Final Report 
Well, it is that time of the year and we have all said our final farewells. Ridgecrest is definitely not the same without all the beautiful souls of the DRC and especially my beloved “Grassholes”. Thank you all for making this season a tremendous success. Your care, time, devotion, humor, hard work, engagement, dependability, flexibility ; to name a few thing, have been the backbone of the success of the Grass Valley crew. I have enjoyed working with each of you and wish you well on your next adventures. Know you always have a home here in Ridgecrest (and a guest room), well at least for the next few years!
I would like to also extend my thanks to the entire staff at the BLM-Ridgecrest Field Office. They have been such an integral part of our success. They have provided their time and expertise to enable us to better complete our projects. We appreciate the endless amount of time and effort they invest in managing and protecting our wonderful public lands. A special thanks to Mary Dickes, our agency partner; for her support, trust, vision, and dedication this season. Thanks for directing and guiding us to complete a successful season of conservation stewardship. It has been a pleasure getting to know and work with her. I would also like to extend thanks to Dana Jacobs, Carrie Woods, Jason Woods, and Don Washington for assisting us in training and much more throughout this season.
This wonderful crew along with the Ridgecrest Field Office has been able to make great strides in all the stewardship projects in the El Paso Wilderness, Golden Valley Wilderness, and the Grass Valley Wilderness. We were able to comprehensively monitor all three wilderness areas. In the El Paso Wilderness, we spent the bulk of our time there effectively monitoring restoration from a few years ago. We were also able to apply camouflage restoration on a few new sites, monitor water guzzlers, monitor several small fences, and hike wash systems for signs of trespass. Golden Valley was also an area that has seen work over the last few years. We spent a lot of time of effectively monitoring restoration sites, then moved into new restoration, fence monitoring, hiking interior route systems looking for trespass signs, and constructing a number of hard barriers. Toward the end of the season, we moved to Grass Valley and began with effectiveness monitoring all sites. We also moved on to camouflage restoration for new site, constructing hard barriers, sweeping tracks, and fence monitoring. Finally, we moved on to our big season project. We constructed over 6000 meters of fence with the help of the Kiavah crew and the other DRC crews. It was a successful end to our work this season!
Below are our work totals from this season:
Field Work Totals
Intern Conservation Service Hours
Restoration Sites Restored
Sites Effectiveness Monitored
Line of Site Meters
Sq. Meters Restored (Area)
Vertical Mulch (#)
Seed Pits #
Hard Barriers Installed (#)
Hard Barriers Installed (m)
Fence Constructed (m)
Fence Maintained (m)
Thanks again! If you would like a more in-depth review of our season, check out the attached report.
Grass Valley Crew 2012-2013
Hitch 12 marked the beginning of the end of our long desert sojourn here in the majestic Mojave. What a spectacular finale it was! Bobcats and BBQs, river plunges and hot spring soaks, Palm Springs adventures and fourth grade field trips. We rounded out the season with a variegated array of exciting experiences that could only have been had in this magical slice of xeric Californ-I-A. The hitch began with a BLM hosted BBQ at which all the crews were in attendance. This was to be the last formal gathering of all the 2013 DRC cohort and our lovely friends at the BLM. A bittersweet affair! We feasted on a delicious mix of goodies and mingled with our amigos and BLM buddies and said some sad goodbyes to our contacts at the BLM. They gave us some wonderful parting gifts, including awesome stickers, National Park passes, water bottles and hats. We will miss them dearly! Our second day of hitch we had a wonderful time helping out with the Sand Canyon Environmental Education Program (or, SEEP), spending the day in pretty Sand Canyon playing with fourth grade students from local Ridgecrest schools, teaching them about local flora and fauna, among other environmental related topics. The art station was a big hit; many a satisfied student walked away with pretty paint drawings adorning their faces and/or appendages. It was a fun day! We were all very excited to depart on day four of hitch for our Leave No Trace (LNT) training certification course which was held at the Whitewater Preserve just outside of Palm Springs. Sadly, one of our crew members, Mr. M. Bemus, was left behind in Ridgecrest in order to take care of some of his pre-Peace Corps checklist items...And before we left we were forced to say goodbye to the Rands and Jawbone crews who finished their season and were heading off to pursue new adventures elsewhere beyond the desert. We hope they are having fun wherever they are! Our first night at Whitewater we couldn’t resist the pull of the big city, and we spent the afternoon wandering wide-eyed around the bustling metropolis of Palm Springs. We were particularly enthused to see a Trader Joes, and then went to watch The Great Gatsby at the movie theater. Mama Cat bought us popcorn and candy. Happy mothers day, Mom! We also paid a visit to a Ben and Jerry’s and stuffed our faces with some delicious ice cream. The next few days we spent learning from the LNT master, El Cuchillo (aka Mr. Matt Duarte), about Leave No Trace and teaching techniques. We went on some splendid day-hikes along the Pacific Crest Trail, and each had the opportunity to present to the group on a specific LNT principle (such as “dispose of waste properly,” or “respect wildlife”). The highlights of our hikes included refreshing dips in the Whitewater river, spectacular aerial views of the austere Whitewater canyon and surrounding desert mountains, wildlife sightings including a bobcat (!), a Red Racer snake, a surfeit of ants (which forced us to cede the ground and set up our sleeping areas on top of the picnic tables), a couple of pesky nocturnal raccoons, and a brief sighting of a bighorn sheep by Lizzie and Cat! We also got to meet some really cool PCT thru-hikers one morning (they were Nolene from South Africa and Bill from Chico, aka Mike the Mechanic, his trail name), and invited them over for breakfast and coffee. Nolene, tragically, lost here sun hat that morning and so Cat offered up her own, earning her the epithet of “Trail Angel” (a term that PCT thru-hikers use to describe people of exceptional kindness they encounter on their 6-month journey). Nolene and Bill inspired us, and now Lizzie and Adam are making plans for their 2014 attempt to thru-hike all 2,600 miles of the PCT. At the end of LNT training, we spent an afternoon at Joshua Tree National Park scrambling around on rocks and lounging in the shade of the cacti. We also paid a visit to Pie for the People, a delicious pizza shop in the town outside the park. Then we said our goodbyes to Matt Duarte, our dear friend and mentor, and began the long drive back to Ridgecrest to finish up the hitch working on the remainder of the fence in Grass Valley. Two days of building H-braces for the fence in Grass Valley later, (during which we were blessed with some welcome cool weather), and we had wrapped up our work in Grass Valley and the High Desert for the season! Our emotions were varied; part excited and relieved, and part sad and nostalgic to be saying goodbye to Grass for the last time on our final day of work. Our last day of hitch we spent a day of fun and relaxation at the hot springs along the Kern River near Lake Isabella, about an hour and a half outside of Ridgecrest in the Sequoia National Forest. Carlie (Cat’s dog) joined in for the fun, and we had a wonderful time soaking in the springs, splashing in the river, and swinging from the rope swing (Lizze is particularly adept at swinging from the tree; she adopted the “limp body” technique, sort of just flopping gracefully into the river). It was a splendid way to finish up the final hitch. And now, as we enter these last stages of wrapping up our time here in the California desert, together for the last time, in Ridgecrest, in our little home on East Church Ave., reflecting on our experiences, I am reminded of the sage words of Mary Austin: that “for all the toll the desert takes of a man it gives compensations, deep breaths, deep sleep, and the communion of the stars.” One might also add the “communion of friends.” We will miss you, desert! Thanks for all the experiences. Love, The Grass Valley CrewP.S.Hi Lizzie's Mom! (And Zeus!)
The end of hitch 11 has brought us one hitch closer to the end of this program. Both bringing a little sadness and a little excitement. Long gone are our nights of single digits, not seeing another person except our own crew for 12 days straight, and not seeing one insect or little critter poke it's head out during an entire hitch. This hitch we were greeted by all the other crews during our All-Corps event, some desert tortoises, a mini OHV event, a rave, and a pizza pool party. Which is why this blog may be a little late in it's posting, nap time was needed. Also, as a disclaimer, there may be many grammatical errors due to post nap grogginess.As hosts to this year All-Corps event, we had a lot of prep work to do to get ready for 30+ people working on a fence bordering the Grass Valley wilderness area. Which meant lots and lots of materials were needed: t-posts, bales of wires, bollards and more bollards. Luckily Jawbone and Kiavah were up to the challenge of helping us haul a ton of wires and a couple tons of t-posts out. Which meant we all got a lot of Ridgecrest radio time (Ridgecrest radio is the best radio) or sleeping time (you know you've perfected your jelly fish when the bumpy roads begin to lull you to sleep). All the while we got to advance our fence sighting techniques, the task in which we try to site a straight line armed with only a compass and binoculars among many tall creosote bushes. We went from trying to see through the creosotes, to attempting the sit on another's shoulders (that barely lasted a second..it was not in the JHA), to finally bringing out a ladder to see over the creosotes....which by far works the best.With Jawbone and Kiavah's help we were able to spend a day away from our All-Corps organizing to help one of the BLM archaeologists at Portuguese Canyon. We learned about obsidian tools, as well as their creation process. And we got to play archaeologists, finding and marking bifaces and milling features.And then there was All-Corps. As hosts we arrived at our campsite for the event a day early, in order to get ready for the other crews. Driving to our campsite was easy, as all we had to do was follow “Scrappertown Urinal Target” signs, which we later found out lead to an OHV gathering at the next campsite over. When we arrived at the dry lake bed we were camping at, we were greeted by the tail end of a rave. At 11 am there were still speakers piled in a messy pyramid style, blasting some continuous rave beats, which could be heard from the corner of the lake bed we claimed as ours. After trying to find another campsite, to no avail, we settled on calling the other crews to make sure they brought out extra earplugs and glow sticks. Which turned out to be unnecessary, as it was only a one night party and the group slowly dwindled as the day went on.We had our own little party once the other crews came out. Which involved Jurassic Park viewing on a trailer, catchphrase, multiple games of Settler's of Catan, tortoise viewing show at Will's tent, and a firework show put on by our neighbors Burning Ham. Plus over 2 miles of fence being completed in over 90 degree weather. The hitch ended with a pizza pool party at our BLM contact's parents' home. There couldn't have been a better way to end a hot hot hitch and say goodbye to Jawbone and Rands.
This started just like any other hitch; we were hard at work in the kitchen, packing the trucks and the trailers. Not long after we started, Cat had some awesome news to share with us about next hitch. That news was, drum roll please… That we will be hosting All-Corps. With being the hosts, that really changed our hitch schedule. The next couple of days were spent planning All-Corps, such as the type of work that we will have other crews do, how we will break up into groups, meal themes and of course we had to make an invite video. We worked long and hard on our invite video, so we encourage you to watch it via this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B4FB4uhUIuc 
This hitch was a lot of fun since we had a good variety of things to do once we were done with All-Corps prep. We got to spend a day at the China Lake Naval Base see the Coso Rock Art, which is the largest collection of Petroglyphs in the western hemisphere. Went out to Sand Canyon a couple of times, once for a dip in a watering hole, second time we were doing some trail clean up. Did some sightseeing at Fossil Falls and learned about the history of it. Cat coordinated with Leigh to have her helicopter fall over us and give our own personal air show in Grass Valley. The next day, Leigh came out with us to help us with fencing, which was nice to have someone new with us.
We had some inconveniences this hitch, we were ready to head on out into the field, we were heading to an auto shop to replace the headlight for one of our trailers. We had a little accident and ended up getting the tire for one of our trailers flat. Once we got that all fixed up, we decided it would be nice to reward ourselves with a Starbucks to give us that burst of energy we would need before going into the field. We got into the field, we set up camp with Kiavah and started cooking dinner. We were all fairly comfortable until we found out there was a wind advisory for our area, the gusts were predicted to be up to 75mph. So we packed up and went right back to town. At least it was nice to get another night in town.
We managed to do all this, plus we nearly finished lining up and sighting the rest of the fence in Grass Valley, built more H-Braces, rolled out more wire, and set more T-Posts. I can say with confidence that this was both a productive and fun hitch for all of us.
Hitch Niner 
Hitch nine was a blast for the Grass Valley Crew welcoming a new crew member Adam Kinnard, hosting the Kiavah crew Kiavah, and Matt Duarte (a.k.a “Knife”). They all did an extraordinary job of helping us block off some incursions and finish some fencing.
During the first day of work Grass and Kiavah beasted two incursions like the beasts they are. OHVer’s ain’t got nothing on Grass and Kiavah. Then during the rest of the hitch the two crews worked together to finish a 1 kilometer stretch of fence and started the greater part of a 3 kilometer fence line. Fencing jobs divvied up among the members include sighting out the fence line, constructing H braces, running fence wire, pounding T posts, clipping the T posts to the fence wire, and inserting stays to the 4 lines of wire. The first fence line fence was completed under the tutelage of Matt “the Knife” Duarte. His fencing expertise helped the two crews overcome the challenges of the Grass Valley Wilderness terrain. The work for second fence line started out slow for both of the teams due to the challenge of sighting out a straight fence line over enormous creosote bushes. Although the bushes were challenging to work around, the two teams’ perseverance assisted in overcoming this difficulty.
At the end of the hitch the two teams planned to do their two EE’s on the northern boundary of Grass Valley Wilderness, so they could see the wildflowers in that area. But, as you may know things don’t always go smoothly in Grass Valley, and one of the trucks required a tow (déjà vu again) . So, the truck was towed out right before we were going to leave the field, again. This put somewhat of a damper on our day, because Cat, Will, and Lizzy had to stay back to wait for the tow truck while the rest of the members got to see the wildflowers. Thanks Cat, Will, and Lizzy for sacrificing for the teams.
Welcome to the crew Adam.
Hitch Pizza 
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
This hitch started out with the Grass Valley, Kiavah and Jawbone crews meeting in one of the local parks in Ridgecrest. From there we caravanned to the location were All-Corps was being held in the Ibex Wilderness Area. We made a few stops along the way to see what kind of cool things there are to find. Once at the Ibex wilderness, each crew set up their camp and sleeping areas. It was a small community made up of White Walls, Green Monsters and tents.
The next day was a very relaxed, corps members were able to socialize with one another, while waiting for Wild Corps to arrive. We were able to spend the day checking out, hiking up and down, playing in the sand over at Dumont Dunes. After we had our fun and fill at the Dunes, the group was able to get refreshed at the Tecopa Hot Springs where we were able to enjoy some hot water and got to mingle with one another.
Once we started to get into the work rhythm, All-Corps was held over at the China Ranch Date Farm outside of Tecopa, California. This was led by members of Wild-Corps as well as BLM officials and the owner of China Ranch; Tim, Rose, David and Brian. Most of the work at China Ranch consisted of trail building and trail maintenance. These were fun filled days, where we did all of our work filled with joy. We had the opportunity to blaze and build new trails through Mesquite forests, widen trails by trimming the shrubs back, clearing trails of dirt and rocks due to the force of erosion, as well as build bridges over creeks, creating staircases along the sides of rocky hills, creating rock retaining walls, as well as marking the trails by lining them with rocks. It was good hard work; at the end of the day we were all able to relax at camp, socialize with friends, play games and eat a good variety of food since each night was a potluck with a different dinner theme.
Once All-Corps was over, Grass Valley, Kiavah and Wild-Corps packed up camp in the Ibex Wilderness and caravanned five miles down the street to the City of Shoshone. This was a real treat for us, since we spend a good amount of our time living in the wilderness without running water and no electricity. Camping in Shoshone, not only were we within walking distance of the conference center, but we also had flush toilets, showers, electricity, library, a store within walking distance, a swimming pool heated by a local hot spring and some good hiking areas that brought us to petroglyphs as well as other early man sites. So you can say, we got spoiled and pampered during our time in the City of Shoshone.
The Shoshone Conference was hosted by the Sierra Club, members from different Chapters and other environmental organizations, as well as BLM and NPS officials from California and Nevada. Members and officials came together to discuss environmental issues concerning the desert. There were many presentations followed by Q and A sessions, the members of Wild-Corps had the opportunity to give a presentation on the type of work that they do and all the members of DRC were present really enjoyed it.
Once the conference was over, Grass and Kiavah packed up camp and started heading back to Ridgecrest and took the opportunity to check out Death Valley since it was along the way. We checked out Badwater Basin (the lowest point on the continent), Artist Drive, Salt Creek Trail where we saw a few pupfish, desert wildflowers, saw some standing water along the valley floor and the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. We were able to spend the day seeing and enjoying the hottest, driest and the largest National Park in the Lower Forty Eight on a nice comfortable day. It was truly an amazing way to end a great hitch.
Grass made it home 
Greetings from the Grass Valley Wilderness! Hitch 6 has come to a close and we are more than halfway through with our time in the Mojave Desert. The Grass Valley crew finally made it to their homeland and we were able to camp in the wilderness, we voted it our favorite campsite yet! We definitely are getting better at the camp set up. Teddy lined the path to the rocketbox with flagging so we wouldn’t get lost when we really had to go and Jeff/Matt even got out the level when setting up the stove. Exciting things have returned to the desert during this hitch. Cheese is back in the game and we think spring is coming! We saw green grass, singing birds, ground squirrels, kangaroo rats, beetles, lizards, sunburn, short sleeved shirts, and 3 days of steady rain. You know what they say, January showers bring February flowers??? We were also closer to the Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) fire range so everyday was an air show from the jets and sonic booms that makes you shake in your boots.
We started off this hitch having a meeting with Marty, our BLM wilderness contact which involved lots of Starbucks coffee/muffins and discussion about Golden and Grass Valley wilderness areas. I educated the group on our waste disposal options while living in Ridgecrest and working in the field. We discussed landfills, recycling, and composting. We journeyed to the Ridgecrest Landfill to get a first-hand experience of where our trash goes and offered suggestions for how we could improve our compost buckets’ decomposition rate.
We spent most of the hitch protecting the Grass Valley wilderness from OHVers. We resigned all the northern, southern, and corridor routes with new wilderness carsonite signs. Lots of sweeping of tracks took place…..just keep sweeping. We monitored all the previous restoration sites and touched some up as well. Teddy and Erica were under the weather for a few days so the FAB FOUR (Zoe, Lizzie, Matt and Jeff) were back again tackling one large incursion that was previously restored with hay bales. The ground resembled desert pavement and after all the decompacting and rock barring, our shoulders could eat people. The hay provided us with some entertainment including Jeff Havey’s HAY-V jokes. Luckily, Erica and Teddy returned the last day to help us out. We planted 119 vertical mulch bushes and worked on it for 3 days….our largest incursion yet.
We did have an interesting run in with 6 dirt bikers. We were monitoring the fence and they were caught on the wilderness side of the fence where no motorized vehicles are allowed. We informed them of the boundary and where they could exit the fence while we snatched some sneaky photos of their license plates…..they may or may not get a ticket in the mail. We enjoyed being spies for that short while.
We are all looking forward to All Corps next hitch in Shoshone near Death Valley!
Peace, love, Hydroxycut
Lizzie and the Grass Valley Crew
P.S. Vin Diesel shined his light at us again….you know the rest.
Hitch 5 
Well, our ten day winter break has come and gone, and Grass is back in the desert. The beginning of hitch number five began with all of Grass Valley making it back to Ridgecrest, except our non-trusty Vin Diesel. On pre-hitch day Vin Diesel was still sitting pretty in the shop after the saga of it's apocalypse breakdown. Luckily mid day we got the call, nothing is wrong with Vin Diesel. (I suppose sometimes it's just a little finicky?). It would be back in action the next day. Which meant hitch five began without our hitch leader. She was given the duty of driving to Barstow once again to get our Vin Diesel and bring him out to us.
While Cat was waiting on Vin Diesel, the rest of us piled our six butts into Gassy and set out for the south side of Golden. I think the best way to describe us at that point was a mix of cheery and hesitant in leaving our cushy houses behind and once again going to sleep with the dirt beneath us and circa 1950s army surplus tents over us. Getting out to our campsite right at dusk was a nice uplift. As always the sunsets in the desert are amazing, always offering a slew of fiery colors which sprawl out behind the mountains. On our way out one of crew members checked the weather and said it was going to be a warm hitch with the lows in 30s. Since we got out late, most of us decided to go without a tent. Sleeping under the stars is probably what I will miss most after the DRC ends. Unfortunately, it may not have been the night to do it (we still haven't learned from the last hitch). Although we have been told many times by our BLM contact, Golden and Grass have their own micro climate. Since the elevation is lower than surrounding areas, the cold air sinks. Meaning, it was not a 30 degree night, it was a single digit night. The morning was interesting....a lot of jumping and dancing, with all of us ending up taking refuge in Gassy.
Fortunately, the middle of this hitch was cold, but not that cold. We got a few good restoration days in. Monitored some fence lines and previous restoration sites. And we did a lot of hiking. I think at this point we can all get around the Golden wilderness area better than we can Ridgecrest. We hiked the boundary and wash after wash; finding points where OHVs are entering the wilderness areas and trying to find where they were going. We also found some cool things. There was a trash pile containing the frame of a 1940s car, all riddled with bullets. We found four mines, three of which were holes heading straight down with no fence around them. And we found lots of PVC pipes. Lots and lots of them. The PVC pipes were used to mark mine claims some years ago. The problem is that they are open on the top, so if a bird goes down into them, it has some trouble getting back out, and usually doesn't make it. So we hiked around capping the pipes with rocks. As soon as we would finish one line of PVC pipes, usually 100 yards apart from each other, we would find another line of them. If we tried to hike a wash, there was always a line that we (mainly Teddy) would spot and our nice breezy hike would turn into a long over the mountains hike, placing rocks in these pipes. We got some good views of Golden thanks to those pipes. And hopefully saved some birds as well.
During this hitch, for our environmental education project, we had the opportunity to visit Soledad Farm. Soledad is a goat farm located in Mojave, Ca. Their main income is goat cheese, though they produce yogurt as well. As soon as we arrived we were greeted by the owners Julian and Carol. Carol had just helped a mother goat give birth to two kids. Seeing the kids 10 minutes after birth was a great experience as we watched them tumble and fall, and almost stand up so quickly after birth. We also met all of their dogs, many rescues from the desert. Aside from the animal affection we received from the dogs, goats & kids (over 500), cows, cat and a pig named Lucy; we were also shown the cheese making process. Julian showed us the steps he goes through to make the cheese, letting us sample at each step. Julian also finally ended our cheese famine by sending us off with a few different cheeses just for coming for a tour.
Hitch five was also the hitch of BLM visitors. The girls of Grass Valley met with Marty our contact, and Danny the archaeologist. We reflagged part of the fence line we will be building. Someone moved a previous survey stake years ago, throwing off where the township lines should exist. Meaning our fence line has shifted. We flagged and Danny scouted, making sure we won't be building the fence in an archaeological site. His scouting found a non-viable burrowing owl egg, which will soon be on display at Jawbone station. Part of our fence may be built in an inactive Navy gunnery range. Hiking that part we found old military targets and bullet slugs.
And finally during this hitch all of Grass Valley made it to Grass Valley!!!! Marty came out a second day with the acting wilderness director, Steve. She showed us all around Grass, the perimeter and the corridor. We saw sites we will be monitoring, restoring, and sites where we will be building our fence.
Keeping to the theme of us spreading out over many areas. We made it back to Rands this hitch. We got a nice treat when Carrie, one of the BLM biologists, came out with some tortoise information kiosks that needed installing. We happily installed the kiosks in Grass, Golden and Rands. We also saw the touristy mining town of Randsburg. Which is awesome. Mainly because of the flushing toilets and the hot lunch we had. We are very easy to please by day 10.
As hopefully the final update to Vin Diesel, he didn't make it through our hitch. Zoe won the bet of when he would break down (it only took a few days). A couple days into hitch Cat and Lizzie went scouting in Grass, and that ominous light came on. Which meant if they turned Vin Diesel off, he will not turn back on. They kept him on all day and then drove back to Ridgecrest. With our crew leader a little exhausted, Gassy got turned off without Cat having a ride home or Vin Diesel in the right place for towing. Luckily our neighbors Jawbone were having a house hitch. They helped give Vin Diesel a push and Cat a ride home. Once again Vin Diesel is in Barstow. What's wrong with that truck is too boring for the blog, but we're hoping that trip three to the shop is our lucky number and next time he'll be coming back for a full hitch.
If you are reading this, than the December 21st wasn’t the end of the world. It wasn’t the end of the world, but an alteration of thinking. Our way of thinking changed to making us more sensitive to incursion restoring.
Hitch 4 started off joining the other crews; Jawbone and Kiavah suited up in Tyvex body suits to enter a cabin clean up event with the BLM staff. We all got prepared with the proper PPE to dive into this burnt down cabin. Dressed in a blue hazmat suit, hard hat, safety glasses, and of course blue latex gloves to match our outfit. We were able to fill a huge dumpster full of burned railroad ties, sheets of metal, and a ton of soot. The soot we wore very well if I might add. Zoe had a very distinctive mustache going on. We worked on cleaning up 3 cabins; Edith E and Mingusville are the names I remember. These cabins were fit for a king hauling 3 full couches, a love seat, and a rat poop infested mattress out to the dumpster. On the upside Kiavah was able to find an extra green monster to patch up their own green monster. We finished the day cooking and putting our creativity to the test.
Our first night in the desert in a while KNIFE (Matt Duarte) joined us for a few days. So in our crew tends to be jinxed. That night we were talking about how likely a flash flood was and how often it rains. Hmm… Next thing we know were all heading to bed and its sleeting. Rain in the desert is seriously unheard of. We all thought it would stop in 2 hours or so, but NO we were all proved wrong it stopped at 3am. Most of us ended up waking up in a puddle wet and cold then on top of that worked the whole next day in the extreme weather. Jeff and Zoe decided to hang their sleeping bags from the ceiling of the green monster to dry out for the day. KNIFE, Teddy, and Zoe even competed in a decompaction of soil challenge of one of our incursions. We all succeeded and finished 40 foot stretch by 4 pm. We ended up restoring far more land than we had thought before. This entailed a few more bollard signs and lining the 400m surrounding the campsite with rocks and at least 50 vertical mulch bushes. On a vertical mulch run Lizzie stumbled upon what we think was a Mojave green snake, which was one of the highlights of our hitch.
After a few days of camping in the desert we were brainstorming ideas to keep warm. We came up with ‘if only we had those blue Tyvex hazmat suits to sleep in.’ Also, Cat came back to the field from her Mexico trip and to our surprise she bought us doughnuts!!!!!!
So on Dec 17th we finally finished the 2 campsites that were on the priority list in Golden Valley. Cat, Erica, and Teddy went into town for Admin day. So we were left with the FAB FOUR! The Fab Four (Lizzie, Zoe, Matt, and Jeff) happily finished the rock lining of the designated route and sweeping out OHV tracks. Rock lining was very relaxing because we thought of kindergarten playing with blocks. Hey, it got us through the long work day of moving mountains…it worked.
Zoe had her Environmental Education (EE) Presentation on Renewable Energy, and she arranged for a field trip to Terra-Gen, which was the Wind Facility right near Mojave, CA. The group was able to see up close these massive turbines that create energy to be used as electricity. Todd Dobbins, the Terra Gen site supervisor gave us the grand tour of their facility along with a brief power point presentation on various projects they have going on. Terra Gen has about 5,000 turbines on their property. Just picture it, WIND Turbines for miles. Although, during Zoe’s EE there was some debate about why Wind Turbines are such a controversial issue, we all enjoyed discussing the pros and cons. It was exciting to listen to everyone’s thoughts about such environmental subject we knew very little about.
We spent our last nights in the desert, which were some of the coldest nights we have had yet. Jeff looked up the forecast which was in the high teens/ low twenties. Burrrr… Seriously, the Desert gets COLD???? We all had some difficulties staying warm this hitch. We all have Zero degree sleeping bags now and wool socks, but we still can’t keep our toes warm. We wake up with toe-cicles! There has got to be a science to layering properly and keeping warm at night in the desert. If anyone has any suggestions they would be appreciated!!! By this point some of us started doing laps around the green monster to warm up then head to bed warm. We tried almost everything to stay warm. The January hitch we can brainstorm more ideas and hopefully overcome this dilemma.
T’was our last day of work in the desert; everyone is happily working together to get our last incursion completed and monitoring the southern boundary fence line. We had our favorite falafel for dinner and finished our chores. We sat around the lantern telling stories, while Lizzie and I had a read 100 page challenge… WHICH DIDN’T HAPPEN! December 21st, the day the Mayan calendar ends. We’re all alive. We wake up pack up camp and were all ready to go. There has been a change, a change of thinking, formally known as Grass Valley Crew, woke up and “WE ARE GOLDEN.”
Sadly, on December 21st 2012 Vin Diesel didn’t make it through the night. Our truck had the same security light on as last time we got stranded in the field. Golden Valley-2, VIN Diesel-0. Cat stayed in the field for 5 hours waiting for a tow truck to tow Vin Diesel out. Vin Diesel and our entire crews working gloves didn’t make it past the December 21st.
Highlights of Hitch 4:
• We dug our last hole for vertical mulch and bollards.
• We planted our last vertical mulch of 2012.
• We went on our last vertical mulch run of 2012.
• We have placed our last rock lining the road for 2012.
• We survived December 21st 2012
We are all looking forward to start fencing hopefully in January with NEW WORKING GLOVES!
“WE ARE GOLDEN!”
Hitch 3 
Two and a half months… Really? Has it really been that long since we packed our bags and converged in the middle of the Mojave Desert? It doesn’t seem like it, but I guess keeping busy in a stunning area makes the time fly by.
This hitch was unlike the previous ones, and will probably be drastically different from our future hitches as well. This hitch was packed with different trainings and different areas, so Cat decided that being based out of our house in Ridgecrest was the best course of action- and I’m sure you know that we had no objections.
So our adventure started off with two days in the Golden Valley Wilderness Area. We were working on the Northern boundary monitoring a few spots on the fence line as well as restoring a few incursions. A neighbor of Cat's,Sara, came out to volunteer with us for a day to see if our line of work was something that she was interested in pursuing in the future. I think we may have convinced her just how awesome our gig was. Our crew had split into two groups that day to multitask a bit. When Matt, Jeff, Zoe and I went back to the western boundary to fix an incursion; Cat, Erica, Lizzie and Sara had an unplanned adventure.
The girls group had started the morning with some restoration, vertical and horizontal mulching, seeding pitting and broadcasting, (you know- the normal stuff) when the fun began. They pulled off to a nearby campsite midday to enjoy the leftover turkey sandwiches from Thanksgiving. They soon came to discover that no one had brought a knife to cut the bread, cheese, or cucumber, so the only tool they had to cut with was the wood saw... a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. As Cat is about to make her first cut, in her proper PPE after cleaning the saw with alcohol wipes a dirt biker approached them. He proceeded to explain that a member of his group’s dirt bike had broken down nearby from where our diesel truck (we named Vin Diesel) broke down last hitch, and asked if we could help them out. They jumped at the opportunity, but insisted in finishing their sandwiches first. The bikers didn’t have a knife either, so I am sure they admired the creativity. The girls quickly ate and followed the dirt bikers to the broken bike. They rearranged the tools in the truck to make room from the bike, and securely strapped it down. They then all piled in the very full truck and drove the dirt bike and the dirt biker himself to his campsite. Although they didn’t really get in a full work day in, the public outreach was priceless! Hopefully, they tell their fellow OHVers friends and community about the conservation corps that valiantly and fearlessly came to the rescue.
The following few days consisted of the Federal Government (The BLM) teaching us mature adults (immature children at best) how to properly and safely use chainsaws (TREE REAPERS OF DOOM) with the S-212 Chainsaw training course. It was a 3 days course where we coupled with the Rands Crew, with the first two days mainly entailing sitting in darkened room watching a power point about everything involving chainsaws. On the Third day we finally got to use the Chainsaws under close supervision of the experienced BLM Fire Fighters. Everyone, especially Zoe, learned how to easily start the cold chainsaw without flooding it, and we all had a blast felling and bucking the imitation trees. Alas, we couldn’t play- err I mean effectively operate chainsaws forever, so the next two days we unhappily drug ourselves back into the field for some more real work.
The first day back in the Wilderness, Matt, Lizzie, Jeff and I hiked the western boundary line all day looking for incursions heading into the park and recording them when we found them. It was one of the coldest days of our hitch, with a sustained wind of about 30 miles per hour and an overcast day, the lifeless grey clouds preventing us from absorbing whatever warmth the sun was sending. It made for a chilly day of hiking, following the fenceless boundary using our orienteering skills with our map and compass. Needless to say holding on to the map proved difficult, but at the end of our day we ended up near an amazing cave in the side of one of the mountains, where we huddled away from the wind and rested before we took the long drive home.
Unfortunately for us (fortunately for her), Cat left us half way through our hitch. Despite our pleas to take us with her for her planned vacation in Mexico, we were left to work without our PL for a few days. It was odd not having her with us, but we diligently finished up the tasks we had planned. Hope you’re having an AMAZING time in Mexico Cat!
This Hitch we cockily decided that we excelled at our work too much, so we decided to spend two days with the Rands crew in the Rand Mountain Area, schooling them in the ways of restoration as we assisted them in tackling a few of their bigger incursions. It was a wonderful change of pace to work alongside them in the field, and with 14 of us (Matt Duarte made an appearance); we nailed them out one by one. Our time spent with them was enjoyed by all of us and I hope we can work with other crews in the field in the future.
Our last activity of our hitch was ATV training with the BLM Law Enforcement Officers. It...Was... So AWEOSME! We spent the morning and the beginning of the afternoon going through the proper way to do every action on the quads. The beginning was tedious, doing the simple things like starting and stopping, basic turns, and weaving through different obstacles. Then it got interesting! We were learning how to hill climb, swerve and stop to avoid hitting objects (one of the BLM LEOs), as well learning how to turn sharply by breaking traction with the back wheels. Around two the training ended and one of our trainers took us out in two different groups for a joy ride through the surrounding desert. The first group (Matt, Lizzie and Jeff) left while the rest of us enjoyed a much needed lunch and talked to one of the rangers about his job patrolling the vast Mojave Desert. When they finally returned we quickly refueled the quads and hopped on to follow the ranger in this adventure. With Erica taking the second slot behind the ranger, and Zoe following her, I was left to take the back to watch for any accidents. The ranger leading us finally took off, and at a much faster pace than I would have thought. Cruising around at about 40 mph, I finally realized just how fun these ATV’s are. I found myself seeking out every possible bump and divot in the road. Constantly pushing my limits on the bike, I soon realized the euphoria that comes with riding on these trails, as well as the urge to go off the beaten path to climb a hill, hit a jump, or go over some obstacle. I even had the honor of watching Zoe “get some air” as she calls it, remembering her stray from the legal route into the desert scrub. There may or may not be one less creosote bush now, but I’ll never tell. Overall, I believe it was essential training to receive as desert restorators. It allowed us to see through the eyes of the OHVers and to better understand their mindset when looking for trails and paths to take. It will surely improve how we do our restoration.
Well its post hitch day now, it’s a fantastic 64 degrees outside, the sky is a striking blue with a touch of gray in the clouds, and the leaves are still falling off the trees. The trucks are clean, the water tank in our trailer is being fixed, and there is currently smoke coming out of the kitchen from Jeff and Zoe making one of their masterpieces. This hitch will surely go down as one of the best in our season.
I think we are all excited to get out of the house this break and have our own adventures in this wonderful state, but thanks for checking in on us! You’ll hear from us after our next hitch, but for now we’re going to finish up our tasks for the day. Farewell from Grass Valley Crew!
Teddy, Lizzie, Erica, Matt, Zoe, Jeff, and Cat.
Htich 2 
Hitch # 2 for the Grass Valley crew is now in the books. Hitch 2 began in the El Paso Mountains and ended in Golden Valley. The Grass crew got the chance to perform a variety of duties. Responsibilities included site restoration, restoration effectiveness monitoring, guzzler monitoring, and fence monitoring. This allowed the Grass Valley team to obtain number of new skills for the 2012 – 2013 DRC season.
In the El Paso Mountains the team experienced some ‘bitter’ cold weather, with the temperatures dropping into the 20’s during the evenings. The team had the chance to hike near Sheep Springs, where petroglyphs can be found left by shaman of the Kaiwaiisu Native American tribe. Images of animals and other shapes can be found on the rocks in the area. It is believed that the shamans were just passing through the area at the time these petroglyphs were made, about 10,000 BP.
Once the Grass crew finished up in the El Paso Mountains, the team had the chance to move to Golden Valley to complete some guzzler and fence monitoring. The BLM contact for the Grass valley crew, Marty, joined the grass team for a day to show the team around the area and possible spots where restoration monitoring is necessary. As the team was attempting to monitor 9 miles of fence line one of the truck’s alarm system decided to malfunction, and put the truck into anti-theft mode. The crew was unable to start the truck due to the malfunction, and the truck needed be towed out of the area. A friendly “bear” of a tow truck driver was brave enough to come deep within the Golden Valley wilderness and tow the truck out.
During the final couple days of the Hitch the team got the chance to leave the field a day early and learn a few things about desert plant life, which will be useful for future plant recognition for site monitoring. Carrie, the BLM wildlife biologist, took all the DRC teams on a short hike and assisted us in identifying some Mojave Desert plants, including the cheese bush, creosote bush, and the golden bush.
Overall, the hitch was a success, with a few bumps towards the mid-point of the hitch.
Hitch 1 
First Five and Septoberfest were completed and we were ready to get started! We started off Hitch 1 with an orientation at the BLM, where Dana Jacobs, the BLM Outdoor Recreation Planner set up a morning with BLM employees. Each representative spoke on their respective roles and responsibilities. It was really beneficial to hear about all of the different concerns and areas of management that the BLM juggles. Following the orientation, we stuffed ourselves at the cookout! Thanks to everyone who put this all together!
The next day we cooked, packed up, and headed out to our new temporary home, the El Paso Wilderness! We were able to set up camp and settled in before the sunset. This first evening we were joined by our friends ,the Kiavah Crew. We enjoyed the evening together and headed out the next day for the Desert Tortoise Natural Area. Both of our crews joined the Desert Tortoise Committee along with about 15-20 other volunteers for a day of restoration. The organization is expanding its property to include a couple of parcels adjacent to their current property. All the volunteers were led by our SCA crews to close 2 main incursions crossing these new sections. Another small group of volunteers posted signs along the perimeters. We finished up all of our work in the late afternoon and then shared in a lovely cookout that the Desert Tortoise Committee provided. It was a great day! We had successful restoration and an opportunity to meet individuals from the area who have devoted so much time and energy into the preservation of the desert tortoise and their habitat. Though we didn’t come across any live tortoises, it was all still worth it! At the end of the day we bid farewell to our fellow crew members of Kiavah and head back to our basecamp.
The crew jumped into work projects in the El Paso’s the next day. We kicked things off with some effectiveness monitoring on sites that were originally restored by the 2009-2010 Golden Valley Crew. Some touch up restoration was needed on a few key sites and then we moved into more monitoring. All the restored sites on the southern boundary were effectively monitored and a good portion of the western boundary was completed. There were also a couple days spent on guzzler mointoring (water catchment installed to provide water for wildlife). Our crew trekked out to one of the guzzler sites and had a training session on data collection and guzzler monitoring. A few days later, two members attempted to monitor guzzler 141. However, this guzzler was nowhere to be found! It did lead them on quite the hiking adventure with some sweet ruins along the way. Don't worry, we will find you guzzler 141!
Toward the end of the hitch we took an afternoon and checked out the Burro Schmidt tunnel for our environmental education presentation. It was a great way to learn about the history and culture of those who have lived in these mountains before us. Thirty two years of digging a tunnel takes a lot of dedication and a bit of insanity! Other highlights of the hitch included eating amazing meals- some that included ridiculous amounts of fennel (thanks CSA box!), speed rounds of monopoly, banana grams, tarantula sightings everywhere, and clear beautiful starry nights!
Thanks for a great first hitch everyone!
Zoe Bryant 
I’m Zoe, 24, vegetarian who is loves the color green! I’m from the small state of New Jersey. However, I have seen far more than just the East Coast.
I love to travel. I have worked internationally doing community service projects in New Zealand, Thailand, Ecuador, and Kenya. These projects included teaching elementary students English, building one room classrooms, and planting trees. My favorite project was monitoring elephant populations in Amboseli National Park, Kenya, Africa.
Since high school I have always been passionate about saving the environment. I have participated in many projects including wildlife surveys, vegetation surveys, bird banding, GPS, and Geographic Information Systems Mapping (GIS).
I love camping and hiking; however I am just as happy making money at a job in the outdoors. I am excited to work in the Mojave Desert because this project isn’t like any other project I have done in the past. I enjoy trying new things, and after this project I can cross California off my list. I am thrilled to be introduced to MOST of the wildlife in the desert. (SNAKES not so much) =/ I’m also wondering what unique recipes I can come up with in the middle of nowhere!
Catherine Ford 
Hello! I am Catherine Ford and I hail from Pensacola, FL. This is my first time working with SCA and I am super excited to be apart of the Desert Restoration Corps community. I moved to Ridgecrest with my fiancee this past May and have been getting accustomed to desert life over the past few months. I will be living in the area for the next fews years and look forward to kicking off this first year by working with the Grass Valley Crew.
I grew up in the southeast but have spent a good portion of my adult years hopping around the States with various jobs. I most recently bounced back and forth between coastal North Carolina and the mountains of West Virginia (in the magical appalachian mountains!). I studied religion and sociology in undergraduate. I eventually went back to school and got my M.Ed in Kinesiology: Outdoor Education.
I have spent the past 6 years mainly teaching environmental education to school aged kids. I am excited to venture into more restoration and conservation work. I am eager to contribute to the conservation projects going on in the high desert.
Other than that..I love to take photos, play with my boxer pups, fiddle with the guitar, and play outside!
Lizzie Morrison 
Lizzie grew up in Lake Forest, IL and recently graduated from Xavier University with a major in Environmental Science. Her passion and love for the outdoors began as a camper at Red Pine Camp in the northwoods of Wisconsin. She has been on staff there for the past six summers as a cabin counselor and a canoeing/backpacking instructor.
After a couple different environmental service experiences, she has always wanted to be a part of a conservation crew. And as much as she loves the Midwest, she is thrilled to have this opportunity to live and work in the desert.