This week started off with the team getting their personality reports from Phoenix College. These reports also matched each member with several jobs that would be suitable for their personality types. Several on the crew took turns being leader for the day and implementing their leadership styles. The Wolf Pack built 300 feet of trail at the Audubon Center leading over to Rio Salado. Wildlife was abundant even in town. Some sightings included lizards, quail, scorpions, rabbits, roadrunner, egrets and many more. We thought the trail would be easy to do only 300 ft over 4 days but we were wrong. The area was once a landfill for the city of Phoenix so as we cut into the hillside to make our trail we found ourselves removing tires, concrete, re-bar, and other trash. This proved more difficult than actually building the trail.
The new song that arose from this week of town trail building: "Creosote After The Rain
Till next time...Wolf Pack out!
This hitch started out with the Grass Valley, Kiavah and Jawbone crews meeting in one of the local parks in Ridgecrest. From there we caravanned to the location were All-Corps was being held in the Ibex Wilderness Area. We made a few stops along the way to see what kind of cool things there are to find. Once at the Ibex wilderness, each crew set up their camp and sleeping areas. It was a small community made up of White Walls, Green Monsters and tents.
The next day was a very relaxed, corps members were able to socialize with one another, while waiting for Wild Corps to arrive. We were able to spend the day checking out, hiking up and down, playing in the sand over at Dumont Dunes. After we had our fun and fill at the Dunes, the group was able to get refreshed at the Tecopa Hot Springs where we were able to enjoy some hot water and got to mingle with one another.
Once we started to get into the work rhythm, All-Corps was held over at the China Ranch Date Farm outside of Tecopa, California. This was led by members of Wild-Corps as well as BLM officials and the owner of China Ranch; Tim, Rose, David and Brian. Most of the work at China Ranch consisted of trail building and trail maintenance. These were fun filled days, where we did all of our work filled with joy. We had the opportunity to blaze and build new trails through Mesquite forests, widen trails by trimming the shrubs back, clearing trails of dirt and rocks due to the force of erosion, as well as build bridges over creeks, creating staircases along the sides of rocky hills, creating rock retaining walls, as well as marking the trails by lining them with rocks. It was good hard work; at the end of the day we were all able to relax at camp, socialize with friends, play games and eat a good variety of food since each night was a potluck with a different dinner theme.
Once All-Corps was over, Grass Valley, Kiavah and Wild-Corps packed up camp in the Ibex Wilderness and caravanned five miles down the street to the City of Shoshone. This was a real treat for us, since we spend a good amount of our time living in the wilderness without running water and no electricity. Camping in Shoshone, not only were we within walking distance of the conference center, but we also had flush toilets, showers, electricity, library, a store within walking distance, a swimming pool heated by a local hot spring and some good hiking areas that brought us to petroglyphs as well as other early man sites. So you can say, we got spoiled and pampered during our time in the City of Shoshone.
The Shoshone Conference was hosted by the Sierra Club, members from different Chapters and other environmental organizations, as well as BLM and NPS officials from California and Nevada. Members and officials came together to discuss environmental issues concerning the desert. There were many presentations followed by Q and A sessions, the members of Wild-Corps had the opportunity to give a presentation on the type of work that they do and all the members of DRC were present really enjoyed it.
Once the conference was over, Grass and Kiavah packed up camp and started heading back to Ridgecrest and took the opportunity to check out Death Valley since it was along the way. We checked out Badwater Basin (the lowest point on the continent), Artist Drive, Salt Creek Trail where we saw a few pupfish, desert wildflowers, saw some standing water along the valley floor and the Furnace Creek Visitor Center. We were able to spend the day seeing and enjoying the hottest, driest and the largest National Park in the Lower Forty Eight on a nice comfortable day. It was truly an amazing way to end a great hitch.
For mid-season Allcorps, all five crews camped together outside of the tiny town of Tecopa (population 10, according to the road sign). Jawbone caravanned with Kiavah and Grass Valley for the four hour journey to the campsite. On the way, we stopped for lunch at a desert wetland site where we took some time to stretch our legs and explore the seemingly oxymoronic landscape. That evening upon arriving at our campsite, a flat area surrounded by two ravines, the crews set up whitewalls, green monsters, and personal tents. One challenge of this flat area with little vegetation, where the line of site goes on for miles, was finding places to put the rocket boxes. A clever team of members was able to hide them down in the wash beside the road, a ten minute walk from the crowded camp. The system was so clever that some felt we needed a treasure map in order to locate the latrines.
The day after we arrived we went on a couple field trips. First we went to the Dumont Dunes, deposited on a dry lake bed between lines of mountains. The great white mounds seem out of place and surreal standing in contrast to the surrounding mountains. Here we climbed and rolled, burrowed and buried, sledded and Frisbee-ed. We emerged covered in sand and ready to rinse off at the Tecopa hot springs. The springs were luxuriously warm in comparison to the brisk air and there were only a few naked people at this spring. Some chose to go all out and cover their entire bodies with the muddy substrate from the bottom of the pool, and for those of us who attempted to avoid mud to face contact as much as possible were out of luck. Mud fights soon broke out, and no bystander was spared hits from the crossfire. In true dirtbag form, we kicked off the week of not showering by rolling in sand then bathing in the thick sulfurous mud of the springs.
On Monday we started work at the China Ranch Date Farm, a farm with hiking trails that lead onto BLM land. We scrambled crews, dividing into pods that rotated throughout the week so that everyone had an opportunity to work on a variety of different trail projects. The trail projects included building foot bridges over a submerged, mucky trail; building rock erosion-control walls on hillsides; building rock staircases in hillsides; and everyone’s favorite project, the mesquite “tunnel of love”. The mesquite tunnel involved forging a new trail through a solid tangled web of thorny mesquite tree branches. Two groups worked on either end of the trail clearing the thorny webs of strong wood, trying to link up the two sides of the trail and meet in the middle. Each day, the pods who’d been battling with the mesquite were known by the fresh scratches riddling their forearms and faces. For those on the front line swamping behind the chainsaws, the scratches were worse and the level of exhaustion higher. But at the end of the day, they were hailed as brave heroes. The trail work for the week was a new brand of work for many of us- more physical than we’re used to, but very satisfying in that there’s a very visible product at the end of the long day.
Life at camp during Allcorps was a lively change for the Jawbone crew. This was the first time the entire Corps was back together since Septoberfest, and four months into the program the group feels small and the atmosphere familiar, in contrast to the whirlwind of new faces from the first days of training. Members spent evenings after work playing hacky-sack, making music, exercising, playing cribbage, and reading. The themed dinners planned by Wildcorps were potluck style, with members travelling from tent to tent to sample the creations from all five crews. Some were able to master the art of hitting all five tents- a careful balance of eating while travelling and collecting the most popular meals before they were ravaged. Some found the ordeal entirely too stressful and stuck to visiting just a couple tents each night. One theme night for dinner was a chili cook-off between four crews with Wildcorps members judging. Chef Matt and sou chef Cee brought home the gold for Jawbone, a free stay at the Yucca Valley crew house resort as long as we do Scott’s laundry, with their expert culinary skills.
We left the Allcorps site on the morning of the 15th and drove back to Ridgecrest with the Rands crew. On the return journey, we took the scenic route through Death Valley National Park. Driving through the vast, breathtaking landscape was a great way to conclude the Allcorps experience. We were able to drive by some famous sites, such as the lowest elevation point in the country, Telescope Peak, and the mesquite sand dunes.
For the last couple days of our hitch, we underwent the stark transition from boulder heaving and tree limb-dragging to outreach with the BLM. President’s weekend is a very popular time for families to camp and enjoy a couple days of riding, so it is a prime time for outreach. We teamed up with the Rands crew and BLM officers at stations in the Jawbone and Rands recreation areas handing out maps of the area and signing OHV permits. It was a good way to rest our aching muscles after a week of hard trail work.
For All-Corps, every crew banded together east of Death Valley, in the wonderful area of Shoshone. We were right next to Tecopa, home of hot springs and a date farm. The day after pre-hitch, we struck out through the desert towards our destination, going south through Barstow and then back up to Tecopa.
Day One consisted of visiting the nearby Dumont sand dunes and a wonderful little hot springs. We walked all over the dunes, and tried (unsuccessfully) to slide down them on cooler lids. After we got all sandy, it was time to sink down and relax at the hot springs. We talked with some of the locals (very nice people), and had a mini-mud fight. Getting out of the water wasn’t fun, though.
On Day Two, we trekked over to the China Ranch Date Farm where we would be working for the next five days. We got a brief introduction, and then got down to business. We were divided into groups of six people, mostly from different crews, and we were all lead by a WildCorps personnel and a member of the Barstow BLM. There were a few different things that each individual crew was doing. We hiked around the perimeter of the date farm clearing the trail up, did trail work along the Amargosa from the north end of Slot Canyon down to the date farm, cleaned up a small trail along the front side of the date farm, and cut back mesquite to make a new trail. It was hard going, but we were rewarded with date shakes at the end of the five days we spent there (go try their date shakes, they’re delicious).
Then, it was time for Jawbone and Rands to go home. Kiavah, Grass Valley, and WildCorps stayed for the Shoshone conference, a group of wilderness activists, members of the BLM, and national park workers. It was a very informative two days, full of different concerns and cheers. For instance, I never knew that wind farms were so problematic!
We got to camp out on a lawn not far from the conference center (grass, sweet grass beneath my feet). They had a library and a hot water pool! It was very fun hanging out with Grass Valley and WildCorps for two extra days, and all too soon, it was time to go home.
Kiavah and Grass Valley drove through the Death Valley National Park, and stopped at Badwater Basin (lowest place in the United States, wow!), the visitor’s center (they had a nice film about Death Valley and its history), Salt Water interpretive trail, and the Artist’s Palette. We even visited a ghost town! Not quite what we thought it would be, but very cool nonetheless.
Finally, we arrived back at home for post-hitch. Everyone’s worn out from a long hitch, but we all had a ton of fun! I can’t wait for next hitch.
Hitch Six brought the Rands crew to a milestone in the DRC season, reaching the midpoint of our time in the Mojave as well as the last hitch in cooperation with the Transitional Habitat Conservancy(THC) . A move to a new campsite North of Freemont Peak provided breathtaking sunrises which a few hours later melted away the chilling January mornings.
After only two days of restoration the work plan was completed, leaving the crew to revisit all of the polygons to monitor the sites for restoration effectiveness. Equipped with our rugged Dodge Ram 2500’s the Rands crew set out to visit the 16 THC polygon land parcels where restoration had closed incursions as part of a multi-crew effort in conjunction with the Jawbone crew. In the process the crew had the opportunity to visit a number of areas where only Jawbone had completed work, invigorating the spirit of adventure or as the crew would say, “ ‘sploring”.
Rands found ways to make the days of long, jostling, and sometimes hair-raising commutes to the incursion sites enjoyable. We even discovered some curious desert souvenirs along the way.
73 Effectiveness Monitoring points later and the Rands crew completed the monitoring component of hitch and work in the THC was in the books. Evaluating restoration provided insights into how the work fared over time and ultimately validated the months of hard work. The analysis required the crew to take a step back from the paradigm of restoration and see the sites as components of a greater area and envision OHV traffic from a different perspective. While the work in the THC took the Rands crew away from its home in the Rands Mountains Management Area , it provided new challenges and strengthened the work skills in different terrain and vegetation.
As the crew packed up camp and made its final trip to California 395 on Fremont-Peak road the story of the Rands 2012-2013 was half written, with great anticipation to return “home” to the Rands area and the opportunity to work with the other crews at the All-Corps hitches.
-By Noah Creany