Project Leader: Peter Gernsheimer Project Dates: 9/8/10 to 6/24/11 Email: email@example.com  Phone: 208.914.0410 Address: 903 Lopez St, Santa Fe, NM 87501
Hitch 16 
We pulled into Bode’s market and gas station, Abiquiu, NM. I hobbled into the store clad in dusty
work boots, shirt, and hat. Organic foods and high-quality tourist items crammed every shelf, nook,
and cranny. I stared at a piece of Mexican-inspired folk art and tried to process what I was looking at.
I was experiencing the same culture shock I have every time we finish a hitch. I went to the women’s’
bathroom and caught a glimpse of my face in a graffiti-covered mirror. I looked like I had just walked
out of the great dustbowl, circa 1932.
Life kind of feels like a dustbowl out here in New Mexico. There has not been much rain in the central
and southern parts of the state and the wind has been pretty strong, kicking up dirt into our faces for
the past few months. The worst of it is the massive forest fire taking place in Arizona, devastating
hundreds of thousands of acres of habitat. At certain times of the day in Santa Fe and in El Malpais
smoke fills the sky and settles over us. It becomes harder to breathe and the sun turns a frightening hue
This hitch, number 17, felt like the longest hitch of my tenure with the SCA. Perhaps I can attribute my
skewed perspective of time to the way we broke up the work. We spent the first five days building rock
dams in an arroyo in El Malpais, basked in the comfort of home in Santa Fe for a night, and then spent
the last five days doing restoration work in the Navajo Peak Wilderness Study Area up north, west of
Taos. Standing in Bode’s, the underwhelming goodbyes we said to Ken and Tim down in El Mal seemed
like they had happened ten years ago, not five days ago.
I looked in my left hand. I was holding an Izze soda beverage but I could not quite comprehend its
function. I put it back in the refrigerator case and walked around the wide sweeping aisles, vainly
attempting to internalize my surroundings in a way that made sense.
I clambered back into our truck holding a cream cheese brownie I purchased at an ice cream stand out
in the parking lot. The interior of the cab felt like a kiln. I instantly began to sweat. The brownie felt like
mud in my mouth.
Perhaps the heat, the bugs, and the bug-bite induced welts contributed to the time warp I was feeling.
I stared down at the giant red bumps dotting my forearms and calves and suddenly became itchy. I
thought about the black clouds of tiny blood-sucking insects that swarmed over all of us at every jobsite.
I began to shiver, quite possibly because I was in the throes of a histamine-induced fever.
I looked at my crew mates. We all seemed weary and worse for wear. I thought about how cruel it
would be to sing a cheesy camp song for the next forty-five minutes of our drive. I decided that I valued
my life over my mild amusement.
Alana turned the keys in the ignition and made a joke about how we definitely would not have to wait to
heat up the coils of our diesel engine on a day like this. As the car came to life and everyone slammed
doors, a smile came to my face. Sure it felt like a long hitch, but the bugs and the heat were just the last
hurtles in our proving grounds.
As a crew we have slept through two degree F temperatures and pulled down fences in snow storms.
We have encountered the world’s oddest spiders and found scorpions lurking under many a rock. We
have vanquished a morbidly obese pack rat that lived in our trailer and we have successfully broken and
repaired our trailer hitch countless times. We braved a bizarre hail storm in October and we have dealt
with plenty of OHV-ers running down our work within hours of completing our restoration. This hitch
we left our seven gallon water jug at home and improvised with stock pots and bungee cords to make
sure we had water while we worked. Heck, we even managed to get our broken down truck out of a
sand dune far away from a decent road. We are the New Mexico DRC crew. When things go poorly we
pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and say, “tough titties.”
While time passed slowly (for me at least) and while the bugs and heat were at times tedious, there
were many enchanting and uplifting experiences throughout this hitch.
In El Malpais, we spent a morning hiking up to and exploring the ruins of a tribal fortress. We found
intricately painted and textured pottery shards. We ran our hands inside smooth mortar holes. We
hopped from precarious rock to precarious rock and we thought about the people that once inhabited
this region. I stared down from our high perch on the mesa. The massive arroyo cutting through
Cebolla Canyon seemed even more impressive at this height.
In the WSA up north by Taos, we hiked to Navajo Peak, peered over an astoundingly beautiful rim,
and observed the confluence of a dried up creek with the Rio Chama. We also found a mysterious
rectangular shaft leading down a considerable distance into the rock of the mountain. A cold draft
pushed up from its depths. We wondered if it were ancient and manmade. We spent time in the
hot springs on the river bank feeling amazed and honored to have such a great and natural luxury
within our reach. A visit from Tami and James allowed us to get to know our BLM contacts on a much
more profound level and gave us the opportunity to ask questions regarding the challenges we faced
throughout the year in the struggle against OHV-ers. And James, as thoughtful as ever, showered us
with BLM and NCLS themed “schwag.”
We are pulling into the tiny driveway of our quaint adobe home on Lopez Street. Peter stands at the
door to greet us. Exciting change is in store for everyone as our program draws to a close, but it is
happening a bit sooner for Peter. He just found out he will be leaving us a few days early to begin work
as a project leader in Oregon. He has spent the last five days at home working hard on a major end-of-
In eight days we will all go our separate ways. But hell, with the adventures we have been on together
we might as well have matching tattoos.
Hitch 15 
The New Mexico DRC crew, as they drive into Cebolla, see to their surprise a great deal of green. And not only green--much of it the green of sage--but rain. Although the rain proves abortive. But the green--there is even green grass growing on the floor of our white tent. This seems bizarre, somehow. Everyone comments on it, independently, as they enter the tent.
The first afternoon we begin work. We are without the Trimble and so rely on our wits and map-reading skills to find the route closures. This isn’t conducive to certainty, but there is less data to collect.
There will be no grass transplants; we rely almost entirely on vertical mulch, and our vertical mulch is almost entirely sage brush, which here grows prodigiously. We’re very pleased with the results. You should examine the photos below.
After work we go and see the river, and having lived and worked in the desert for so long, we love the river. The river is the Rio Chama. Unlike the Santa Fe River, this river strikes us as a real river, and not as a dry creek bed.We fantasize about swimming in it, but realize it is very very cold. Some of continue to fantasize about swimming in it, its frigidity not withstanding.
During our second day in Cebolla we continue to work hard and make a great deal of progress. After a day and a half we’ve closed four routes. We enter the third day and our work continues. The weather is beautiful. We find bones. We wear them. We pose with them. We make masks of them. We find downed trees. We drag them; they make fine, imposing horizontal mulch. Off the cuff, we erect a brush fence of them.
But then, driving to a work site, negotiating. a ditch, the Dodge dies. We hear a dragging, or a clanking. Upon investigation we see the tie rod has snapped. We cannot drive. A similar encounter with a ditch the day before had left us without an air dam. Today we look on in disbelief. Michael, who knows much more about cars than the rest of us, is flabbergasted by this malfunction. We curse Chrysler Motors, and call to be towed.
In the interval of our waiting (it will be a long interval) we meet Gerald Esperanza, whose family ranches here. He goes over our map, and shares valuable information about the area and our proposed route closures. He and his brothers are here for Memorial Day weekend to brand the calves, and they will be just down the road if we need any help. At first we decline. But it becomes apparent that there is no way for us all to get back to Santa Fe with the truck and when Gerald’s brother Carlos and fellow-rancher Dennis come by and offer us a ride to camp we accept, with gratitude. Nathan rides with the four border collies in the truck bed; Sam, Alana, and Dawn ride in the cab. Peter and Michael bravely stay behind with the crippled Dodge.
The Esperanzas assist us throughout the ordeal, giving rides, shelter, and company. In the end Peter and Alana go back to Santa Fe with the tow-truck and rent for us a Tahoe, complete with leather seats. The crew remaining in Cebolla take advantage of the down time to spend a morning at the hot springs, by the river, which are dug out of the silt and smell of sulfur. As did we, after our soaking.
In the afternoon Peter and Alana return, and the morning after we finish all the work the two-wheel drive Tahoe can reach. We have been invited to the Esperanzas’ branding We decide, given all the help they have given us, that the least we can do is take part.
There are four generations of Esperanzas present, ranging from the 91-year-old patriarch to Cohen, whose ages is measured in months. The family gets together every Memorial day to brand and castrate the calves.
We’re told how to herd and drive the calves down the pen and alley to the branding table, where they’ll receive the Esperanza brand, get vaccinated, and, if the calf is a male, be castrated. The 160-some calves have already been gathered into the holding pen. Their mothers mill and low outside.
We drive the calves down the alley so that they, one by one, can be branded and released. Peter ties down the calves’ legs as they’re branded. Michael puts in the difficult final push, loading the calf into the table. There is the acrid smell of burning hair. The calves’ testicles are collected in coffee cans by the young Esperanza “ball boys.” The brand of coffee is not, alas, “Chock Full o’Nuts.”
After 8 hours -- and a delicious New Mexican lunch, prepared by the Esperanzas -- the last calf is branded and released back to the care of his bother. Our day as incompetent cowboys and -girls is done. We say goodbye to the Esperanzas, who have been so welcoming to us.
We return the next day to Santa Fe, where we will receive our Leave No Trace training from Jamie and Natalie, who have driven from California for the occasion.
We go on a one-night backpacking trip for the training. We each give a presentation (or two) on the seven LNT principles: plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimize campfire impacts, respect wildlife, and be considerate of other visitors. We thought we knew LNT, and we did, but didn’t too, and the training is invaluable and teaches us to think about our attitudes towards nature and our relation to it. It teaches us, too, to teach. We spend the night in a beautiful meadow in the mountains above Santa Fe. The next day our training is done, and with it, Hitch 17.
Hitch 14 
On Sunday, May 8th the crew and the trusty Dodge where loaded up and ready to drive out to the El Mal. We were excited to return to the place that taught us the basics of conservation and a place we knew well enough to call home (We spent more time living in Cebolla canyon than any other place in the 9 month program and that counts for any one of our houses). On our drive in we noticed a suspicious amount of pink flagging that was heading toward the large arroyo off to our left and as we got closer to our camp we noticed a large cairn on the edge of the arroyo. As we got closer it started to look less like a cairn and more like a 12 ton pile of rocks, not much difference I know but we are trained to notice these things.
The next morning we were met by the leader of the El Malpais crew, Mr. Ken Jones, and he was able to make sense of the pink flagging and the giant pile of rocks. As a dump truck effortlessly made another 12 ton pile rocks next to the existing rock pile the mystery of what we were going to do this hitch was solved, make small rock piles out of large rock piles. To be more exact we were going to be constructing check dams in the bottom of the arroyo to slow down water flow and raise the stream bed level inside the canyon. Why would we do this, You may ask? Well its simple: in the bottom of the arroyo instead of being flat where water can flow equally downstream, it had created another small arroyo inside the existing arroyo that was believed to have been created by human presence in the form of a broken dam created by homesteaders. The rock dams were supposed to pile up sediment on the upstream side of the damn because, though water was supposed to flow through, dirt was supposed to get caught in the cracks and raise the water level along with the dirt level. The constructing of the dams was surprisingly technical and had to be explained to us by Dave the Hydrologist. After a day of working with Dave and the BLM interns we where deemed honorary hydrologist and where ready to build as many of these damn dams as could be built by hand over the next 7 days.
The buildings of the dams was very tiring and slow because even though the dump truck was able to dump the rock close to the edge of the arroyo we would still have to haul the rock up and down the bottom of the arroyo. Every check dam that we built moved us father away from the rock pile and stretched out our fire line until we would have to resort to loading the Dodge up with a couple of tons of rock and than driving along the side of the arroyo until we got close to a flag then we would have to resort to a good ol' fashion trundling party until all of the rock was in the bottom of the dry arroyo.
The work was very had but everyone enjoyed themselves thanks to the added company from the Albuquerque interns who were able to help us by adding another 3 pairs of hands and another pickup truck to fill with rocks, but sadly had to leave us after the third day because they had to do some important prairie dog relocating (they were just keeping the dogs off the streets). Ken Jones was also able to send us Julie, who was an SCA intern, for six of the eight days we were working and she and her co-worker Rachel where nice enough to come out into the field at dinner time and bring us the best green chili enchiladas in New Mexico. After dinner we were able to enjoy some delicious s’mores that where gifts from the awesome Albuquerque interns.
In the end if the Hitch we were able to bring the dry north west corner of New Mexico one night of way overdue rain, another night of extremely late snow , a lot of unwanted rain and 16 very important check dams. Because of our work the arroyo of Cebolla canyon will be changed forever and after this year’s monsoon season the dams will be filled with sediment and water will be able to follow a more natural flow pattern. Hopefully a few years from now there will also be seasonal watering holes that surrounding animal will be able to benefit from.
HItch 13 
As you are aware by now, this is the first time New Mexico's BLM has collaborated with the SCA's
DRC thanks to the big man, James Sipple. So, the DRC's newest crew is back for another round of
New Mexico experimentation, but this time, working with the Socorro field office in the Eagle Peak
and Mesita Blanca WSAs near the little town of Quemado. We got a taste of what it would be like to
be a monitoring crew since we spent a good chunk of our days driving around looking for the assigned
roads. We restored any job sites found, but lucky for us, Father Time went right ahead and took care
of the other half of the old roads we were supposed to work on. Since he so nicely truncated our work
time, that left us with more flexibility to explore the area. We were able to check out Zuni Salt Lake,
make acquaintances with a big rancher, Bobby McKinley, and appreciate cryptic dinosaurs remains.
Zuni Salt Lake is a rare, high desert lake that is very sacred for religious ceremonies. It is considered
neutral and scared ground amongst local pueblos, historically and currently. Unfortunately, I didn't get
to take any personal pictures because getting close enough would require crossing into Reservation
land. Bobby McKinley is one of the nicest ranchers I have ever met. He seemed straight out of the
movies: booming voice with a southwestern accent, toothy smile, free ranging cattle, rodeo trophies
decorating the house, and a big family of sons and daughters who have also gone into the ranching
business. Bobby and his wife very kindly welcomed us into their home if we ever needed a phone or
information about the lands. He was such a willing and helpful resource in pointing us in the right
direction to these evasive roads. Alas...if only all BLM land users were this amicable and open to the
work we do. As for paleontological studies in the area, Eagle Peak and Mesita Blanca WSAs have
had a few of their own small discoveries. Kevin Carson, our Socorro BLM contact, took us to a huge
slab of sandstone rock and ask us if we could “see” anything reminiscent of a dinosaur being there.
We looked for a good few minutes and couldn't really spot anything, to which he then pointed out 3-
pronged fossilized footprints, 4 or 5 of them. How exciting! I really appreciated him showing us that
and telling us about some of the past research conducted in these areas by New Mexico and Arizona
students; I felt more connected to our work place and more “in the know”. Despite a slightly irregularly
scheduled hitch and plenty of gusty weathered days, the NM crew still worked diligently and connected
to the land as much as they could during their time there.
Hitch 12 
New Mexico. The mind wanders through savannas of conifers and rests on golden grass. The sun
illuminates the landscape distinctly in each moment of a day. The sky is huge. Its scant clouds billow on mesa ringed horizons.
Hitch 12 is something different, something new. We have returned from California to a familiar
geography. But we have not yet made the pilgrimage to El Malpais. Instead work takes us to warmer
climes, down near Las Cruces. We are a hop, skip, and a jump from Juarez, Mexico. But even closer are
the white sands of a bygone nuclear test site. An artillery range stretching Sotol-dotted miles borders
the BLM land in which we are working. As we drive up the winding road leading to our campsite I
cannot help but stare at the needles of the Organ Mountain range. The smooth ovoid form of the
sugarloaf roosts upon a jagged nest of rocks that form its base. This place is startlingly beautiful.
Flowering Yucca and Sotol, Tree Cholla, and Hedgehog cacti bring an exotic feel to these southwestern
grasslands. Mountain Mahogany, Grey and Organ Oaks, Piñon and towering Ponderosa Pines, as well
as different species of the Juniperus genus cover the steep foothills of the range. Brown and black cows
jut out here and there from crags and washes. It is that time of year where a doe eyed calf seems to file
behind each and every dam on the range. The little ones are scared of our Dodge as it wends its way up
It is hard to believe how far the land stretches outwards from our camp and how sharply the peaks of
the needles cut into this expansive sky above me. A sandstorm obscured everything on our first evening here. We were subjected to heavy, near-suffocating winds. We had not erected our white tent. To cope with the lack of shelter, some of us found ourselves huddled inside the cab of our truck. But
overall the weather has been mild.
Our projects on the Pine Tree Trail and the Baylor Pass Trail have been rewardingly productive and
entertaining. Through our usual process of vertical mulching we have disguised a series of spider trails, which depart from the main trail and commonly confuse hikers. Our special brand of restoration work is not commonly seen around the state of New Mexico. Due to its novelty, the BLM put out a press
release to the Las Cruces Bulletin. The paper sent a reporter and a photojournalist to the Pine Tree Trail
to interview us about our work.
Having BLM Ranger Ana Eckhardt join us in the field has also been a great pleasure. She helped us clear brush on the Pine Tree Trail and she showed off her trail work skills while assisting us with a water bar installation on the Baylor Pass Trail. We have enjoyed hiking alongside her and hearing stories of her traveling past, including her time as an English teacher in Japan and how she has hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail.
On the Baylor Pass Trail we have met a wide range of people. Particularly on the weekend we
encountered an overwhelming turnout of hikers. All of the passerbies were more than friendly and
they thanked us for our work on the trail. Some stopped to speak with us while we labored away on
our projects. I had a pleasant conversation with a Youth Conservation Corps alumnus and his girlfriend. They clued me in on great places to visit throughout the state. I also met a man from Shiquanhe, China, who said there needed to be more people like us in the world doing service work. Michael and Alana had the pleasure of speaking with a rancher who had rode out on a roan horse to visit a new “dam,” or cow mother. She told them a bit about the history of the land and about her family’s role in it.
Because of the near endless praise and due to the addition of a new crew member, general crew morale
has been OK. Nathan, the greenhorn, seems to have settled quite well into the routine of ‘life in the
field.’ Perhaps sun exposure and caffeine withdrawal were the missing pieces in his “old life” in “old
Oh, and I cannot forget to mention the BLM’s exhaustive hospitality. Not only have we been privileged
enough to enjoy an exceptionally well maintained campground, compliments of hosts Charlie and
Sandy, but we were also treated to a wonderful barbecue.
The night of the barbecue we pulled into our campsite, covered from head to toe with dirt and grime.
Ranger Eric Ernst was priming the charcoal grill while Ana pulled a seemingly endless supply of food
from plastic shopping bags. Tom Phillips, the Supervisory Recreation & Cultural Resources Specialist,
soon followed. Even though we smelled of sweat and roughly eight days worth of dirty socks, they
greeted us warmly with handshakes all around. After we plowed through an assembly line of burgers,
topped with local Hatch green chilies, Tom uncovered a pecan-whiskey pie he had baked for us with
pecans grown on his very own six acres. He even made the crust from scratch, a skill he learned and
perfected from his mother. We enjoyed this amazing pie with vanilla ice cream. Bellies brimming with
good food and feeling honored to have consumed such good pie, our crew felt appreciated and cared
for by our new friends in the BLM.
But the night would not end there. The amazing smells coming from the grill lured local area deputies,
who were making their routine weekend patrol of the campground, to our barbecue. It is also likely
that the not-so-amazing smells emanating from our work clothes put them on red alert, giving them
reasonable cause to further investigate the campground.
The deputies entertained us with plenty of jokes and stories from their time on the force. Most of our
crew ended up going to bed at the late hour of 10pm, two hours past bedtime. Eric held out pretty late,
enduring cheesy jokes and dutifully flipping burgers. Towards the end of the night we bonded over our
similar upbringings in the New York/ New Jersey area. It turns out we have the same mother.
Hitch came to a close. We packed our belongings into our trailer and made the five hour journey north
to Santa Fe. Along the way we stopped in Socorro to refuel. We will be working there next hitch. But
even though we have to move on, rest assured we will miss our BLM contacts and all of the support they gave us down in Las Cruces.
Photos coming soon.
And we're back.
Like the "snow birds" who occasionally shared our campground, we escaped from the frigid temperatures of New Mexico in December, opting instead for the pleasant weather and predictable climate of Southern California. We had our fun there, and we did some great work, learning about and working in a whole new ecosystem, but we always looked forward to coming back to the place that gave birth to this crew. So, with the trailer packed the brim, the truck bed weighted down with the accumulation of half a year and Alana and Michael's vehicles following, we started our convoy rolling across the Southwest, New Mexico bound.
The journey took two days, with a stopping point at the Ponderosa Campground in the Tonto National Forest, Arizona. What can be said about spending thirteen hours driving across the desert? Quite a lot actually. We chose to cut across the Sonoran Desert on I-10, saying one last goodbye to Blythe, CA and the Big Maria Mountain Wilderness, our home away from surrogate home for the last three months. We cross the mythical California/Arizona border, heretofore forbidden to us due to Worker's Compensation issues and possibly dragons. Upon entering Arizona, we saw the sudden change that took place, with saguaro cacti popping up in surreal formations, ocotillo flowering in new hues and…BEES!
Yes, bees. They were the talk of the town when we arrived at our campground that evening. Along I-10, near the Colorado River, the crew had come across millions of bees along the highway. The sad story starts with an unfortunate truck driver who was transporting active bee hives along the interstate. Something happened (we don't know what), that caused the entire load of bee hives to come crashing off the truck bed and onto the interstate. When we came across it, the boxes were crumpled along the side of the road and an opaque cloud of bees was hovering in the area. We were unable to stop in time before we crashed right into the swarm, causing the front window to take on the appearance of a used lime Jell-O mold. Beyond the hives were two police officers, looking slightly unprepared for what they were dealing with.
There was much anxious speculation that night about what had happened with the bees, but for the most part the crew enjoyed their campground, which, with its ponderosa pines and soft bedding of needles, resembled the first camping trip the crew had taken during training up to the Jemez Mountains in New Mexico. The next morning, with the truck's radiator looking like a two-dimensional apiary, the crew rolled back out onto the road again, thought his time one car short. Alana's van, Charlize, was having problems with the A/C compressor, so she had to spend another day around Payson, AZ, waiting for Monday when someone could work on her ride.
The crew drove into the New Mexico, into familiar territory as they passed through El Malpais, their home during the first part of the season. They rolled across I-40, past their former hangout in Albuquerque, all the way to Santa Fe. Once there, they were greeted by a small adobe house near downtown. It wasn't easy to back the trailer in, down a small side street, bordered by adobe walls, but it was easy to get used to the new living situation, only a short walk from downtown.
With the driving done, the crew begins working on turning their new house into a home, learning about their new city, and making the last part of the season, a five-hitch grand tour of New Mexico, from the deserts of the south to the mountains of the north, the best part yet.
Nathan Grover 
I was born in 1985, in Virginia, and grew up in Maryland. In college I studied English and biology. Out of college I drifted---from Vermont to Scotland, and from there to Sweden, where I worked on farms for three months, and discovered my love for manual labor. I’ve had a long-standing fascination with the desert, amplified by a trip I took by myself to the Nambib desert while studying in South Africa, and by a recent foray through New Mexico, the beauty of which I was completely unprepared for. It’s unbelievable to me that I am being given the opportunity to live and work in the desert, and to play a small part in preserving its future.
Hitch 11 
It is hard to know where to start or what to say to convey the utter absurdity that was hitch 11. As I sit writing, it is day 10. We have four people with varying degrees of sickness, 2 girls bleeding, the truck in the shop….and this is a GOOD day!
I suppose it all started long ago with events we didn’t even consciously realize were leading us towards chaos but concretely, it started over break when the truck decided to SQUEAK! Jared took the truck to the shop only to find out that the absence of our broken tail pipe had caused the E-brake cable to melt, causing the E break to not fully disengage. Clearly, this had to be fixed. However, this posed the problem of no work truck for me to do the group shopping, and more importantly, no work truck to get us into the field. Peter was conveniently in NM with Jamie searching for our new residence and traipsing around our soon to be work sites. So, the phone calls began.
Jared gallantly took the lead and eventually relayed the verdict that the admin truck was only 2 + hrs away at the Ontario Airport and that we could bring that truck into the field. This however, pushed our departure back a day and started what would be a very common theme of losing people and time on the project from hell.
This project was a post and cable fence. It sounds harmless enough, but allow me to share more details: 1) no one on our crew was anywhere above beginner on the topic of post and cable. 2) We had to coordinate receiving all of our supplies from the BLM interns. 3) There were a massive amount of heavy (40-100 lbs!) and bulky supplies including a generator, a jackhammer and an auger that had to be transported daily to and from the site, not to mention cement and bollards. 4) This particular fence was over a dune, which made it nearly inaccessible to a loaded down Dodge. 5) The fence was BIG! 6) As I mentioned above, we were never a fully functional group of 6 at work, and there were numerous events that caused us to lose valuable work hours.
While in hindsight it seems clear that we should not have even attempted this fence, this was not evident from the get-go and so, after finding a perfect campsite that Dawn expertly backed the trailer into, we got to work Sunday evening (3/4 of a day late) fully believing that Peter would join us the next day, the interns would bring our supplies and the nice round holes we dug would soon be filled with bollards. Rather than let us keep our spirits high for at least 24 hours, the powers that be sent us a night of wind, rain and very little sleep.
We awoke the next morning groggy and bleary eyed to the discovery that a rodent had been in our trailer nibbling on our snacks, fruit, etc. With bins cleaned and breakfast put away, we set off for the worksite. En route, however, the lunch cooler which was balanced atop bollards opened up sending a glass hummus jar to an untimely death…well, ****! Dawn and Michael heroically took on the task of cleaning up the mess so we could continue on. We were able to work for a couple hours before meeting the interns to show them where to drop supplies.
The first part went smooth although it turned out the bollards were square and not round and they would need to come back the next day with installment #2. Then, while graciously following us to our worksite to drop off some supplies, they managed to get stuck which put us back another good hour of work and also led to a near injury. We also learned that Peter would be waiting to hear about our Dodge and his ETA in the field was unknown. This led us to feel it necessary to take the time after a late workday to drive to Blythe and fill up the dodge and the generator with fuel. While two people did that, the remaining 3 tried to “rodent proof” the trailer and make dinner. All in all, there was no rest for the weary.
Day four of hitch began with a debriefing of Michael’s continuing lack of appetite and stomach problems, Jared officially shifting from “off” to sick and not able to work and the discovery that whatever this rodent was, it was still in the trailer and not deterred by the measures taken to remove food from it’s reach. It still managed to get at some fruit, and then shifted over to plastic containers. Dawn, Sam, Michael and I managed to get in a full day’s work, including overtime, but at this point, it was fast becoming clear that what had once seemed a manageable project, was fast becoming impossible.
Day five dawned and while Michael was finally feeling a bit better, Jared was still down for the count. We drove out to the jobsite (Dawn was fast becoming a master of the dunes) and then Dawn and Michael soon turned around to make a second trip to get more tools. Sam and I plugged away on the cursed fence and after a while heard a truck approaching. We were expecting both Dawn and Michael and Jamie and Katie (the BLM interns). Then we heard a loud noise and saw no truck crest the dune…hmmmm. After a while, Michael comes walking over the dune to tell us that there was “breaking news” and we could probably stop what we were doing. So, we went up the hill to find Dawn on one of many phone calls with Peter, Katie and Jamie patiently waiting on their tailgate and the admin dodge sitting quiet and suspect in the sand.
Turns out that as Michael and Dawn made their approach over the extremely rutted out sand, they found the limit of the drive shaft. So, the drive shaft was now broken, we didn’t have the tools to take it off and had a bunch of heavy tools on the other side of the dune. What an amazing stroke of luck that the interns were there and could shuttle us and our gear back to camp where we would await Peter, our newly repaired Dodge and further instruction.
Back at camp, I opened the side door of the trailer to grab a change of clothes and caught a glimpse of a rodent of unusual size (known to some as a very fat wood rat) climbing out of the tent bin and over the water cooler. Well, fruit and snacks are one thing, but tents and backpacks were on a whole other level so I called everyone over to unload the trailer and put an end to the rat once and for all. Talk about a team building exercise! We will never forget Michael prying under the water cooler with pick-mattock handle and broom to try and scare the rat out while Dawn stood poised, shovel in hand to dole out justice. For as fat as he was, the rat was surprisingly nimble and it took a while to finally trap him against the wall. Once there, we still couldn’t get him and as we tried, he scurried down and away. Michael yelled to Dawn to scoop him out of the trailer, Dawn tried only to find that he was turning around to head back under the water cooler and so WHACK! the shovel came down on his abdomen! Jared and I called out surprised and impressed congratulations while poor Sam stood, camera in hand looking shocked and slightly traumatized! The fact that the rat was not actually dead increased the trauma and it had to be scooped out before Michael delivered the final blow to the dome. Wow!
The rest of the afternoon provided us with some very needed down time. I gave my HawCo presentation and we all sat around and started to process the events of the last few days. We officially decided that we were receiving some sort of sign when Dawn took a trip to the rocket box and discovered that the branch next to her was actually smoking! Yup, I’m telling you, things were just ridiculous =) Michael, Dawn and I also played a pretty epic game of bocce, which Dawn claims to have won…debatable! Thus concluded our one mellow afternoon. Peter arrived much later at 11, and day five officially ended.
On day six, for the first time, all six of us rose and prepared for a day of work. This was not a straightforward day of work on the fence however as the first priority was to somehow get the broken dodge out of the backcountry. The plan was to remove the drive shaft and drive/tow the car out to the highway. This meant that first Jared and Peter spent some time under the truck only to find that the tools Peter had brought out were inadequate. After some discussion, Jared and Michael headed off to Blythe in search of tools that were more suited. Their quest was successful (and included ice cream sandwiches!) and Michael was able to remove the broken drive shaft---YAY! The next phase left Dawn, Michael and I on the fence while Sam, Jared and Peter began the arduous process of towing, getting stuck, shoveling, towing, getting stuck, shoveling…you get the idea. It was 6pm by the time they made it back to the worksite. The relief that the truck did not need to be towed was palpable, but everyone was thoroughly exhausted and Sam was fast catching a nasty bug. We headed into Blythe for a needed meal out at Lalo’s and to drop the admin truck off at highway patrol.
All of the glitches, stresses and fatigue of the first six days finally boiled up and over on day 7. Really, its genuinely amazing that we did not kill each other through personal frustration or through work related miscommunications. First off, we exited the Dodge at the site only to find that the newly fixed tailpipe had detached and was resting on the E brake cable. Michael and Jared removed it but the knowledge that the truck was again broken seemed ironically fitting to this hitch of horrors. Peter decided that we would use the truck for one restock run and to exit the site and that was all. After Jared went through the 3 bags of cement we had at the jobsite, he and I went back to camp to grab more cement, more water, cement, gravel and the cable. We made it back, but barely. As we thought through our day, we realized that bringing the cable was altogether way too ambitious, but also knew that Jen would not want us to leave it at the site. Peter called her, and it turned out, she didn’t want us to leave anything at the site including not only the cable but any extra bollards. Stuck between a rock (not being supposed to leave anything at the site) and a hard place (not wanting to fully break our dodge shuttling materials back to camp) we kicked work up a notch, hoping to get as many bollards secured as possible and to do something with the blasted cable. Sam was at the height of her sickness and after realizing that simply holding a post steady took way too much effort resigned herself to a day of drifting in and out of consciousness under the truck. Jared, meanwhile, was functioning but still sick. No one was even near their A game and the tension was palpable.
It didn’t help that around 3pm a group of OHVers arrived atop the dunes drinking beer, laughing and enjoying their Friday afternoon as they mused over just how long this fence might last in the sand. Let’s just say it was not a moment to ask any of us for positive statement about our job!
Probably against our better judgment, we worked through the heat, fatigue, stress and many miscommunications to finish the fence at 7:30pm. We had another near injury that only luck helped us avoid and I don’t even think there was a huge sense of accomplishment when the thing was finally done. We were all just relieved to finally be leaving that god-forsaken site! Back at camp, some people had dinner while others just curled up with their aches, pains and fatigue for a restless night of sleep.
Peter and Jared up early the next day to go get the admin truck and Trimble the worksite. The rest of us awoke a half hour later to pack up camp and await the return of the truck. Michael and I both had sore throats that progressed into full on sickness as the day wore on. Sam was feeling slightly better as was Jared but they were both still under the weather. We finally made it home around 12:30 and didn’t complete post-hitch until 7 pm. What with 4 people being sick and the feeling that the last week had been a month, we decide that we are not up for our scheduled LNT training with Jamie and Darren the next morning.
Finally a good decision that would not be changed even with hindsight! Alana and Michael woke up feeling worse even if Sam and Jared did feel slightly better. Rather than do LNT Sam and Dawn took care of errands, Jared worked on fixing the white tent (the zipper had been splitting) with limited help from Michael and I and Dawn also worked on bureaucratic nightmares surrounding the long since stolen trailer license plate. In the afternoon Jamie came over for a safety talk, not as a reprimand but more as a reassurance that we are still doing some things right. He also suggested routes of communication and safety dialogue to establish that can hold strong and carry us through even the most stressful situations with less room for disaster and reminded us that at the end of the day, we are much more important than any project! He left and we moved on to naps and the preparation of a delicious dinner of pizza and salad. After dinner, Peter decided that the only thing he would demand of his crew the next day was that we all complete our Americorps timesheets.
And so, the madness ends!
Hitch 10 
Blythe………. The Final Frontier
We are the voyagers of Starship, Maggie (the Dodge)
It’s 10 month mission to explore strange new wilderness’, to seek our new life and endangered species
To boldly conserve where no man (or woman) has conserved before.
Captains Log Star Date 030411
The planning for our voyage back out to the galaxy of Blythe went perfectly and the crew was
assembled and in the dodge before it was even 12:00. We were able to make it to the wilderness
outpost, that was the Midland LTVA , before it was too dark and we were able to set the white tent up
and have Chinese food ready in the wok before anyone was too tired. We were all excited about the
idea of working in a different area the next day and where all able to go to sleep with dreams of the new
work sites dancing through our heads.
Captains log Star Date 030511
The team was up and ready to start work well before 7:40 and we set off to work on our new
job sites. Our first project was a cut through in the road that was created as a short cut for the drivers
but it was located next to a prehistoric pathway. So we had to close the road and we were surprised
when we were able to close the sight before lunch. We fired up the Trimble and closed out the job
sight, and then got moving too our second job site of the day. It was a small hill climb compared to the
previous hitch and we were able to finish it before the end of the day. For the first time in a while we
were able to close out two job sites in one day. Sadly on the drive back we got a look at our first job
sight in a different light and decided that we would get back to work on that tomorrow.
Captains log Star Date 030611
We got back to the prehistoric pathway first thing in the morning and got to work. We had to get to
work on the middle berm so that the road wasn’t too defined and visible from the road. It took a little
longer than we accepted and we weren’t done until right before lunch. Once we got to look at it from
the road we were all very pleased and went down the road to our final job sight in the area. The job
site was at the end of the road and we were supposed to disguise the entrance to the wash and build a
turnaround area for people. It was a fun job site and we were able to plant a dead tree in the middle of
the entrance and roll some large boulders into the way.
Captains log Star Date 030711
We went back down to the same area and had a really simple hill climb with a lot of growth already on
it. We just did some rock work and finished early and decided that for the rest of the day we would put
in a sign and do some OFFROAD VEHICLE TRAINING. During the training we drove up and down a hill
climb section of the legal road and had a lot of fun in the sand.
Captains log Star Date 030811
We had to finish off our biggest incursion of the year, our arch enemy, the All-corps project. We still had
to do some color matching on the largest one of the hill climbs and we had to close site a. We started
raking in the morning and did some vertical mulch before lunch and then for the rest of the day we
decided it would be fun to carry 50lbs rock bags up and down a steep hill. To our surprise at the end of
the day we had color matched to the top of the giant hill but because of the bad sunlight we were not
able to spot and we all knew we had to return
Captains log Star Date 030911
We returned the next morning thirsty for a victory against the giant hill climb. We exploded out of
the car and immediately everyone started there 10 minute stretch and then we had a safety check to
bring up safety concerns. Then we all got to work on the hill and started covering the bear (arrrrgg)
spots. We were able to finish our work for the day early and had lunch alongside a diversion dam in the
Colorado. It was a beautiful day outside and it seamed perfect for a swim, so we did and enjoyed every
second of it (except for the first few seconds, they where cold)
Captains log Star Date 030911
After a day in the river we were somewhat reluctant to get to work but thanks to some miracle we were
all ready to work when we got to our work sight which was a little hard to find partly because we had
no map and it was also just hard to see. We got started and did some rock work and than before you
knew it there was no trace of human disturbance and we were already firing the Trimble up. After that
we had to drive to the other side of the mountain and put two 8ft tall street signs into the desert and
headed into town for a feast at Lalos.
Captains log Star Date 031011
We woke up and heard from the higher ups in the BLM (that’s Jen!) about what we were going to do
for the rest of our hitch. We learned in the form of Trimble points and bad directions and we drove up
into the sand dunes of blithe. We had to play around in the sand before we could even work and we
rolled down the dunes until the work sights had been Trimble. Then we went and got the tools and food
from the truck and carried all of our gear to the work sight and started planting some sotes (That Larrea
tridentate).We were having a fun day of work and at the end of it we got a visit from our local ranger
Javi and he showed us how to drive through the dunes and down into the work site.
Captains log Star Date 031111
We got to go back to the sand dune and we were able to work with some thrill crafters as they drove
around us and we pick axed away into the sand. We were able to take the heat from the sun and we
were able to have some good talks in the shade of the truck.
Hitch 9 
Samantha checking in for Round 2 as HawkCo. This hitch is kind of an unusual one in that we are trying new things with ToCo responsibilities, group meetings, and food budgeting. I will get to that eventually.
Instead of going into the field right away like usual, we met up with an extremely important person in DRC/SCA/BLM framework, Chris Roholt; he is one of the starters of the DRC and has helped shape what it is now today. Really though, what a character! A tug and stop, fast-paced guy with a snappy sense of humor. It was great to hear what he had to say about the DRC history, and how it is now this ingrained program within the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) throughout the Southwest deserts. He also gave us some insight as to why certain things and techniques are employed in this line of work. After our stints with the OHVers destroying our laborious work, it was imperative we be encouraged to just keep pushing through the hard work by a person such as Chris to keep in mind the bigger picture. It is slow progress, but progress and change nonetheless. He took us to meet another inspirational person, Oscar Clarke an extraordinary natural historian who established UC Riverside’s Herbarium and has discovered several new plants, one of which was deemed to have been extinct. It was great to talk to and meet 2 men full of knowledge and experience in the science and environment/land management fields! For me, it brought back nostalgic feelings of interactions with science-y Academics during my university days. Chris gave each of us the remaining California BLM Wilderness Maps that are no longer are in print and Oscar gave us his last copies of the evolutionary family tree of life he made himself. See pictures below. It was a very enlightening, educational, and generous day for us.
The desert was blessed with rain last night and all day today. It also brought chilling winds. Southwest deserts are known to have minute amounts of rain and because of that, the environment seals itself up tightly to preserve whatever moisture in the ground and flora. Because of that tight seal, when it does actually rain, none of the precipitation is immediately absorbed and the whole area floods. This is unfortunate for us because everything becomes soaked: tents, tarps, clothes, sleeping bags and pads, etc. I trusted my tarp and tent too readily and when I woke up in the morning, all of my affects were in a cold puddle. It was a physically and mentally taxing day, hauling rock bags up and down a steep hill while wearing soaked clothes. HOWEVER, it could have been plenty worse; this damp weather only lasted a day and a half…thank goodness!
It was our crew’s turn to have a mid-program re-evaluation retreat with Darren Gruetze, the DRC Program Coordinator, although it wasn’t exactly a retreat because we didn’t go anywhere; he came to us. We took this time to reflect on and reinforce the community we started back in September and also address changes we want to see amongst ourselves. It was an intense but constructive few days.
Peter, our leader, has officially deserted us. I suppose it is only appropriate since we do live and work in the desert. A man named Darren came to our camp a few days ago to speak persuasive, guiding words; he is the reason Peter left us. Those words took him away, back to “civilization” where papers come out of noisy mechanical boxes and people jabber into the Blackberry fruit?? As HawkCo, it is my responsibility to guide our crew now. I will ensure that Peter rejoins the crew he once led. However, the only way we will accept his desertion is if he makes us a dessert-like meal of fruity pancakes and hand-tapped caramel maple syrup.
Despite my farcical Day 7 entry, we finished the rest of hitch perfectly fine without Peter. We have been together for practically 6 months and we still have 4 months to go; that gives us plenty of time to challenge ourselves to practice and learn what it means to be a leader and take on leadership roles. As I mentioned earlier, this was a hitch of experiments and growth. That was our very first time operating as a crew without our project leader, which is actually quite a common occurrence for other DRC crews. There are going to be future instances where Peter won’t be with us in the again. The AllCorps hitch marked the beginning of some positive changes; as a group, we have redefined the role of ToCo and the crew’s role in general.
For me, this was a tough hitch in that we ONLY did hill climbs and rock work, but at the same time, it was an enjoyable challenge to step out of my comfortable crew member status and rise to take on the added ToCo responsibilites. There aren’t too many opportunities in school or other types of work where one can lead a group in a no-pressure, non-judgmental setting while also receiving constructive criticism in the end.
Hitch 8 - All Corps 
Dawn broke peacefully over the town of Joshua Tree, casting a warm glow of cancer-causing UV rays over the high desert. The golden rays of the rising sun slowly spread across the dirty plaster walls of a former elderly home, transforming the building’s exterior from a state of shadowy gloom to something marginally more attractive. Cum tempore, the New Mexico crew had begun to think upon their newly appointed living quarters as ‘home.’ Jared Fehr’s angelic voice rang as sweet as sucanat through the dingy, poorly-illuminated apartment, calling the crew from their beds to breakfast. In a haze of sleep deprivation the five corps members and their unshaven leader devoured a repast of ‘Discount O’s in a jus of milk.’ With startling efficiency they whipped through the day’s tasks. Only one thing motivated the interns to such maniacal diligence: AllCorps.
Truck and trailer brimming with tools and the promise of a fun-filled hitch, the crew was severely dismayed to learn that due to extenuating circumstances they would be unable to leave for the Riverside Mountain Wilderness until the following morning. Shocked by the news, they very reluctantly spent the evening in their well-heated apartment eating a masterfully prepared home-cooked dinner and watching a movie. The next day they hit the road and headed east; towards the promise of new friendships and of backbreaking yet rewarding work.
The armada of Chevy Suburbans and Dodge 2500 trucks came one-by-one in procession from the far reaches of the southern California region. They rode unassumingly into the Midland Long Term Vehicle Access campground. Friendly faces peered out from each vehicle; their eyes were filled with eager curiosity and a subtle joie de vivre. Trailers were emptied, tents were erected, ugly sweaters were compared and contrasted, and a rowdy game of Backcountry Bacci was played.
Workdays at AllCorps took place on a massive hill-climb overlooking the Blythe Intaglios. The AllCorps project consisted of disguising heavily rutted vehicle tracks as well as installing a post and cable fence to further thwart off-roaders from mounting the incursion. The New Mexico crew had never before faced such a mammoth project. Having upwards of twenty extra hands to tackle the work was an exceptional blessing. Evenings back at the tent city were filled with burritos and seitan, tasteful yet humorous banter, jellyfish noises, and “intents” games of Settlers of Catan.
The pièce de résistance of AllCorps was the ugly sweater competition. A representative from each crew emerged from the New Mexico tent and strutted across a catwalk comprised of two propane lamps and a fabulous oriental carpet. Jill Kolodzne’s ugly sweater and sweater-skirt ensemble fought valiantly against a barrage of heinous eye-melting knit sacks of polyester and wool. In the end Sarah of Rands went home with the title of ugliest sweater and a bag of peanut M&Ms to share with her crew.
After four days and three nights of AllCorps, the Desert Restoration Crews parted ways. It was a sad morning for all.
In the wake of the high-paced, work-packed days of AllCorps the “NewMexiCali” crew scrambled to regroup and settle back into their routine. Everything seemed to be going swimmingly as they toiled over a segment of a massive incursion left over from hitch 8. Then, out of nowhere, a band of local off-roaders assaulted their vertical mulch and drove over hours of labor. This disruption of the crew’s day led to a lovely chat with Javier, the local BLM law enforcement ranger. He arrived too late to capture and cite the violators. The crew was forced to face the sad realization that the thrillcrafters had escaped the heavy hand of the law. The morale and spirit of the interns seemed near devastated…
… but lo’, on the horizon, Superbowl Sunday. Cramming into their Dodge the crew headed to Blythe to eat artery-clogging food at Rebel BBQ and watch the Packers destroy the Steelers.
The crew rounded out the end of hitch with a last assault on the AllCorps project. New Mexico and the AllCorps crews had managed to obscure three of the original five daunting incursions on the hill climb. As the sun set over their handiwork tears came to their eyes. Conservation had truly begun here.
Hitch 7 
Like a well-oiled machine, our crew now falls into the routine of pre-, during and post-hitch. Hitch 8, however, threw us a few surprises. We finished up work in the Riverside Mountain Wilderness at an alarming speed…once we found the project sites, that is.
Our Trimble only has so many roads on it, and it did not have the one we needed to get to our hill climb. As we searched for the road over steep hills and sandy washes, we found ourselves perched on the top of a loose sandy slope. As we turned to aim down the hill, we felt the wheels spin and the truck sink. Michael got out to investigate and decided it was time for a group meeting. Turns out, our front wheels were almost buried with the front differential resting precariously on the sand and the rear L tire dangled almost a foot off the ground…hmmm. Luckily, we roll with a cache of just about any tool one might need and with a combo of digging and laying rocks and a little pushing we managed to send the truck, manned by Peter, sliding down the hill to safety =)
After that ordeal, we decided against continuing our search for the site, and instead went to a different site. This next site, however, brought to the surface many brewing questions worth sitting down and discussing. We deliberated over concerns about the efficacy of our work, how the BLM communicates with us, justifications the work we do, and more. It was an intense and beneficial discussion, but now it was time to get to work. That same day, we met two new BLM interns who passed us a massive post pounder and some new signs, which we needed for these last few sites.
Two days later, we were ready to say goodbye to Riverside and head to the Big Maria Mountain Wilderness. It was amazing to see the shift in vegetation over such a small distance; suddenly, left and right there are foxtail and barrel cacti along with numerous ocotillos, which when dead have a striking resemblance to a large squid.
After our move, we were all feeling low on energy and motivation. Rather than start our next epic restoration, Peter intervened and we spent the afternoon exploring the area, visiting the members of the Wildcorps crew and then chowing down on some delicious Rebel BBQ in Blythe!
True to our promise, after the brief respite, we got down and worked hard for the next three days putting in some impressive work. Among other things, we got to do some “trundling” (rock throwing for most of us), which felt like an amazing thing to get paid to do! Our projects in the Big Marias so far seem to be more challenging, in both technique and physical effort, than in Riverside, and that sweet feeling of curling up at the end of the day feeling truly physically tired returned for the first time since New Mexico.
However, while one could frequently catch reminiscent phrases about our days in NM floating on the wind, the balmy weather of Southern California charms us as we remember what it is to wear T-shirts by day and no long underwear by night. Our resident kangaroo rats offer daily entertainment and we will now keep our sox and hats safe at night after experiencing the nagging persistence of a certain kit fox thief!
We started our hitch bright and early, (an hour after we normally wake up) and after breakfast we quickly got to work. We had to take down all of the book shelves, tables, curtains, and personal stuff in just one day so that the house would be ready to clean the next morning. The team split up into groups and started taking down the stuff in the garage, the living room and the kitchen. We were able to finish the day early with an empty house and a full trailer. At the end of the day, we were forced to spend one of the harshest hitch nights in the climate controlled Rio Rancho house and had to lay down for the night on the rough carpet.
Somehow we made it through the night alive and were able to wake up and tolerate the delicious chocolate chip pancakes before we started the exciting day of cleaning. Once again we worked diligently and were finishing our chores better than anyone could have ever imagined. With only an hour left of cleaning the house, we were delivered some devastating news. Our trusty steed the dodge was still out of commission and would stay out of commission until Monday instead of the original pick up date of Friday (which then got pushed back to Sunday.) This news was crippling and we had to slow down the pace to make one hour of cleaning last for one more day. So we all rallied around the lunch table and rearranged our schedule so that we would be able to last another day in exciting Rio Rancho. We ended up with a soccer ball and a plan to go to the park, partially because it was the only thing we did not pack into the trailer, but we were able to have a fun afternoon in the park, kicking around the soccer ball and teaching the neighborhood that the playground was actually built for adults.
Sunday came around quicker than we thought but instead of piling into the car and preparing for a long car ride we were forced to have another relaxing day. After we steam cleaned the whole house, we had the whole day to ourselves, which we filled with another round of playground play time.
Finally it was time for us to leave the state of New Mexico and after picking up the Dodge and running a few errands we were on our way west toward the Grand Canyon. It was a long day, and night, of driving but sadly not very scenic due to the fact that we were driving mostly in the night but we were able to arrive at our destination at 12:30 am in pitch black. Thanks to the lovely and kind Grand Canyon SCA interns, we had a comfortable and warm place to stay for the night. We woke up early to see the sunrise over the Grand Canyon walls and quickly understood how appropriately named it was. We just sat at the edge of the south rim feeling smaller than an ant. After we were able to steal our breaths back from the breath taking scenery we were back on the road and pointed west again.
We arrived in Joshua Tree late that evening around 8:00pm PST and got to work at unpacking the trailer and truck bed. It was a late night for all of us and our new beds where a welcoming sight for our backsides as we all laid down for the night eager to see what was going to greet us the next morning.
The next morning we woke up and looked out the window of our lovely abode to see an alien looking tree that was called a Joshua Tree. After we got on the road to meet our new BLM contact it became obvious why they named the town, as everywhere we looked it was like a mystical forest of Joshua trees reaching out to greet us. We drove in the Palm Spring field office eager to meet our new “boss” and were excited to find that she was just as excited to see us as we were to see her.
After a few power points on Turtle protocol and slide shows of some of our project sites we had to leave Palm Springs and head back to our lovely house in Joshua Tree.
Hitch 5 
Hitch #5 Report
11/27 Day 1
This is our last hitch in El Malpais! Wow, we've come a long ways. To start, we're going to finish the Armijo Canyon exclosure. Its perimeter is about 1.4 miles long and has already taken us about three
days; With such cold and windy weather, it may take us another 3 days. This is the most bad*** thing I
have ever done...living and working in consistent 0 to 40 degree weather!
11/29 Day 3
The temperature has consistently hovered around freezing. Even after a full day of sun, our veggies,
our water, and Jared's soul continues to stay frozen. This has become a big concern because, now, not
even boiling water or steam can thaw the tap enough to let water out of our tank! I also fear our souls
will be soon be like Jared's. The only thing that did not freeze is the hummus, peanut butter, cheese,
and hot sauce. We've only been out here for three days, but we have already fallen into the trend of
lunches inside the truck to save us from the chilly winds and a minimum of four layers of clothing.
After much deliberation over the water issue and after Jim, one of our BLM contacts, told us to stop
working because this storm would not be letting up for another 24 hours, we decided to pack up and go back to Rio Rancho. We agreed it would be good for our frozen spirits and damp sleeping bags to stay in our house, with accessible water, while this wearisome weather passed. Even though we are prepared to work through any weather, I am positive each one of us was doing a little yippee on the inside.
It clearly was meant to be because on our quick stop to Walgreens, Peter finds a box of Buffalo wings right next to our truck in the parking lot! What are the chances that there is a box of untouched, uneaten chicken wings and that he didn't run over them? Were they warm? No. Did Peter eat them? Uh, yeah! Three for him and three for Michael. No one else wanted any, but we did find it pretty hilarious.
12/1 Day 5
Harsh weather has passed and we're back in the game. We should have the Armijo fence completely
down and hauled out by tomorrow. Get this, it's about 50 degrees, no wind, and sunny! New Mexico
sure has some flip-floppy winters.
Once we are done with this fence, we are heading over to Sand Canyon to close up some illegal camps
and incursions made during the fall hunting season.
12/4 Day 8
This is our last day in the El Malpais NCA! It is so bittersweet. I think by now, we are all ready to come in from the cold and take showers, but this may be the last time we come to this beautiful, historical land (unless they want us back in the spring or we each come back on our own time).
For the past two days, we worked on three campgrounds; two of them were created illegally, so we
closed them up by dragging downed logs and rocks and scattering them all over so as to “give them
hell” as the BLMers called it. Unfortunately, these are popular campgrounds and it is going to take more than just heavy logs and a carsonite to keep the seasonal visitors from trespassing. Even though they are well-established and heavily used areas, I believe we accomplished our point of letting the land users know that we aren't trying to annoy them, but rather letting them know that even though BLM land is not very regulated, they need to respect the policies laid out for these areas and that they are being monitored more so than they think they are.
Goodbye, Northwest New Mexico...for now! You gave us a spacious suburban house, Peter Rabbit (no relation to the leader), lightning storms, snow storms, breathtaking sunsets, a balloon festival, lava flows, pinon-juniper mesas, the wonderful El Malpais BLMers, and so much more!
Hitch 4 
For hitch 4 our heroes continued on, this time for an 11 day stint in El Malpais with temperatures dropping quickly as winter began to set in. They worked at times in snow and heavy winds and woke up to temperatures as low as 2 degrees Fahrenheit. Were these conditions enough to discourage or even stop them?
NO, they were not.
Onward they continued, continuing to raise their standards of excellence as always. After a brief stint at vertical mulching the crew moved on to the CDT for 4 days to take only lunch breaks and leave only cairns (and tread) on a yet to be completed portion of the trail near the Chain of Craters.
Crew members were forced to endure a string of games imposed upon them by their ToCo including communication breakdown, and were likewise forced to submit themselves to a constant barrage of home made cookies and several pounds of peanut M&Ms. Additional activities included a WFR scenario to brush up on their first aid skills and a real-life barbeque with BLM employees at the El Malpais Ranger Station.
The crew started and nearly completed taking down their 3rd fencing exclosure at Armijo Canyon, this one measuring approximately 1.4 miles. At the end of the hitch crewmembers simultaneously looked forward to their last hitch in El Malpais and eagerly awaited their move to California where they will live (hopefully) within miles of Joshua Tree and will spend the winter months working in the milder conditions of Southern California.
More hitch photos can be viewed publically at Picasaweb.google.com/sjgarlejo and picasaweb.google.com/jaredfehr
Hitch 3 
With gritty resolve and four-season sleeping bags, the crew headed out for its latest hitch, knowing well the portentous weather forecasts that threatened them with mentions of unparalleled cold. Even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles, the valiant crew charged forth in their indefatigable Dodge, emblazoned with pink and blue-striped flags of victory. They knew no fear or defeat, and with the pure fire of conservation aflame in their hearts, they bore down on their enemies of illegally created roads and turn-arounds.
Pick mattocks gleamed in the sun, their heads catching the morning light as the crew swung their way to glory. No vehicle-compacted soil nor flattened berm stood a chance against the relentless assault of McLeods. Vertical mulch and grass transplants were rained down with terrible fury until the very earth trembled at their approach. The ground was spattered with seed, T posts were rent from their holes and barbed wire fell limply in front of the flash of fencing tools, all under the all-seeing eye of the Trimble, which cast its differentially corrected judgement at one-second intervals along the hallowed fields of battle…
And some other stuff happened too. The crew saw some unidentifiable cervids fighting in the dark, although there wasn’t enough light to tell if they were dear or elk. The benefits of the hot water bottle in the bottom of the sleeping bag were discovered. An old homestead was explored, only to learn that it had been renovated in the last fifteen years, complete with a water heater form 1994 and some awfully new looking shampoo bottles.
Most importantly, the crew was visited by their Santa Fe BLM contact, James Sippel, who had Halloween candy, bandanas and some fine words of encouragement. According to him, the news of the crew’s work was making its way around the state. Several field offices were wanting to know more about those amazing disappearing roads in El Malpais, mainly who was responsible for this tremendous work. The crew happily accepts responsibility for this phenomenon and will take credit for any future incidents of vanishing incursions that may happen during the next highly anticipated hitch.
Hitch 2 
Hitch 2 threw a couple serious challenges at the New Mexico crew, only to teach us just how awesome we are. We knocked out well over two hundred beautiful bouquets of vertical mulch, interspaced with grass transplants along an old road to effectively conceal it to the unknowing passerby. We also not only took down almost a mile of barbed wire fencing, but then hauled every last T post and strand of wire over a mile out to the road. That’s right, two full days living the life of pack mules.
While doing vertical mulch we learned how much good laughs and conversation can help the time pass. With the fence, it was amazing to see how we fell into an efficient routine that saved us from wires tangling into unruly messes. We were like a well-oiled machine, and took the fence down in a little less than 2 days. During the grueling days of “exporting” the fencing materials, it was great watching how everyone worked so hard and encouraged each other through aching backs and sore shoulders.
Weather-wise, the desert was kind to us. We often worked under mercifully clouded skies in the afternoon and only experienced nighttime sprinkles. There were some windy nights as well that whipped sand up beneath our “desert storm” tents, but breathing dust is second nature to us by now. While mornings were brisk, once the sun cleared the mesa, its warmth quickly spread to even the coldest bone.
So, here we are, back home, dishes clean, tools sharp and the smell of stinky feet slowly dwindling as we shed the layers of dirt and grime and begin to look like respectable people again. Its only a front though, because we all know that underneath it all, we’re just waiting for the next hitch to get out in the woods, drop all pretences and have a ball working hard and laughing harder.