Hitch 12 marked the beginning of the end of our long desert sojourn here in the majestic Mojave. What a spectacular finale it was! Bobcats and BBQs, river plunges and hot spring soaks, Palm Springs adventures and fourth grade field trips. We rounded out the season with a variegated array of exciting experiences that could only have been had in this magical slice of xeric Californ-I-A. The hitch began with a BLM hosted BBQ at which all the crews were in attendance. This was to be the last formal gathering of all the 2013 DRC cohort and our lovely friends at the BLM. A bittersweet affair! We feasted on a delicious mix of goodies and mingled with our amigos and BLM buddies and said some sad goodbyes to our contacts at the BLM. They gave us some wonderful parting gifts, including awesome stickers, National Park passes, water bottles and hats. We will miss them dearly! Our second day of hitch we had a wonderful time helping out with the Sand Canyon Environmental Education Program (or, SEEP), spending the day in pretty Sand Canyon playing with fourth grade students from local Ridgecrest schools, teaching them about local flora and fauna, among other environmental related topics. The art station was a big hit; many a satisfied student walked away with pretty paint drawings adorning their faces and/or appendages. It was a fun day! We were all very excited to depart on day four of hitch for our Leave No Trace (LNT) training certification course which was held at the Whitewater Preserve just outside of Palm Springs. Sadly, one of our crew members, Mr. M. Bemus, was left behind in Ridgecrest in order to take care of some of his pre-Peace Corps checklist items...And before we left we were forced to say goodbye to the Rands and Jawbone crews who finished their season and were heading off to pursue new adventures elsewhere beyond the desert. We hope they are having fun wherever they are! Our first night at Whitewater we couldn’t resist the pull of the big city, and we spent the afternoon wandering wide-eyed around the bustling metropolis of Palm Springs. We were particularly enthused to see a Trader Joes, and then went to watch The Great Gatsby at the movie theater. Mama Cat bought us popcorn and candy. Happy mothers day, Mom! We also paid a visit to a Ben and Jerry’s and stuffed our faces with some delicious ice cream. The next few days we spent learning from the LNT master, El Cuchillo (aka Mr. Matt Duarte), about Leave No Trace and teaching techniques. We went on some splendid day-hikes along the Pacific Crest Trail, and each had the opportunity to present to the group on a specific LNT principle (such as “dispose of waste properly,” or “respect wildlife”). The highlights of our hikes included refreshing dips in the Whitewater river, spectacular aerial views of the austere Whitewater canyon and surrounding desert mountains, wildlife sightings including a bobcat (!), a Red Racer snake, a surfeit of ants (which forced us to cede the ground and set up our sleeping areas on top of the picnic tables), a couple of pesky nocturnal raccoons, and a brief sighting of a bighorn sheep by Lizzie and Cat! We also got to meet some really cool PCT thru-hikers one morning (they were Nolene from South Africa and Bill from Chico, aka Mike the Mechanic, his trail name), and invited them over for breakfast and coffee. Nolene, tragically, lost here sun hat that morning and so Cat offered up her own, earning her the epithet of “Trail Angel” (a term that PCT thru-hikers use to describe people of exceptional kindness they encounter on their 6-month journey). Nolene and Bill inspired us, and now Lizzie and Adam are making plans for their 2014 attempt to thru-hike all 2,600 miles of the PCT. At the end of LNT training, we spent an afternoon at Joshua Tree National Park scrambling around on rocks and lounging in the shade of the cacti. We also paid a visit to Pie for the People, a delicious pizza shop in the town outside the park. Then we said our goodbyes to Matt Duarte, our dear friend and mentor, and began the long drive back to Ridgecrest to finish up the hitch working on the remainder of the fence in Grass Valley. Two days of building H-braces for the fence in Grass Valley later, (during which we were blessed with some welcome cool weather), and we had wrapped up our work in Grass Valley and the High Desert for the season! Our emotions were varied; part excited and relieved, and part sad and nostalgic to be saying goodbye to Grass for the last time on our final day of work. Our last day of hitch we spent a day of fun and relaxation at the hot springs along the Kern River near Lake Isabella, about an hour and a half outside of Ridgecrest in the Sequoia National Forest. Carlie (Cat’s dog) joined in for the fun, and we had a wonderful time soaking in the springs, splashing in the river, and swinging from the rope swing (Lizze is particularly adept at swinging from the tree; she adopted the “limp body” technique, sort of just flopping gracefully into the river). It was a splendid way to finish up the final hitch. And now, as we enter these last stages of wrapping up our time here in the California desert, together for the last time, in Ridgecrest, in our little home on East Church Ave., reflecting on our experiences, I am reminded of the sage words of Mary Austin: that “for all the toll the desert takes of a man it gives compensations, deep breaths, deep sleep, and the communion of the stars.” One might also add the “communion of friends.” We will miss you, desert! Thanks for all the experiences. Love, The Grass Valley CrewP.S.Hi Lizzie's Mom! (And Zeus!)
Season Review During the 2012-2013 season, the Jawbone crew completed a whopping 16,140 square meters of restoration across three polygons in Jawbone. The crew restored 76 incursion sites and planted 3703 vertical mulch bushes over the season. The crew also Site effeteness monitored over 250 sites of past restoration. The crew also spent three hitches working near the Fremont/Kramer Junction Area doing restoration for the Transition Habitat Conservancy. Restoration work in Jawbone can be both physically and mentally challenging due to the unpredictability and intensity of the weather as well as potential for monotony in the work, but the crew did a great job of managing these circumstances.<br>Thank Yous On behalf of the Jawbone crew, I’d like to thank all the BLM Ridgecrest staff who contributed to our successful season. In particular, I’d like to acknowledge the immense amount of time, support, effort, and tasty treats Dana Jacobs dedicated to the Jawbone and Rands crews this season. I’d also like to thank Craig Beck for overseeing the projects and being supportive of the needs of the crew. Many thanks to the Salt Wells Fire Station and Don Washington for S-212 Chainsaw training, and Jason Woods for ATV Safety Training. We are greatly appreciative of all that the BLM staff has done to make our season so wonderful. Conservation Work Totals Restoration Sites Restored 76 Sites Monitored 80 Line of Site Meters Restored 7447 Square Meters Restored 16140 Polygons Restored 0 Vertical Mulch (#) 3703 Seed Pits (#) 3703
Well after three final crew member visits to the doctor for poison oak we are finally done with Markley Cove and back to Smittle Creek Trail. It has been a busy nonstop four weeks filled with training and new projects. Over the past month we have maintained 3,425 feet of trail, relocated one 12 foot bridge (with new footings), removed seven old steps, added thirteen new steps, added three new drainage structures, dismantled one bridge, assembled one burly twenty foot bridge from scratch, moved 5,460 lbs of concrete down to the bridge project site by hand, moved 900 lbs of concrete back up the hill from the bridge project site, created three rigging highlines, mapped several trails using GIS, gained six new Leave No Trace Master Educators, five S212 approved B sawyers, dug two very big holes and had one Easter egg hunt. I think it would be safe to say we have accomplished a lot in the last month and we were ready for a break. So naturally when Ryan mentioned that we get would our first real days off in a couple months and that he had rented a boat for us to go waterskiing, tubing, and wakeboarding we were a bit excited. When Wednesday finally arrived we drove over to Markley hopped onto the boat and headed out for some fun. After going only a few hundred yards from the boat slip we to found ourselves making a quick u-turn to admire the stairs we built on pullout thirteen and fourteen before we made a quick sprint across Lake Berryessa. Once across the lake Chris was the first one to break out the water skis and jumped into the chilly water. He easily made it up on his first try. After a few runs Chris called it quits and jumped back into the boat to warm up and it was Andy’s turn to try and wakeboard. It took him only a few tries to get the hang of it and considering he had never been on a wakeboard before it was pretty impressive. As it began to warm up, Ben and I jumped on the tube and tried to hang on as we were slung around the turns. We weren’t successful. We spent the rest of the afternoon soaking up the sun and alternating between skiing and tubing. Both Ben and Megan found that waterskiing was much harder than Ryan and Chris made it look but both successfully managed to stand up even if it was only a moment. After Chris and Ryan took their last turn waterskiing we headed back to the marina. Not long after we arrived at the marina a life flight helicopter landed only a few hundred yards away. If it had not been there for a real emergency it would have been a really awesome way to end the day. That being said it was a great day and a lot of fun.
The spring survey season has been great. The Waco team has had the pleasure and opportunity to work with some amazing organizations that share in SCA’s passion and vision for conservation. A few of them made lasting impressions during the season; here are two that stood out. Jay, a Habitat for humanity staff member. He loved talking about how he got involved with working for Waco Habitat for Humanity; we enjoyed his sense of humor and the different stuff he had to talk about. Later on the team visited the Waco lakes Wetlands, where we met the one and only Nora Schell. She knows a lot about the Waco Lake wetlands plus, she is an experience Park Ranger. Nora was a great person to work with for conservation projects. If you happen to be in Texas this summer you should definitely check out the Waco lake wetlands and volunteer at Habitat for Humanity.
04/29-05/01 Teaching Annie to Swim
This week the team enjoyed a few days off. Stacy and Josh taught Annie how to swim. She learned proper swimming and breathing techniques for swimming on top of the water and she learned how to back stroke and tread water. This activity was super fun for the entire team, plus Annie turned out to be a good swimmer.
05/02-05/03 Conservation Day
Today the team took a trip to Austin, Texas to complete Stacy’s last conservation project. The members participated in an all-day kayak training course with Kim Sorensen, Guide and Field Educator of The Expedition School. The trip was just what the doctor ordered for our hard working team. We learned to kayak up and down the San Marcos River! Kayaking was a first for some of the team members, so we started with a few training lessons before getting into the water. We received an introductory paddle lesson. The paddling techniques were really cool and could even save your life, if performed correctly during a bad situation. During our stay in Austin, we also visited the Texas State History Museum. The museum was full of cool displays and facts about the different people who, helped to shape the state of Texas for us today. After the team explored the museum we headed to San Antonio, were we did some site seeing on the River Walk and took pictures of the Alamo. Austin and San Antonio are great places to plan for conservation projects and the team enjoyed touring the city.
This week Annie and Stacy took the lead on writing weekly hitch reports, ERPs and JHAs for conservation projects. As the end of the week got closer Stacy took time out for WFR training while Josh and Annie spent a couple more days completed surveys. Annie spent her last surveying week at Belton and still-house Hollow Lake, while Josh interviewed visitors at Waco and Belton Lake for the last time.
05/10 conservation Day
The last conservation day of the spring season was spent learning about food conservation. Annie taught a lesson on food conservation and its importance to SCA. The members learned about preparing food and food hygiene. They received handouts and worksheets to help along with the lesson. After explaining and discussing the lesson on food conservation each member participated in a cooking activity, they made sweet potato pies using a family recipe that Annie provided. The pies were really tasty and the team did a great job.
Lastly, the trash pickup results are in and we have a winner! Congratulations to Leah of ACE VUS Atlanta! Leah cleaned up 19 pounds of trash and 32 pounds of recycling from her survey sites, winning the cleanup competition. Michael and Clayton of Atlanta also put up impressive numbers, helping Atlanta also take the team competition beating out Nashville and Waco. Thank you to all team members for participating and helping the spring 2013 ACE VUS keep up over 100 pounds of trash out of Army Corps lakes! Way to go Leah, Michael, and Clayton for being the trashiest team around!
The spring season has taught us a lot about leadership.Through the leadership opportunities and conservation projects, we were enabled to develop in our comfort in leading each other. We as individuals hope to learn and grow more as we take on new leadership roles this summer. Stacy will be continuing her season here in Waco, Texas. She will have all new team members to explore Texas with. Josh will be heading back to Tulsa, Oklahoma with his Team of newbies, and Annie will be leading a National Crew in California at Yosemite National Park.
UPDATE: Josh's trash finally got picked up! Josh spent a day picking up some larger items at one of his sites (with the help of one Mr. Alex Olsen), including a couch, a love seat, box springs for a bed, 12 tires, mysteriously empty suitcases, fencing, boat parts, a fertilizer, and bags full of bottles, cans, and other roadside trash. Josh's totals did not count at the time of the initial announcement because the trash, although reported, was too much to remove alone and had not yet been picked up by park staff. Due to not wanting to take away Leah's hard earned title, or leave Josh's hard work unrecognized, these two may need to settle who the trashiest person is once and for all at summer training!