful with an abundance of sagebrush growing on every hillside. We were there to help the diminishing population of the threatened sage grouse. After a study had been done on the main cause of death for the sage grouse birds, surveyors concluded that these birds were dying because nearly invisible barbed wire fences were impaling them before they could take flight. This is where we came in.
We worked nonstop for three days putting together thousands of reflective clips that could be placed on the top wire of the barbed fences to warn the sage grouse of the fence’s presence. First we made the clips and then split up in teams of two and hiked alongside the fence line, over rolling hills, placing four clips every sixteen feet. Working out on the sage covered hills throughout the warm days was a very pleasant activity.
After we completed the sage grouse project, we moved on to another location in close proximity to Lovelock. There we installed twelve carsonite posts in a large burn area behind a gold mine. The posts are to remind the public to not remove any of the historical artifacts in the area. The burn area had old building foundations, cars, and even an old mineshaft. This job was quicker than the last and only took one full day.
For our last project this hitch, we went to another Lovelock area again to clean trash from the Lovelock caves. These amazing caves were cut into limestone and sat high up on a hill, looking over an old lakebed. These caves were estimated to be used by the natives back in 2000 b.c. when they could still collect fish from the lake and harvest crops from the fertile soil. We collected a garbage bag full of trash and were able to explore the surrounding area.
Our team did very well working together this hitch and we are all looking forward to our third hitch together. Overall, installing reflective clips out in the middle of nowhere was wonderful. NVRES for life!
We started our hitch with a drive on the loneliest road in America, Highway 50, from Reno Nevada to Grimes Point Archeological site. We got to our work site later in the evening and cooked dinner as the sun set behind beautiful mountains across a large salt flat.
The next morning the BLM archilogist, Susan, a Native American historian, Donna, as well as our BLM contact, Dan, took us on a tour of the worksite. We were given an overview of the historical Native American’s use of the many caves in the area. They gave us a private tour of Hidden Cave which is normally locked to the public. The cave was used thousands of years ago a storage unit for food and equipment used by the Natives. Petroglyphs and pictographs were also pointed out to us on this tour. Dan explained the work projects we needed to complete and we spent the rest of the day moving equipment up to the work sites as well as learning restoration techniques.
The next morning we had breakfast ready by 4:30 so we could start work at 5:30. We liked starting early because it let us work in the cooler hours of the morning and avoid the noon to one o’clock mid day sun. We watched the sun rise as we ate our fruit and cereal and drank our coffee. The main projects at the site involved removing and replacing wooden and rock steps, erasing the many non official trails threw restoration work, and installing signage and a visitor kiosk.
The next couple of days involved very hard and rewarding work. We spent most to the mornings doing the labor intensive work, such as digging and setting the steps in and securing them with pieces of rebar and spent the later hours restoring the social trails using vertical mulch methods.
Over the course of the week we saw and experienced many beautiful things, like every day’s sunrise and sunset, bats, incredible stars, the howls of a pack coyotes and feelings of internal peace and bliss. Later in the week the Native American Historian, Donna, came back out to our camp and shared with us stories from her past and gave us deep insights to Native culture. She invited us to go to the museum she ran later in the week and when we took her up on the offer, got a private tour from her. Donna and her son shared dinner with us that night as well as our other guest, Tom, our program manager and his wife and two kids. It was a fun night with so many guests.
We finished the week out working hard to complete the many projects. The BLM contacts came by to check our work out and were highly impressed at our craftsmanship. The final night we worked a 10 hour day, packed up camp, went to an awesome Mexican restaurant, got dessert at Dairy Queen and drove back to Reno.
If I had to describe the desert I would say she’s a stormy broad, beautiful but temperamental. My team found this out first hand this past hitch on the first day. My name is Charlie, and along with Nick, Wade, Brian, Gabriel and our project leader Leigh, we experienced a dust storm, snow, and hail all in our first 24 hours in Winnemucca, NV.
We weren’t in Winnemucca for the weather though, after a quick meeting on June 5, we started our work in Water Canyon just outside of Winnemucca. Our tasks were many, during the three days stayed there we brushed out 6520 feet of trail through the canyon, put up new speed limit signs on along the canyon’s dirt road, replaced a barricade that had been vandalized and installed bases for new signs along the canyon road. Suffice to say our days were long and sleep was always welcome. However the fact that Water Canyon’s beauty grew almost every minute we were there made for a good trade off.
On June 8 we packed up our trailer and spent the day traveling to five different historic sites and traversed at least 250 miles leaving markers warning travelers to leave anything they find. In the process we found a ghost town, had an impromptu desert dance party and learned to wrap our own head scarves, Wade was a particular fan. After our marathon work day ( up at 5 am and in bed by midnight) we spent our Saturday morning dodging fish hooks and helping at a kids fishing derby held by the Bureau of Land Management. After a fun filled morning of announcing the winners of raffle drawing we headed out toward the center of the known universe, Gerlach, home of the Burning Man festival and the last town before our hitch site in High Rock Canyon within the Black Rock Desert.
We were joined by our BLM contact Zach, who turned out to like hacky sack and bad jokes just as much as we did, he fit in perfectly. Zach and Wade really hit it off and had some lively debates about coiling rope. Again, our project in High Rock Canyon required the team to versatile. Our first day at Steven’s Camp we installed a deer hang so hunters wouldn’t clean their prizes on the porch of the bunk house. We all had a good look at the bunk house, and while it certainly was nice, we couldn’t resist sleeping out under the stars on top of nearby ridge. Our next two days we traveled up Little High Rock Canyon, brushing out section of emigrant trail that is used mostly by off road vehicle and some brave folks with 4-wheel drive. It’s amazing to think that this trail, that cost us exactly one tire, was once traveled by people in wagons.
On the far side of Little High Rock Canyon is Soldier Meadows where, surprisingly enough, soldiers once camped. We spent part of our day cleaning campsites and installing a metal barricade to keep ATV riders from going down a foot path. The day was hot and there was no shade for miles, but our work was rewarded by Soldier Meadows’ nicest spot: it’s natural hot springs.
Our next day we helped Zach chop up and move out a car left to rot near soldier meadows. While it displaced a very comfortable pack rat, it was all for the greater good. With the car in pieces we set out across the playa of the Black Rock Desert, done with our work a whole two days early. As we drove through the dust of the salt flat our team looked forward to showers and nine days off.
My name is Gabriel Ysidoro Delgado. I am from a town called Orangevale; just outside of Sacramento, Ca.; it’s just before getting up to the foothills of the Sierra Mountains. Since I was a kid, I’ve always been known for running everywhere. I didn’t even receive my license to drive till I was 18 because I didn’t see the use of a car when I had my legs. As a boy I have always enjoyed the outdoors: going on hikes with my parents, fishing with the Old Man and my brother, going on family camp trips, and running to places only my feet can get me.
Once I got my vehicle I realized I can go a little further. So I started driving up to Lake Tahoe and backpacking the back-country from there. I got my first outdoor job as an SCA member working in the Mojave National Preserve under the Park Service. From there, I knew what I wanted to do in life. I got so into backpacking and the environment when I was in Junior College and after Mojave, I decided to go to Humboldt State University and study Environmental Sciences: Ecological Restoration.
As a student, I continuously backpacked with my friends in the Northern territory of California. In the Summer times, I guided rafts full of people on their vacation down some of the most dangerous rivers of California: the Middle Fork American, the “Killer” Kern River, the south Fork of the American, the North Fork of the Yuba, and the Merced River. After Humboldt, I knew I was going to have to get a job in my degree, so I found a habitat restoration position in San Francisco. I began right after school, and continue to. However, the City did something to me that I never thought it would—it changed the way I looked at people. in disgust of myself, I knew that I needed the outdoors to recuperate from the images the City projected towards me. So, here I am; waiting to start the internship with a place that began it all, in a place that I love the most—The Desert.
I’m Charlie B. Scirbona and I just finished a year and a half stint as a journalist. After I finished my last job I decided he wanted to get back to working outdoors. I graduated in 2010 from SUNY New Paltz, in New Paltz, NY, with a BA in journalism.
Before college I spent 10 months from 2005-2006 with Americorps National Civilian Community Corps where I worked with a twelve member team mostly cleaning up after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. My team also worked on trails in southern California and helped teach grade-schoolers in Utah.
I am originally from Cornwall-on-Hudon, New York, where I spend most of my free time getting routinely disappointed by the West Point hockey team, playing guitar poorly, and hiking up any mountain I can.
Nevada Resource Stewardship Corps
This will be my first season working with SCA and one to be remembered! I am truly excited about the four months to come with my crew in Nevada. It will be a whole new adventure for me. I cannot think of a better way to spend my summer than working hard with a small group of people as well as getting to sleep under the open night sky for three months!
During high school I found the love for football and played for three continuous years. This opportunity helped me gain confidence in working with a large team. Then toward the end of my senior year of high school I picked up my favorite sport so far. My love for rock climbing has taken me through one full year of the sport. I have traveled to beautiful places to climb on numerous different types of rock and meet quite the assortment of wonderful people. I tell people that climbing changed my life in a sense because it brought me outdoors on a very regular basis and I fell back in love with the outdoor world, a love that had slowly disappeared over the years.
I just returned on May 14th of this year from Joshua Tree National park where I climbed every chance I had as well as worked at the world renowned climbing/backpacking shop, Nomad Ventures. You could say I was Living The Dream. Now I am back and ready to start a new adventure with SCA. I am excited for what this summer will bring our crew!
My name is Nichols Borek and I recently graduated Paul Smith’s College with a degree in Recreation, Adventure Travel, and Ecotourism. I spend a lot of my free time backpacking in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. I love hiking, camping, swimming, bouldering and especially fishing.
This is my first SCA project and I am excited to challenge myself in the desert as well as have a positive ecological impact through the work projects.
Erin “Leigh” Knudsen
Nevada Resource Stewardship Corps
Project Leader Bio
I first worked for the SCA as a member of the Jawbone Crew, Desert Restoration Corps, in ’07-’08 and loved everything about it. I loved the freezing cold, the extreme heat, the 60 MPH winds and all the sand in my food, but most of all I loved my crew and seeing the impact of our work. Since working with the SCA I went on to be an environmental educator in Alabama and then decided to get my masters in Environmental Sustainability and Conflict Resolution from George Mason University. While in graduate school I held several part times jobs working as a naturalist, substitute teacher, kayaking trip leader, GMU learning partner and a retail specialist for an outdoor store and with the help of coffee, chocolate and supportive friends I managed to earn Summa cum laude honors.
This summer I am BACK with the SCA as the Project Leader for the Nevada Resource Stewardship Corps and I’m totally stoked! My crew and I are going to be living in the wild lands of Nevada helping to protect and restore habitat and trails as well as recreational and historical sites. Off hitch, I plan to spend my time out in the desert and up in the Sierra Mountains, kayaking (I have been an obsessed white water boater for 18 years), hiking and going on other awesome adventures. I will also be completing my thesis when I have access to the internet, in which I am looking at land use conflicts in the Mojave Desert and the impacts of adaptive collaborative management. The SCA has had a huge influence on my life and I am thrilled to serve again.