Project Dates: September 28, 2010-May 17, 2011 Project Leader: Emily Frankel Email: email@example.com Phone: 760-780-8039 Address: 57087 Yucca Trail, Yucca Valley, CA 92284
‘Clean up, clean up, everybody everywhere. Clean up, clean up, everybody do your share’. Now, morph that song together with the Lambkins ‘This is the Song that Never Ends’ song and you will have an idea of what the last few days of Wild Corps was like. We cleaned 57087 Yucca Trail like it was no ones business! The SCA may or may not continue to rent the house, so we had to not only clean and pack all crew stuff, but essentially had to move, which meant all furniture, electronics, kitchenware, and miscellaneous material that has amassed over the past few years of crews had to be cleaned, inventoried, and put somewhere. Fun, fun, fun! On the first day of hitch the crew jumped right into it, raring and tearing to go and there has not been a drop in the energy level since. The house became a warzone, with five generals operating on solo and combined fronts, all with one ultimate goal: to bring the house to an ultimate surrender. The theatres of war included the kitchen, the garage, the bathrooms, and the living spaces. It is surprising how long tasks can take, a lesson learned over and over again throughout the hitch, but it is likewise surprising how much five people can get done in a few short days. There was more stuff in the house than we could have imagined, and all had to be thoroughly checked over before we could pack it away somewhere. Day one took care of all kitchen stuff and books, as well as much technology stuff. On day two we successfully moved all furniture to storage, which left us with a very empty house and great feeling of accomplishment. Day three was garage and cleaning, all tools and gear cleaned and inventoried and a scrub-down of the windows and the kitchen, which boasted untold years worth of grease and grime. Day four was significantly shorted by a field trip to Primavera in the Garden; a fundraiser that our BLM contact Chris Roholt invited us to. Our final day was a mad dash of work in the morning, followed by a drive up to Ridgecrest and a pizza party to end the season! Hooray for the end of House Hitch. The work was hard and the days long, but we managed to have tons of fun doing it, not to mention a delightful potluck at Emily’s house and plenty of reminiscing and jovial banter throughout the days to keep everyone’s spirits up. It has been a wonderful bonding experience and one could not ask for a more perfect way to bring closure to such an incredible year!
16 sq. meters restored
14 vertical mulch planted
12 seed pits
15 check dams
Our final hitch in the field began with two days of Leave No Trace training in Joshua Tree National Park, including an overnight hike. After having all of the crews stay in our house throughout the season while they had their training and hearing about their experiences, we were very excited to get our turn. We arrived in Joshua Tree with our packs full of gear and our minds full of the new Leave No Trace ethics we had learned and how to teach them. On the hike to camp, Sara taught us how to camp and travel on durable surfaces, and then we set up camp for the night. The next day, on the hike out, everyone else taught their ethics to the group. We returned home to Yucca after lunch in the park. The next day was our travel day to the final All-Corps in Jawbone. Along the way, we stopped at the Desert Tortoise Natural Area and enjoyed a nice short hike in the midday sun, but unfortunately did not see any tortoises. We arrived at Jawbone a little later that evening and set up camp next to the Jawbone and Golden Valley crews. The next day, before Rands and Owens showed up, we all hiked Scodie Peak. When we got back to camp, All-Corps had officially begun as all the crews were present. The next three days consisted of building check dams on incursions to prevent erosion all day, and eating delicious food at night. It was great to have all the crews together and working again, however it was a little bittersweet due to the fact that it was the last time we would have that opportunity. We made the most of it, however, and fun was had by all. The last day we all gathered in the morning, for the last time, and reflected on our experiences throughout the season. There was a decent amount of laughing (and crying) as we each received our packets and T-Shirts, accompanied by a short story by our crew leaders. Then it was off to Lake Isabella, where the daring jumped in, and the sane stayed out. All in all, it was a fitting end to a fantastic season. Now it’s time to clean out our respective houses and head off on whatever adventure awaits us.
Sensitive Bird Monitoring in the Newberry and Rodman Mountains
16 April: Drove from crew house in Yucca Valley to Lucerne Valley to meet with BLM contact Larry LaPre (wildlife biologist at the BLM CDD Office). From Luceren we drove to our camp site next to Kane Springs just south of the Newberry Mountains Wilderness. On the way we spotted a burrow owl nest with two owls present. After arriving at camp, we had lunch and went to a nearby nest that had previously supported a prairie falcon. Instead of a falcon, we found a Great Horned Owl sitting on a nest. Larry left that night and we set up camp.
17 April: Larry could not join us for work today, so the crew set out to monitor two sites in the centre of the Newberry mountains. On the hike in we saw two golden eagles in the sky. We split into two teams (Leah, Sara, Emily being one and Andrew and Sam being the other) to monitor the two nest sites. Leah, Sara, and Emily saw two more eagles (possibly the same two as earlier) near their nest site. Andrew and Sam found the nests, but saw no birds.
18 April: Larry arrived at camp early in the morning to monitor with us. First we headed east from camp along the pipeline road, before heading north along the eastern border of the Newberry Mountains. We stopped at a point that was recorded as a prairie falcon nest. We saw one bird, but were unable to find a nest. From there we traveled further north and accessed the north-east corner of the Newberry Mountains. We hiked about a quarter mile into the wilderness looking for an eagle nest. Despite seeing many possible stick nests and a red-tailed hawk, we saw no eagles. We ended the day with a point in the north-west portion of the Rodman mountains (just south-east of the Newberry Mountains), up a blind canyon. Again, we saw no eagles, but did see a number of red-tailed hawks. Larry spent the night out with us.
19 April: We set out from camp early in the morning, heading west to Camp Rock Rd and then north to I-40 to access a nest in the north of the Newberry Mountains. We had an enjoyable hike into the nest site, crossing many washes and ranges along the way. At the site we saw no eagles, but did see three stick nests. We also saw a Great Horned Owl nest with two adults and one chick in a crevice near the eagle nests. A spotted rattle snake and long-nosed snake were also sighted on the hike. Larry left the field again that night, and we were left to make our own way home.
20 April: We spent the morning taking a recreation/educational field trip to a petroglyph site on the south side of the Rodman Mountains. We met Larry on Camp Rock Rd and traveled with him to the site, were we met the archaeologist for the Barstow Field Office, Jim Shearer. He showed us around the petroglyph site and gave a detailed background of the site and the people who made the petroglyphs. We spent the afternoon going to a poorly marked eagle nest on the north side of the Rodman Mountains. The site was near Sheep Springs, but despite finding the spring we saw neither eagle nor a nest. Larry spent the night with us that night.
21 April: Today, Larry decided to return to the sites we had monitored on the 17th, to determine for himself the status of the nests we saw. Emily was not in the field with us that day (having taken an administration day), so Larry, Leah, Sara, Andrew, and Sam set out for the nests. Along the way the group split into two, Larry, Leah, and Andrew on one crew and Sam and Sara on the other. Larry, Leah, and Andrew returned to the nest that Sara, Leah, and Emily had monitored on the 17th and Sara and Sam went to a previously unmonitored nest. Larry, Leah, and Andrew found the nest, but did not encounter any birds. Sara and Sam arrived at their nest and saw no eagles. However, there was an active Prairie Falcon nest nearby with a mother falcon in it. Larry left the field that afternoon, leaving the crew to itself for another night. Emily returned to us around 8:20, bringing gifts of sugar in the form of cookies, brownies, and (believe it or not) ICE CREAM!
22 April: Larry could not make it out to the field until nearly mid-day, so he assigned the crew to take a GPS point a Prairie Falcon nest near camp and look at some mining material near camp. We went to the nest and were able to climb up to it and look inside, discovering five eggs inside. As soon as we got the point and some pictures, however, we left to allow the mother falcon to return to her eggs. Soon after, Larry arrived and took us to a nest on the east side of the Newberry Mountains. We found the nest, but no eagle. However, nearby was another active Prairie Falcon nest with a very protective mother falcon in it. For diner, Larry took us out to the famous Bagdad Café along Route 66.
23 April: Today was travel day and, for our enjoyment and continued education, Larry took us to an active Golden Eagle nest to the west of the Newberry Mountains. We hiked a short way up a hill towards the nest, but remained a good distance away so as not to disturb the eagles. We were able to see (with the help of high powered optic devices) two eagles and a chick, a delightful way to end the hitch. We made a pit stop on the way home at a stick nest south of Barstow along 247, but there were no eagles to be seen.
Overall, it was a productive and enjoyable hitch. Many of the nests were empty, but we were able to see plenty of eagles in flight. We also found three active Prairie Falcon nests, all with a high likelihood of producing chicks in the near future. The Great Horned Owls, the Burrowing Owls, and the Barn Owls were also wonderful to get to see. Of course, the highlight was working with an experienced and knowledgeable biologist who was more than happy to point out various local plants and animals and describe them to us and even (in some cases) catch them for us!
We killed A LOT of tamarisk this hitch. Rest in Peace, my little Tammy’s. After a very long drive out to Saline Valley, (the beautiful views over Death Valley made the late night arrival so worth it), we began our work the next day in the Inyo Mountains Wilderness. We really enjoyed working with so many people this hitch too! It isn’t very often that we get to do that. The volunteers from UCLA as well as Friends of the Inyo helped us knock out a huge infestation of tamarisk in Cougar Canyon. Days of hacking away at what would otherwise be a very lovely plant if it weren’t so evil for stealing water from other plants was very satisfying. The no-see-ums weren’t our favorite, but the weather was quite pleasant most of hitch. The burro mating season interrupted our sleep that first night quite a bit, but it was still pretty cool to be so close to them and so easily observe them. They were surprisingly not skiddish at all for us. Another highlight of this hitch was getting to spend it with Marty, from the Ridgecrest Field Office and to really feel part of an ongoing project that she has been having groups work on for years. Seeing the before pictures of what used to be a tamarisk monoculture and is now only requiring light retreatment is very uplifting. The majority of our work was a part of the canyon that was densely vegetated with willows that we struggled to work around to get at the tamarisk. We were glad to have some chainsaw handlers to help us with the biggest trees while we worked diligently with our loppers and handsaws for a complete tamarisk massacre.
After three days in Cougar, we took a day in Pat Keyes Canyon down the road to do some lighter tamarisk retreatment. The highlight of this day was definitely the waterfalls, about ten or so, that we climbed up and over and later repelled down, thanks to the free climbing and gear that Todd, from Friends of the Inyo, provided. My personal favorite was the wet mudslide one that everyone else seemed to be able to repel down like the others, whereas I took a more muddy approach by slipping and sliding down it as I was lowered, laughing too hard to do anything about it. Some of us had some pretty “creative” landings but none quite compared to the muddy mess I was after that one.
We returned to Cougar the following two days and can say that it has now been completely treated at least once, and more in some places, up to the second falls. Die tamarisk, die! This is a feat that Marty was very excited about and we are all happy to have been part of it. We got to hit up one more canyon, Piute Canyon, on our last day in Saline Valley to finish off a bit more tamarisk. Because of time and the threat of rain (can’t spray herbicide if it’s going to rain) we had to leave some tamarisk behind, but some lucky crew in the future will get to finish that off one day and see the beautiful Piute Canyon too! We had a long drive home ahead of us and broke up the drive with a visit to our Golden Valley friends to check out their lovely fields of gold before heading back to the one and only, Yucca Valley. Until next time, WC.
Water Sources Monitored: 23
Miles Hiked: 108.45
You know that typical image of a parched desert wanderer stumbling miles through the rocks and sand, only to come over a ridge to a glorious oasis of palm trees, birds, and all-you-can-drink water bubbling from the ground? Yeah, we thought that was just a Hollywood image, too, until we found Mopah Spring. It was our longest hike of the hitch - a total of 19 miles over pretty rough (but absolutely stunning) terrain in the Turtle Mountains. If our experience with water monitoring so far was any indication, we were expecting to find little - if any - water. Often we hike miles to a GPSed point, to find that the spring we're looking for is reduced to little more than a trickle, has been sucked up by invasive Tamarisk, or is nowhere to be found at all. Imagine our surprise when we crest a ridge and look down to see that very oasis we knew so well from the movies. One of the more exciting moments of the year!
But I'm getting ahead of myself. WildCorps, for once, RETURNED to the same site two hitches in a row! We were back in Needles, working in the Old Woman and Turtle Mountain wilderness areas for our last water source monitoring hitch (ever). It was so cool to explore the wildernesses of Needles more in-depth after being so wowed last hitch. Our first few days were spent camping on the eastern side of the Old Womans, giving us the backside view of the mountains we hiked last hitch. The Old Womans are so named for a monolith (a rock structure comprised of one continuous rock) that bears the likeness of an old woman - we had a great view of it this hitch from every angle. The Old Woman Mountains are a goldmine for remnants of abandoned cabins and mining camps - many of the routes we hiked led us miles into the wilderness, where to our amazement we found standing houses, wells, mine shafts, and tons upon tons of rusting cans.
While the Old Womans were absolutely stunning, I must say that to me, they don't even compare to the Turtles, where we spent the second half of our hitch. Breathtaking mountain ranges, with peaks that are so distinctive they've evoked names like "Mexican Hat" and "Castle Rock". Hiking in the Turtles, we rarely went 10 minutes without turning to each other and giving one of those "I can't believe this is my job" looks.
On top of the gorgeous geology, the desert is slowly waking up from its winter doze, and boy can you tell. We saw two (TWO!) desert tortoises this hitch, a huge improvement on the grand total of none that we've seen in the past 6 months. The cacti is blooming in blazing pinks and magentas, and bees, butterflies and hummingbirds are buzzing in the air. Add the OASIS to that and I can't imagine asking for a better way to spend our last water source hitch!
13 Water Sources Monitored
49.48 mi. total hiked
22 Vertical Mulch plants
313.26 m2 total area restored
15.98m Long water bar constructed
515 lbs. trash/debris removed
74.23m total length of fenceline removed
3 segments of fence removed
Restoration? Wildcorps did restoration? Yup. And we rocked it, if I do say so myself. Our first hitch of a two-hitch water monitoring project in multiple wildernesses out of the Needles field office began with restoration in the Piute Mountains. We were at a beautiful site called Fenner Spring to start off the hitch. We spent three days there, restoring the area around the spring. Sam and Andrew were super excited to successfully vertical mulch several barrel cacti, and Andrew even managed to vertical mulch an entire yucca plant. After finishing up our work at Fenner Spring, we moved on to the Old Woman Mountains Wilderness, where we began our water monitoring. We split up into two groups each day over the next 3 days in order to maximize the area we could cover and the number of sources we could monitor. Intense hikes, vast landscapes, and awesome creatures were the norm in the Old Womans. We saw horny toads, lizards by the dozen, kit foxes, coyotes, and, last but not least, a BADGER! Although we could see a train from where we were camped, it was not hard to imagine that were alone in our own little world in the wilderness. We all enjoyed the weather, which stayed in the 70s every day, and we are all looking forward to returning back to the Old Womans and exploring the surrounding wildernesses in search for water.
Miles hiked: appx. 61
Water sources monitored: 6
Sites core monitored: 34
Miles boundary monitored: 24
Sites effectiveness monitored: 59
Signs installed: 7 (5 carsonite and 2 bollard)
Trash removed: appx. 10
First things first, when you have a crew of but five members do not let two of them get sick at the same time, especially if they are two of the three drivers and you have to do wilderness boundary monitoring and effectiveness monitoring (aka: drive-fest). Sadly, though, that happened to us this past hitch. On the day of travel both Sara and Emily (our project leader) showed signs of some form of stomach bug or food poisoning and were both put out of commission for the next few days. Sara had come into the field with us, but was too unwell to spend the night out. Luckily, Ridgecrest was less than half an hour away and we were able to take her to the Rands’ house where she spent the next few days recuperating. Emily had opted out of traveling with us and had planned to meet us in the field. However, she too began to feel ill and ended up staying in Yucca Valley a few extra days until her condition improved. That left only three of us (Leah, Andrew, and Sam [me]) fit to work those first couple days. We did the best we could with the reduced numbers and lack of a second rig (which was pretty crucial for the work we were doing). We were able to do a fair amount of work and were able to monitor all the old restoration sites and most of the border in our time alone, as well as install two bollard signs with Marty (our BLM contact from the Ridgecrest Field Office). Sara returned that evening and we spent the next two days hiking Little Dixie Wash, the largest wash in the wilderness, monitoring it for incursions. Our fearless crew-leader returned to us on the morning of the seventh day and we were able to really set to and work. Thanks to her arrival and the arrival of the second rig we were able to split up. Three of us (Emily, Andrew, and Sara) headed to the south-west corner of the boundary and began monitoring illegal trails in that portion of the wilderness. They spent their time hiking the routes while tracking their progress using Trimbles (GPS devices). The data they took will be turned into a GIS map of the illegal trails and roads in that portion of the boundary. They continued to perform this monitoring for the next two days. Leah and Sam, meanwhile, headed to the eastern side of the boundary and completed monitoring the perimeter for incursions. After they had finished monitoring the border they began hiking to water sources in the interior of the boundary, a much more pleasant task than driving the boundary of the wilderness. The hitch was a blast, and to top it off we spent a pleasant evening with the Jawbone crew. They were camped relatively close to us, so we took dinner over there one night and sat around in their white tent, ate, chatted, and generally had a good time.
Mining Sites Monitored: 52
Miles Hiked: 56
Water Sources Monitored: 4
Miles Hiked: 34
Miles of Boundary Monitored: 7
Incursions Monitored: 26
Signs Placed: 3
Hitch 6 was a hitch of opposites: it’s the middle of January, which at least where I’m from means layers of coats and scarves and mittens, and we were sleeping under the stars and wearing t-shirts in 80-degree weather; there were times I would wake up in the middle of the night convinced I was late for breakfast because the moon was brighter than the sun was during the day; and we were working with the rolling mountain ranges of the gorgeous Palen/McCoy Wilderness to our north, and the state prison glistening like a city that never sleeps to our south.
Despite the confusion, all WildCorps members are in agreement that this hitch has to be the smoothest and glitch-less so far. We’ve gotten into a pretty great routine with each other and the work – which I think is pretty funny since our expertise is basically being prepared for really anything whatever BLM field office we’re working for throws at us. The other DRC crews may be experts at restoration, but we’ve got days of continually getting lost in the desert with nothing but a moody GPS and our topos to guide us down pat! Which is basically what we did all hitch – chased after abandoned mine prospects, “water sources” (puddles in the desert), and any possible illegal roads leading into wilderness areas. Every morning we’d wake up to the moonlight, eat a quick breakfast, split up the days destinations, and set off into the wilderness – across desert pavement, through washes and canyons, over mountain ranges, down the occasional old mining road or animal path – not to return until the moon again rose over the Little Maria Mountains to compete with the headlights from I-10. I loved exploring old mining sites – despite the fact that we rarely saw what I know to be a mining entrance (most of what we were monitoring can only be described as piles of rock), the sites were endlessly fascinating to speculate on who these miners were and how they got out to these sites in vehicles when we could hardly cross the terrain on foot.
Honestly, I think we were all surprised when we looked up one day and realized it was time to come home. We’re all kind of workaholics when work means wandering around the desert, and it sure is hard being in a house in front of a computer screen.
Sure am excited for AllCorps!
61 problem areas monitored along trails
26 miles hiked
2 water sources monitored
5 incursions monitored
3 miles of boundary monitored
1 area of tamarisk monitored-47 plants
Aaaaand…we’re back. Where to begin? I guess the beginning works. After getting back from a relaxing winter break, we were ready to get back out into the wilderness. So, we did just that. This hitch we were in the Carrizo Gorge and Sawtooth Mountains wildernesses. Our mission? Get some awesome hiking in and maybe do some wilderness boundary monitoring and trail monitoring done in the meantime. Well, we did just that. We arrived at our wonderfully maintained campsite (complete with outhouses!) on the 4th day of the new year, and spent the afternoon setting up camp and exploring the beautiful area that surrounded us. It was a little chilly that night (about 30 degrees), so tenting was necessary, my first time not sleeping under the stars on hitch. The next day, we monitored the western boundary of the Carrizo Gorge wilderness, marveling at the vast expanse of land that spread out before us, seeing all the way to the Salton Sea and beyond! Our fearless leader, Emily, joined us in the field that evening after a successful day taking care of her admin duties. She was not alone, however. With her was none other than Darren, our program coordinator. The next day, Darren was the focus of our attention as he gave us a talk on the values of community living and compassionate confrontation. The next morning, however, it was back to work. We readied ourselves for what was to be a two-night overnight backpacking trip into the Sawtooth Mountain wilderness. Our first day did not go exactly to plan, however, as we ended up on the trail for Sombrero Peak instead of Canebrake wash, our intended destination. All was not lost, though, because we were able to obtain some very useful data on the condition of the trail to Sombrero Peak and the actual access route itself. We camped out for the night nestled in a cozy wash, surrounded by huge boulders. We were off to the wash in the morning, cutting cross country, up and down some crazy terrain as we made the steep descent into the enormous canebrake wash. After walking along the wash, we found the trailhead for Pepperwood trail, our original target the day before. We hiked the incline out of the wash and set up camp at the top of a ridge, surrounded by majestic mountains. In the morning, we hiked all the way back to the campground, along one of the most beautiful trails I have ever had the pleasure of hiking on. We made it back to the campground just in time for lunch and then took off back to Yucca. I think I speak for the whole crew when I say that I would have loved to have more time to explore the area and see what else it had to offer, because, after the small taste I got of it, I was hungry for more.
75.28m of trail drained of excess water and trail reestablished
2 trail marker signs placed
As a roving crew, we are pretty used to moving around more than once in a hitch and doing a variety of tasks throughout. It’s practically in the WildCorps job description. Despite this, Hitch 7 was still a challenge in that respect because it had 3 very distinct parts: All-Corps, Shoshone Conference, and working for the Barstow Field Office.
Hitch began with a bit of a rocky start due to car troubles – a dead battery. So while half the crew headed out to Blythe to meet the NewMexico crew at All-Corps, half of us worked things out with the dead Dodge in Yucca Valley. Several hours later, we were all reunited as not just a crew, but all of the DRC, descending upon the Midland Long Term Visitor Campground and setting up our tent city. WC chose, as usual, to refrain from setting up our white tent, and proceeded to set up our kitchen next to the trailer. It was a decision we would soon find not to be our finest, regardless of how awesome our new thrift store rug looked in our desert pavement open-air kitchen. Two days later, we found ourselves bumming kitchen space in the tents of other crews to escape George, as we have fondly come to address the constant blustery gusts of wind that blow for hours on end. (Thank you Rands and New Mexico crews!)
For the next three days, we attacked a hillside of 5 incursions with full force. Mixing up the crews and getting to work with new people was a great experience and something WC doesn’t get the opportunity to do. It was also nice to use tools for a change! Especially after the last few hitches being predominantly monitoring, hiking, and Trimbling. Passing rock bags up the hillside and then bags of dirt back down was how most of the hours passed those three days, even the one when George came to visit ALL day and night long. Potluck dinners each night were a delicious way to end the day and with each crew showing off their backcountry culinary flare, I think we all have some new recipe ideas to try out (seitan gyros, loaded baked potato soup, zucchini burgers, and seitan satay, just to name a few). All-Corps flew by pretty quickly and just as our little crew was getting used to the overwhelmingness of 30+ people in one camp, we found ourselves off to our next stop: the Shoshone Conference.
After a quick detour to the Kelso Dunes in the Mojave National Preserve, hiking up the biggest dune and sliding/running/falling/rolling/skipping/scampering/etc. down it, we piled back into the Dodge until reaching our destination in Shoshone, just southeast of the Death Valley region. The turnout was quite a sight for such a small town in the middle of such a striking landscape. Speakers from all sorts of groups, clubs, and businesses presented information and updates, many of them having to do with the issue of renewable energy projects in the desert. I did not expect wind energy to take such a beating from such environmentally minded groups, but there is certainly a right and wrong way to go about it. It was definitely good to hear that such a distinction was made between good “green” and bad “green” because in so many other situations, any kind of “green” is just blindly supported on no merit at all. Some of the most interesting talks, I think, came from groups like Desert Survivors, Protect Our Communities, Powers Engineering, Solar Done Right, Wilderness Land Trust, People Against Wind Zero, and the Sierra Club. It was especially exciting to feel the room alive with energy as Michael Brune answered questions regarding big solar projects. Even though it was a long two days sitting in a folding chair, listening to speaker after speaker, when we are used to really physical workdays spent outdoors, the conference was a really good reminder of the environmental and land issues and politics in which we work. It felt good to stretch our brains and be brought back to the social context of the environment, which most of us left behind when we graduated or finished classes last spring. I think it is important that while we, at times, do seemingly obscure environmental work (hiking for miles to find a GPS point that may or may not be a puddle of water?) it is still part of this bigger picture of conservation work and is in fact connected to what a lot of other people across the U.S. are working towards as well.
Nevertheless, it did feel good to get back out into the field on Sunday afternoon. Directly after the Conference, we met with Tim and Brad, our Barstow Field Office BLM contacts, to start working on a section of trail just outside of Shoshone, near Tecopa on the Old Spanish and T&T Railroad Trail along the Amargosa River. The trail cuts along a mountain and has stopped the natural flow of a spring, now no longer reaching the river in the wash below. Emergent grasses and reeds have further stopped up the area, but almost as soon as we began pulling out that vegetation, water began to flow. It was only a tiny trickle at first, spreading across the dirt like a spilled drink, trying to find its way downhill. And although it was completely instinctual and obvious, it was still amazing to see how the water, once free, turned into a gurgling stream within minutes, almost seconds. Working quickly, we coaxed it along the edge of our trail and helped it over the ledge and on its way to the river. A lot of vegetation removal ensued, as well as brushing, lopping, sawing, raking, and eventually, we reestablished our trail where we wanted it, in our newly drained area. Unfortunately, we had to leave with still a lot of work that could be done on the trail, including the lack of any sort of established trailhead - but that will be a project for some other crew, once the town politics work themselves out. We ended hitch with a delicious trip to the China Ranch date farm for the famous date shakes we have been hearing about for weeks. Driving out of the canyon, and eventually on our way back to Yucca Valley, I thought about everything we had done this hitch and then, as it is a half-way mark for the season, how our DRC life has been so different from hitch to hitch and is still always so interesting, from each day to the next.
The thirteen sites monitored were: Clapp, JP, Hidden, Willow, Carrizo, Ewe, Hawk, Noel, Cripple, Trap, Indian, Winter, and Chemgo.
1. Clapp (Sara, Leah, Andrew): 6
2. JP (Emily, Sam): 5
3. Willow & Hidden (Emily, Sam, Andrew): 8
4. Hawk & Noel (Sara, Leah): 8
5. Carrizo Spring (All): 3
6. Ewe, Trap, & Cripple (All but Emily): 8
7. Indian, Winter, & Cripple (All but Emily): 8
8. Trap & Ewe (All but Emily): 8
9. Chemgo Guzzler (All but Emily): 5
Well, that was a fun hitch! So our job description for the past few days was essentially to walk around in a beautiful wilderness area and look for water in the desert, sweet. We headed south out of Yucca Valley on the twelfth of December in the year twenty-ten on our way to the El Centro district, which is on the Mexican border for all intents and purposes. The downside was that it meant a multiple hour car ride, the upside was that it was gonna be warm, real warm.
Partly because of that warmth and partly because of our transient nature this hitch, we moved campsites almost everyday, we decided to leave our white tent, a DRC staple, sitting in the garage. Turns out that leaving the tent was a great decision. There was far more room in the trailer for packing stuff and it meant we did not have to go through the whole set up and break down process multiple times during the hitch, which was a major time saver.
The weather was beautiful and, as I said, warm, with daily temperatures in the upper seventies and nights as warm as the fifties, just idyllic. The work also seemed too good to be true. We literally hiked around in the wilderness following little arrows on GPS devices, functioning as modern divining rods, which led us to various water points within the desert. Ok, so it was not quite so simple, mostly because technology has a way of not always doing what one wants it to. The Trimbles and the Garmins, our two forms of GPS, were finicky at times. The Trimbles had a program on them for monitoring water sources, essentially a form to fill out, and decided that they would stop letting us use this program, on the first day that is. Then, praise be to some god, one of the Trimbles allowed us to resume use of the program, rendering us mere cripples instead of completely infirm. The other main techno problem was the coordinate systems we were using. There are two primary systems that we use, one from 1927 and the other from 1983. We started out in the 1983 setting, which was leading us to blank rock faces and empty stream beds. Even when we changed the setting to 1927, which is a time consuming process, we were still finding these useless sites. Then, on the fourth day, I tried something new, entering the coordinates after switching the system, turns out that was the ticket! We immediately began finding water, where before all we were led to was bare rock. It was quite a morale booster, even if it did mean revisiting places we had already been to. My only wish is that I had figured out the trick earlier in the hitch, which would have allowed us to find an monitor more of these sites, however, hopefully next hitch we will be able use what we have learned and knock out the remainder of the sites.
The other really cool thing about this hitch was our wildlife encounters. We saw a rattlesnake, a coyote, multiple tarantulas, more burros than I care to think about, and a 30 pound catfish! The rattlesnake was a big guy, at least three feet long, although we only saw him when he was all coiled up, and thankfully we saw him when it was cold and rainy, so all he did was sit there and stick his black tongue out at us. The coyote was also quite impressive. We saw him in the middle of the day, as he went streaking across the wash right in front of us. He had a big bushy tail and all the elegance and beauty one would expect of a wild beast. The tarantulas were, as always, hairy and gargantuan. The burros were, in my opinion, one of the coolest things, at least the first few times I saw them. They had this majesty about them that one would not expect from a donkey, or relative thereof, at least not after encountering domesticated ones. These creatures, unlike their servile cousins, held themselves erect with honor and dignity and gazed with a sense of superiority and self-assurance across the desert washes they call home. Of course they scattered like bunnies the second we came within half a mile, but from a distance they put on a very good show. The catfish was a treat. We met two campers who were posted up next to the Colorado River, did I mention that we drove by that on our way to work most days, and doing some sport fishing. They were a delightful couple, Linda and, since we can not remember his name, ‘Catfish Man’, who regaled us with stories of their youth and adventures in the region for a good while. He had caught a big, thirty pounder the night before we dropped by and was more than happy to drag the struggling ball of muscle out of the water for us to gape at. Sadly, however, this story has no fairytale ending and upon returning to their campsite the following day, under invitation of course, we discovered that the big guy had got away. Apparently he bent open a welded steel ring and made for the hills, or the depths of the river as it were. It was sad, but Catfish Man took it all in stride, merely saying that the next one he caught would certainly not be given that choice of escape!
All in all a very successful hitch, and as soon as we finish cleaning up here we will begin parting ways and heading out for the Christmas holidays!
Repaired 36m of barbed wire fence (1 segment)
Constructed/finished 1,550m of barbed wire fence (7 segments)
Set 23m of metal fence posts
Pruned/removed 4,500 lbs of saltbush
Removed 500m2 of mustard seed
Planted 12 plants
Assembled 2 triangular kiosks
…but not until the last day! And there is much to tell before we get to that. We spent this hitch up in Carrizo Plain National Monument, about five and a half hours from our home in Yucca Valley. It was such a new and beautiful landscape, and our crew agrees that we can’t wait to revisit it over a break sometime in the spring when the flowers are in bloom.
At breakfast each day this hitch, a different poem by Wendell Berry was read. My goal in doing so, though not explicitly stated, was to reconnect us to the landscape and life around us each day. I think at least some of our crew, if not all, found it difficult to live in a house for hitch. We’re not used to being so removed from our surroundings, our workplace and outdoor playplace in one. It was very different to wake up on a mattress, with thick walls and a roof between us and the stars, rather than just a sleeping bag, or tarp, or the occasional canvas tent between us and Cassiopeia (my new personal favorite). It was strange to feel heated air from a vent blowing on our face at night, instead of the chilly night air. Not that it wasn’t much appreciated to some extent, living in the Washburn Ranch house, just different. Personally, Berry’s poetry helped me make that transition each morning. I’m not sure if it had that effect on all the crew, but they seemed to enjoy it in any case.
Since poetry was such a presence this hitch, I feel it only appropriate to continue in this fashion. Not as eloquent as Berry, but here goes…
First day was training in GPS
Craig taught us water monitoring and we met with success
In finding two sites at Joshua Tree
Trimbles and Garmins and note taking were key.
The night before pre-hitch it’s tradition to bake
We love our bread product and thus began to make
Wheat loaves and pitas, focaccia, bread bowls,
The tortillas were flat, and the bagels had holes.
The next day we awoke to a shortened pre-hitch
We would take no camping gear, check out this “sitch:”
We will live in a house! And so toilets and beds,
Walls and a roof, ran through our heads.
Not even our trailer would accompany us,
No tools required, now that is a plus.
What will we do in a house on the plains?
Perhaps a jigsaw puzzle and some pool table games.
So the next day we drove for too many an hour,
But when we arrived, we knew our power
Would be renewed by the beautiful sight
Across the San Andreas Fault, we turned not right,
But left, into the National Monument.
To work on fences, this is where we had been sent.
Day One of work was barbed wire all day.
H-braces, and stress panels would make it all stay.
The come-along we call Alligator Jaws,
Attacked a few but we soon learned the laws
Of physics that pertained to tension and wires
Which makes us all pros. We are not liars.
Day Two we finished the fence from last year,
Clipping the wires, as the day’s end drew near.
We stopped at the Soda Lake overlook view
And took a WC photo of the whole crew.
360 degree sunset on the way home,
Can you imagine what it’s like to roam,
These plains at night, like the coyote does?
Or the kit fox, kangaroo mouse, or the mourning doves?
Day Three was more work on fences with barbs,
At dinner we filled up on delicious carbs
In a new Sun Gado - Sun Gado, made with sunflower butter
So delicious it was, makes my heart all a-flutter.
Happy Chanuka to all! Latkes and applesauce.
We loaded the truck and in it we would toss,
8 metal poles and several bags of concrete,
At our hilltop destination is where we would meet,
Mary W. Morris. Her grave has a wonderful view.
We dug holes, set the poles and poured concrete, too.
Unlike the ghosts of the crashed cars from last hitch,
Mary is nice, and not stuck in a ditch.
She wouldn’t possess Sara asleep in the night,
Nor choke her, or laugh at her, ‘til she turned on the light.
Thank goodness that’s passed and will not return.
Back to work, at the Education Center to learn
About the Plains at Carrizo and all its wildlife.
Commence the saltbush massacre and all of the strife
It brought us to find that within each burrow
Underfoot, laid a critter just waiting to know
Its fate, as we took apart the bush above,
Reminding ourselves this job is tough love:
Trimming and pruning to allow for growth renewed,
And planting new plants. Did I mention Doug’s such a cool dude?
The next day supposedly would have been
A personal favorite: concrete demolition.
But, alas, there was no roll-off to be found,
So we went with Ryan and walked all around
Painted Rock! A religious birthplace and ceremonial spot.
About Native Americans, we learned a lot.
The pictographs were painted in red, black, and white,
A relic, a culture, three owls in flight.
For the rest of the day, more saltbush was lopped.
Mustard seed plants removed: too aggressive, it sopped
Up all the water from the rest of the plants.
Completely dirty from the week, we looked at our pants,
And realized the next day we would be driving home,
But time in the morning for Sam and Emily to roam
And gather GPS data for some of our fence line
While Sara, Andrew, and I put in a little more time
With Ryan. We built two huge metal structures,
Kiosks, they’re called. Try not to get any punctures,
From hammering exploding pegs, a hoogie of sorts,
A convenient term, used here for the kiosk’s supports.
As we drove out of the monument on this strange cloudy morning,
The rain recently fading, and just barely forming,
This last hitch’s experiences into recent memory,
As softly and hushed as the rare birds flee.
Field Office: Palm Springs
Report Prepared by Emily Frankel and Sam Wright
Corps Members Present: Sara Tamler, Leah Edwards, Sam Wright
10/30/10 Arrival in the Beauty Mountains at Adobe Springs, around 4 pm. Lock on gate was cut and replaced.
10/31/10 2 sites of fence repairs.
11/1/10 Met Kevin, Palm Springs contact, at Twin Lakes for Tamarisk removal and treatment. Knocked down a motorcycle jump, visible from the legal route.
11/2/10 Began fence and gate work at Twin Lakes with Chris. Dug 4 holes, leveled and erected the gate, and cemented it into place. Also leveled and cemented the horse step over. Jen Taylor came later, and helped with the fence construction and removal of old fence line.
11/3/10 Started restoration at the North OHV site. Moved rocks into place, collected mulch, decompacted, and planted two vertical mulch.
Continued fence work. Dug 7 holes with an auger and jack hammer. Leveled and cemented the metal poles.
11/4/10 Strung cable and made stress panels on one side while holes were dug, poles were leveled, and cemented on the other. Finished stringing cables and contrusting stress panels. Removed fire rings.
Continued and finished the North OHV Restoration site.
Repaired 103.82 m of fence line.
Removed 3307.16 m2 of tamarisk.
Removed 19.61 m of fenceline.
Constructed 30.63 m of fence and gate.
Removed 2 fire rings.
Removed 1 motorcycle jump
Removed 1 sign.
Installed 1 sign.
Restored 147.93 m line of sight with 9 vertical mulch and 6 m of rocks.
What up ya'll! Hello and welcome to the crew post for the first Wildcorps IX hitch, whoot woo! So we were, as the title implies, stationed in the beautiful Beauty Mountains wilderness this hitch working on everything from tamarisk removal to jackhammering holes for fence posts, pretty sweet eh. But, first came business, in the form of a BLM orientation.
Now, I am not going to say that the orientation was not fun, because it was, in a way, just that when your itching to get out in the field an office meeting room just does not cut it, no matter how many powerpoints or how much food the hosts throw at you. The orientation was, however, very informative, and we learned much about the regions we will be working in and what to expect. My personal favorite was the hydrologist, who gave us a nice little summary of the region's water usage and told us about the danger awaiting the pup-fish if something is not done to conserve water more efficiently. The archaeologist was also a blast, because she brought in some toys, in the form of lithics, for us to play with. Yes the BLM office was fun, but we all slept a little better that night knowing that the following day we would get to.
The next day was preparation day, and what a day it was. There was food to be packed, tools to be inventoried, gear to be gathered and loaded, and plenty of administrative and technological material to keep Emily busy for most of the day. It was fairly stressful, but very rewarding to see everything slowly but surely fall into place as the day went by. We slept even better that night knowing that the next day we would actually be on the move!
The drive down to Beauty Mtns was quite an experience. We set off in plenty of time, and made our way south speedily enough, but were struck by some serious ill fortune when we got close to where we would be stationed, for there was no gas for miles. (Gas? My apologies, I meant Diesel). Well, the lack of a service station sent us on an epic odyssey to the town of Anza to try and find the elusive lifeblood of our Dodge 2500 monster of a Ram. We did, finally, find the fuel we were looking for, but only after wasting a good hour or so in the truck, but once we were stocked on the diesel we were ready to hit the dirt road, which would take us to our humble abode for the next few days.
Our campsite was fantabulous. We were in a grassy field with plenty of flat area for the trailer and group tent and a sloping hill behind for our personal sleeping arrangements, tents or otherwise. There was a lone tree standing guardian near to where we set up camp, and he became quite the companion over the days. We set up camp in the near dark and were happy to escape into the warm of the ‘white tent’ (synonymous with group tent) and cook up a delicious meal or Spanish rice and Carribean black beans, a symbolic reconciliation of the old kingdom and its long lost colonies.
The following day we were up with the crack of dawn and rip roaring to get out and do some work. We spent the day playing with sharp metal and expensive GPS toys, aka doing fence work and taking data. It was a delight to be out working again and the entire crew responded to the opportunity to get their hands duty with great enthusiasms and intensity. We replaced a fair number of wires in a fence marking the wilderness boundary that some vexed user had had the decency to dice up for us. The work took the whole day, but was most rewarding and seeing it completed was quite satisfying.
The following day was tamarisk day with Kevin, the delightful BLM specialist of weeds from Minnesoooooooota. He was quite the fellow, very jolly and friendly and more than happy to follow us around with blue dyed herbicide as we went through the area chopping up the vicious invasive. We focused our attention around a small pond about a half-hour from our campsite, half-hour by dirt road, so only about two miles, and did an impressive job chopping up and neutralizing the tamarisk, aka salt cedar. By the end of the day we were tired, happy, and speckled with blue, from where we had come into contact with the blue herbicide (no worries, it is non-toxic).
The following day brought new excitement in the form of Chris, another BLM employee, who was using us to put in a gate and section of fencing to block off a pond from the road, the same pond we had rescued from tamarisk. He brought plenty of toys, aka power tools, for us to play with. My personal favourite was the electric jackhammer with which we dug holes for the fence poles. It was an experience to be holding that heavy piece of equipment and driving it slowly but surely into the solid earth, knowing that each inch you dug out was another inch of solid concrete to secure the fence we were placing. His other toy was a two-person auger, which was used for drilling the initial portion of the hole, also a blast to use. We got a fair amount done that first day, and were able to set the gate up and concrete in some posts along with it.
The next day brought a morning of restoration and afternoon through evening of fence work. Chris was unable to get out to us until mid-day, so we spent the first half of the day working on an incursion into wilderness. We collected plenty of vertical mulch and rocks, but only had time to plant a few pieces before we galloped off to continue working on the fence. It was a long afternoon, but very rewarding, including plenty of hole digging and much concrete mixing. We set seven or eight posts through which we were to string the cable that made up the fence. The jackhammer ran almost non-stop from midday till five, and we were right there along with it. It was tough going, and we did not start heading home until past sunset, but though tired, everyone was quite satisfied with what we had accomplished and were ready for the coming day. The final day was a race to the finish for the fence. We had to finish setting posts, pour concrete, and string cable through it all. And once again the Wildcorp crew stepped up to the plate and smashed the ball miles out of the park. By the time we left that day, not only was the gate set, the cable strung out on either side, but also the restoration we had left off the day before was complete and we removed two fire-rings, never to be seen again. It was another full, but rewarding day, and we all went back to our humble campsite tired but happy and ready for the break to come.
Post-hitch day went so smoothly I am still not sure if it was a dream. We were packed and ready to leave by eight and home before mid-day (no diesel detour this drive). While Emily and Sara tackled the stacks of dishes to be cleaned and piles of food to be sort, Sam cleaned and inventoried tools and gear, and Leah ran all over Yucca in the truck, doing everything from refilling propane tanks to emptying out the sump toilette. (Funny story about that toilette. So Sam (aka me) and Leah went to dump it at the campground in Joshua tree and, it turns out, were not sufficiently equipped to do so, for we were missing a hose attachment. The result was fairly graphic and I will spare the details, but the point being, bring hoses to dump excrement with or things can get pretty messy pretty fast!)
After the long days of hitch and the final epic clean up the gang felt like giving itself a little treat. We decided that the time had come to finally visit the notorious Harriett and Pappy’s Pioneertown Palace! We spent a few hours there, shooting pool, taking in the atmosphere, chatting with the locals (plenty of whom will not likely remember ever meeting us, but they were a fun crowd), and generally relaxing and enjoying ourselves. It felt good.
Dates: 11/11/10 – 11/20/10
Field Office / Ranger District: Ridgecrest / Sacatar Trail Wilderness
Report Prepared by: Sara Tamler
Corps Members Present: Leah Edwards, Andrew Godbout, Sara Tamler, Sam Wright
Days 1, 2, and 4: cleaned up illegal marijuana farms of trash, irrigation, structures, and restored general area in 9 Mile Canyon, 5 Mile Canyon, and No-Name Canyon
Day 3: Surveyed abandoned vehicles in 9 Mile Canyon, evaluating ease and method of removal
Days 4-6: Monitored wilderness boundary along Sacatar Trail Wilderness for restoration projects, signage, and suggested restoration
Marijuana Farm Cleanup:
3 farms cleared
3 campsites cleared
7 plots cleared of 950lbs of piping
750lbs of trash bagged
Abandoned Vehicle Survey:
7 miles surveyed
18 vehicles evaluated
Wilderness Boundary Monitoring:
24 miles of boundary monitored
12 signs installed
1 sign removed
3 campsites monitored
1 effectiveness monitoring completed
7 restoration sites proposed
Since training, we of WildCorps IX have been attempting to introduce the exclamation “Wild Core!” into the DRC common vernacular. We like to think of it as one step more hard core than “Hard Core!” as in: “wow, your vertical mulching on that incursion is so exceptionally wild core” or “I came THIS CLOSE to a mountain lion, how wild core is that?!”
I say this because the only way I can think to accurately describe WildCorps IX Hitch #2 is WILD CORE. You try spending the better part of a 10-day hitch trying to keep up with a fully-camouflaged law enforcement officer while he jets down a 3,000ft canyon slope headed toward a recently busted illegal marijuana farm valued at $18 million, and see if you can think of a better term to describe the experience.
You might be wondering: “How is that possibly part of your job, WildCorps IX?” Well, let me assure you that this adventure always kept restoration and conservation and planet saving goodness as its ultimate objective, even when we felt in some small way intertwined in the muddy and convoluted politics of illegal drug trafficking. The canyons running through and around the Sacatar Trail Wilderness (under the jurisdiction of the Ridgecrest BLM office) see regular occurrences of what Sam has coined Clandestine Cannabis Cultivation Camps – in other words, illicit pot farms. From what our LEO escort Terry told us, these farms are predominately cultivated by illegal immigrants coerced or misled into the profession – basically dropped into a remote wilderness setting to hide out for a growing season, at the end of which they’ll harvest their crop, close up shop, and get away with less than .03% of the profit. That is, if they’re not found and busted by law enforcement – if they’re caught alive, they can get 10-15 years of jail time, and that’s if they’re not victim to a fatal shootout.
Our job was to clear the camp and plant plots of these farms after they’d been busted and subsequently abandoned. The plots are pretty elaborate, especially given the resources these growers work with – buried piping that can extend over any kind of terrain for miles from the water source (a creek, spring, or water collection site) to the plants – and the campsites were very efficiently set up, nestled in Joshua Tree clusters or under deep brush, complete with makeshift tables and shelters made out of desert scrub. Really ingenious – my only complaint, coming from the perspective of extended backcountry living myself, was the amount of trash they left to rot. Leah and I spent the better part of our day at two out of the three farms waist deep in trash pits of rotting Ramen, crushed Tapatio bottles, and Spam tins – I couldn’t help but think the growers sure could benefit from a Leave No Trace course. On the same token, seeing the human touches such an illicit and surreal lifestyle was jarring – toothpaste, nail clippers, shoes, a drawing of a flower. And we thought we were roughing it. Talk about wild core.
The three farms we cleaned up had been busted at varying times – the last two were at least two years old, the first had been cleared out only two months prior to our arrival. The older ones showed no sign of plant cultivation sans the piping we were pulling, but the more recently busted farm, abandoned in a hurry, hadn’t quite been picked clean. After finally clearing and filling in the trash pit, Leah and I walked over to help finish up with piping from the last plot to find a sizeable pile of freshly-pulled marijuana stalks. I picked one up just in time for Terry to happily inform me that the fluffy purplish green twig in my hand would be worth $500. WHAT?! Anyway, you can be sure we snapped quite a few pictures with the plants and the LEOs.
While the farms themselves were eye opening in a number of different ways, the work itself was relatively simple and quick – pick up trash, bundle up piping, and stack it all in an accessible place for a helicopter pickup. The real challenge was hiking out to and from the sites. Terry was all about the most direct path, elevation change, loose rocks and dense brush be damned! The three canyons we worked in – 9 Mile, 5 Mile, and No Name canyons (pretty creative, huh?) – were absolutely gorgeous, and absolutely ruthless. Flashbacks to our Wilderness First Responder training ran through my mind more than once as I imagined trying to evacuate someone with a rolled ankle somewhere along the ravine.
Speaking of scaling cliffs, while the LEOs took their biannual shooting certification, we had one day on our own surveying crashed vehicles that had plummeted into the canyon from 9 Mile Canyon Road. THAT was a trip – we hiked for about 7 miles along the canyon, in the bed when we could, and the rocky gulley wall when it was too overgrown. It was quite the scavenger hunt, looking for cars that had been rotting in the canyon for sometimes the past few decades. We were like detectives, finding evidence and evaluating removal procedures. Terry hinted that the driver to one vehicle had never been found, but we found no signs of dead bodies.
Our last few days in the Sacatar Trail Wilderness were spent following the Wilderness Boundary by truck when possible, foot when the boundary left the road – an adventure in itself as we navigated the unmaintained backroads of BLM wilderness using intricate topo maps and GPS devices that were smarter than they were functional. Our task was to monitor the boundary for incursions created by off-road vehicles, restoration projects that had already been completed, and signage designating the area as wilderness.
Pretty wild core, huh? Add to that a snarky and resourceful field mouse who kept finding new ways into our trailer and veggie cooler, and you’ve got yourself some pretty tired WildCorpses. At least the beautiful sunrise over the canyon gave us daily motivation to jump out of our sleeping bags and face whatever crazy task awaited us!
After living in big cities for most of my life, I always figured it was a fairly time consuming task to set up a community - Rome wasn't built in a day and all that. Well, while Great Falls was not the most permanent of cities, it definitely will go down in MY history books as one of the most pleasantly efficient places I've lived yet for any extended period of time. And boy did it go up fast (take that, Rome)! By the time Wildcorps rolled in on day 1, we already had: a grand dining hall (camp chairs arranged in a circle), a decked out restaurant with a WORLD CLASS chef (a combination of camp stoves, trailers, trucks and easy-ups), numerous classrooms (two tents and a cave), luxurious bath-houses (6 port-a-potties set up among the shrubs) and endless public lands for exploration (thanks, BLM!).
I've got to say I was feeling a little nervous going into an All Corps training that Wildcorps was going to be the odd crew out - as the only crew based in Yucca Valley for the moment, and with three members to the other crews' six, I felt like we were already at something of a disadvantage. But as I keep realizing and re-realizing, the DRC means what it says about being a family and a community. And you know, I don't know if this was a happy special accident or the intentional secret genius of our trusty project leaders and staff, but if I were to summarize the most important thing I learned at training, sure it would be a RESULT of all the concrete and crucial facts and experience we got, but really it was that we, a group of strangers, all learned to trust and respect each other as a community. And in 17 days!
The first week of training we spent building a relationship with the land we'll be working to restore and the people we'll be working with to restore it. It's extra important to uphold a strong Leave No Trace ethic while we're out living in the ecosystems we're preserving - it'd be pretty counterproductive to leave more of an impact than we're helping to reduce - so we spent a lot of time talking about our impact while living and working in the desert. One of my favorite discussions of the week was our stellar chef Raven's food talk - how to buy and eat food with a conservation ethic and stay happy, healthy, and not feel guilty about it.
We spent two days getting a little taste of exactly what we'll be doing in the field for the next 7 months - though it's a little different for Wildcorps because we move from project to project. Then we got a few days of Community and Leadership with Steve, though I missed half of it because, I kid you not, I was injured playing Rock, Paper Scissors and had to go back into civilization for a day at the medical clinic (talk about feeling dirty when you walk into a hospital after a week or so in the middle of the desert!).
We spent the following 8 days in WFR training. What an experience! Half lecture and half scenario training, it was such an absorbing process that after day two or so it was pretty hard to remember that we were all together to restore the desert, not to become Backcountry EMTs. I think we all learned a ton of invaluable skills and will feel more comfortable going to remote locations where, if something were to happen, a hospital wouldn't be right around the corner. On top of that, I think we all got so much more comfortable with each other - seeing how someone else responds to emergencies, or any medical issue minor or major, really tells you something about them. I'm happy to say there's no one in the DRC now currently brandishing their WFR certs that I wouldn't put my full trust in!
Well before I jet off to Wildcorps IX Hitch #1, I've got to say that one of the hidden perks of setting up your own Rome like we did at Great Falls is you really live on your own time. One of the first things we did when all five crews circled up for the first time in the parking lot was synch our watches. At first there was a bit of confusion - "but my watch is two minutes different than yours!" - but Golden Valley project leader Shannon quickly pointed out that out there, we're not on satellite or cell phone or Pacific time - we're on DRC time. We kept to a rigorous schedule, but it was OUR schedule, not the corporate world's (literally, what is a weekend?), and boy is it strange to be back in a city not made of tents, sitting at a computer. Luckily, we have 7 more months of working on our own schedule, and you can bet I'm keeping my watch set to DRC time!
On September 28th, 2010, the crew members of WildCorps IX slowly trickled in the door of 57087 Yucca Trail. Introductions were made, histories were shared, stories of their ventures were told. That evening, the task before us was bulk food. It was a beautiful site, piles of spices, teas, beans, pasta, flours, nuts, dried fruits, dark chocolate. We repacked and labeled the hundreds of pounds of tasty goodness, and day dreamed of the concoctions to come.
We sat around the dining room table later that night for dinner, slowly absorbing and realizing that these are going to be the faces that we will see for the next eight months. As we ate our Moroccan Tagine, we learned that Sara does not enjoy dried fruits cooked in her food, but more cherries for the rest of us!
We took a tour of the new residence, and rooms were picked. Sam took the Bob Marley Room, as he likes to call it, and Leah and Sara buddied up in the Master Suite. The character and history of the crew house is apparent, with its collection of games, paintings, knick knacks and sage, didgeridoo, and dvds. The crew slowly unpacked and settled in.
The following day we got to work, sorting through the abundant gear, testing out stoves and water buffaloes, and packing up for the field. As we were working away in the garage, clouds slowly moved in and sprinkled on us, a hint of what was to come.
On the 30th, we geared up to head out to Whitewater Preserve, outside of Palm Springs. Whitewater is managed by the Wildlands Conservancy and the BLM, and has had many SCA crews and volunteers perform invaluable work in the area. We set up at the Ranger Station, where we were warned of incoming storms and the effects flashfloods have had in the past. We took a short hike, joining up with the PCT after crossing the Whitewater River. What a treat, a riparian refuge in the middle of the desert! While the weather held out throughout dinner and dishes, after lying in our sleeping bags for maybe half an hour, the clouds let loose. Thunder and lightning entertained us throughout the night.
The following morning we geared up to get on the trail and spend a night out. The sky had cleared, and gave us a taste of the harsh desert sun. After hiking for a while through the canyon, we treated ourselves by dunking our shirts in the river and finding a little shade. We crossed the river after spending some time talking about our community and values. The clouds again rolled in, and we quickly ascended the pass to another canyon. Lightning strikes were seen in the distance, and we took refuge in an old stone house at Mission Creek.
A little before sunset, the crew decided they wanted to see the brilliant sky from atop the ridge. We braved the weather to peak and reach the overlook, where we witnessed a beautiful pink sky overlooking the San Gorgonios, the San Jacintos, and Palm Springs. It was well worth the trip!
We experienced only a slight drizzle that night, and slept soundly after our long day. The following morning we headed out of the backcountry, crossed the river, and towards our awaiting truck.
Other highlights and points of discussion included DRC history, the Member Handbook review, Take 5, Drive Safe Drive Smart, and Food.
After saddling back up and piling into the truck, we made the trip back to Yucca Valley for our first post hitch. We pre-packed for training at Great Falls Basin, which will be our next venture to share.
Those first five days and nights have contributed to the excitement and anticipation of the season that is to come, and the people with which we will share it with.
My name is Andrew Godbout. I’m 19 years old, and I am currently taking a year off from the University of Vermont, where I was a freshman last year. I decided to take a year off to make some money and discover myself. I have spent the past 3 months sweating in a kitchen and making that dough. Now it’s time for me to escape to the desert and learn about and help preserve a completely different ecosystem from that in Mid-coast Maine. I have been outside my whole life, be it mountain biking in the fall, skiing in the winter, lacrosse in the spring, or sailing in the summer. I am super excited to meet the Wildcorps IX crew and share the next 7 months with them.
The magic of the desert holds me in a trance. It's beauty is enchanting, it's serenity so peaceful, its vastness both comforting and mystifying. I was captured by the desert at first appearance, nine years ago in an outdoor adventure trip. It made it want for more. Fresh out of college, I was ready for a change from the pace and desiring new challenges and open doors. And I received what I was looking for. As an intern, the Desert Restoration Corps captured me, in its work, in its community, and especially the place. I didn't know what to expect, and I was more than pleasantly surprised.
In the past three years, I haven't spent very much time apart from the desert. I had a brief CI position gathering various data on the botany, ornithology, and herpetology, but I felt like something was lacking. And that something was the structure, love, and compassion that the DRC has to offer. I returned as soon as I could, and it felt just right. My first season as a Project Leader, based in the El Paso Mts. Wilderness, was incredibly rewarding, and only made me want for more.
I am returning to the DRC to lead the WildCorps IX Crew, anticipating new challenges in people, places, and work. I can only imagine the adventures that are to come.
Tentative schedule, and open to adaptation based on weather conditions and other various field office needs.
|2010-2011 TENTATIVE Schedule|
|Project Leader- Emily Frankel|
|The Last Hitch Ever! (For Real This Time)|
|The last last last hitch (in the field)|
|Drink It Up and Die|
|Hitch 9-Needles Adventures|
|Hitch Eight, El Paso Mtns|
|WildCorps Hitch 6 in the Palen McCoy Wilderness|
|Like Three Hitches in One|
|Pics for Watta Hitch|
|El Centro, the Watta Hitch|
|Carrizo Rain Fell Mainly on the Plain…|
|Hitch the First, BEAUTY MOUNTAINS BABY!!!!!!!!|
|Training in Great Falls Basin|