The seventeen AmeriCorps volunteers from the SCA Massachusetts AmeriCorps program taught environmental education at the Martin Luther King Jr. Charter School of Excellence in Springfield, MA on Friday, January 25. SCA has had a four year collaboration with the Martin Luther King Charter School, beginning in 2009 when they helped to build a trail behind the new school building on Dorset Street.
For the environmental day event, eighteen classes of kindergarten through fifth grade students will have an opportunity to work with the AmeriCorps volunteers. Lessons followed the Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for each grade level, with an environmental focus. Members taught the students about their local habitat and how animals prepare for winter. The AmeriCorps volunteers hope to teach environmental education lessons that inspire curiosity and stewardship for the natural world.
Well, our ten day winter break has come and gone, and Grass is back in the desert. The beginning of hitch number five began with all of Grass Valley making it back to Ridgecrest, except our non-trusty Vin Diesel. On pre-hitch day Vin Diesel was still sitting pretty in the shop after the saga of it's apocalypse breakdown. Luckily mid day we got the call, nothing is wrong with Vin Diesel. (I suppose sometimes it's just a little finicky?). It would be back in action the next day. Which meant hitch five began without our hitch leader. She was given the duty of driving to Barstow once again to get our Vin Diesel and bring him out to us.
While Cat was waiting on Vin Diesel, the rest of us piled our six butts into Gassy and set out for the south side of Golden. I think the best way to describe us at that point was a mix of cheery and hesitant in leaving our cushy houses behind and once again going to sleep with the dirt beneath us and circa 1950s army surplus tents over us. Getting out to our campsite right at dusk was a nice uplift. As always the sunsets in the desert are amazing, always offering a slew of fiery colors which sprawl out behind the mountains. On our way out one of crew members checked the weather and said it was going to be a warm hitch with the lows in 30s. Since we got out late, most of us decided to go without a tent. Sleeping under the stars is probably what I will miss most after the DRC ends. Unfortunately, it may not have been the night to do it (we still haven't learned from the last hitch). Although we have been told many times by our BLM contact, Golden and Grass have their own micro climate. Since the elevation is lower than surrounding areas, the cold air sinks. Meaning, it was not a 30 degree night, it was a single digit night. The morning was interesting....a lot of jumping and dancing, with all of us ending up taking refuge in Gassy.
Fortunately, the middle of this hitch was cold, but not that cold. We got a few good restoration days in. Monitored some fence lines and previous restoration sites. And we did a lot of hiking. I think at this point we can all get around the Golden wilderness area better than we can Ridgecrest. We hiked the boundary and wash after wash; finding points where OHVs are entering the wilderness areas and trying to find where they were going. We also found some cool things. There was a trash pile containing the frame of a 1940s car, all riddled with bullets. We found four mines, three of which were holes heading straight down with no fence around them. And we found lots of PVC pipes. Lots and lots of them. The PVC pipes were used to mark mine claims some years ago. The problem is that they are open on the top, so if a bird goes down into them, it has some trouble getting back out, and usually doesn't make it. So we hiked around capping the pipes with rocks. As soon as we would finish one line of PVC pipes, usually 100 yards apart from each other, we would find another line of them. If we tried to hike a wash, there was always a line that we (mainly Teddy) would spot and our nice breezy hike would turn into a long over the mountains hike, placing rocks in these pipes. We got some good views of Golden thanks to those pipes. And hopefully saved some birds as well.
During this hitch, for our environmental education project, we had the opportunity to visit Soledad Farm. Soledad is a goat farm located in Mojave, Ca. Their main income is goat cheese, though they produce yogurt as well. As soon as we arrived we were greeted by the owners Julian and Carol. Carol had just helped a mother goat give birth to two kids. Seeing the kids 10 minutes after birth was a great experience as we watched them tumble and fall, and almost stand up so quickly after birth. We also met all of their dogs, many rescues from the desert. Aside from the animal affection we received from the dogs, goats & kids (over 500), cows, cat and a pig named Lucy; we were also shown the cheese making process. Julian showed us the steps he goes through to make the cheese, letting us sample at each step. Julian also finally ended our cheese famine by sending us off with a few different cheeses just for coming for a tour.
Hitch five was also the hitch of BLM visitors. The girls of Grass Valley met with Marty our contact, and Danny the archaeologist. We reflagged part of the fence line we will be building. Someone moved a previous survey stake years ago, throwing off where the township lines should exist. Meaning our fence line has shifted. We flagged and Danny scouted, making sure we won't be building the fence in an archaeological site. His scouting found a non-viable burrowing owl egg, which will soon be on display at Jawbone station. Part of our fence may be built in an inactive Navy gunnery range. Hiking that part we found old military targets and bullet slugs.
And finally during this hitch all of Grass Valley made it to Grass Valley!!!! Marty came out a second day with the acting wilderness director, Steve. She showed us all around Grass, the perimeter and the corridor. We saw sites we will be monitoring, restoring, and sites where we will be building our fence.
Keeping to the theme of us spreading out over many areas. We made it back to Rands this hitch. We got a nice treat when Carrie, one of the BLM biologists, came out with some tortoise information kiosks that needed installing. We happily installed the kiosks in Grass, Golden and Rands. We also saw the touristy mining town of Randsburg. Which is awesome. Mainly because of the flushing toilets and the hot lunch we had. We are very easy to please by day 10.
As hopefully the final update to Vin Diesel, he didn't make it through our hitch. Zoe won the bet of when he would break down (it only took a few days). A couple days into hitch Cat and Lizzie went scouting in Grass, and that ominous light came on. Which meant if they turned Vin Diesel off, he will not turn back on. They kept him on all day and then drove back to Ridgecrest. With our crew leader a little exhausted, Gassy got turned off without Cat having a ride home or Vin Diesel in the right place for towing. Luckily our neighbors Jawbone were having a house hitch. They helped give Vin Diesel a push and Cat a ride home. Once again Vin Diesel is in Barstow. What's wrong with that truck is too boring for the blog, but we're hoping that trip three to the shop is our lucky number and next time he'll be coming back for a full hitch.
Back from break and better than ever, Kiavah Crew jumped into the New Year and into a rather unusual hitch. Smack dab in the middle of our twelve day stint was nestled a three day Chainsaw Training Session put on by the BLM Firefighters at Salt Wells Fire Station. Realizing the inefficiency of setting up camp in the field for the first four days only to take it all down for the Chainsaw training and then doing it again for that last few days, Hitch 5 became Hitch Ridgecrest as the crew spent each night in town.
While sleeping in a warm house, 24 hour access to an actual oven, hot showers (note theme: warm things), and the disposal of the internet’s full entertainment value are certainly luxuries to relish, we refused to let these creature comforts make us soft. The crew took the opportunity to get good rest at night so as to perform quality work during the day, driving out to the Kiavah Wilderness and Owens Peak Wilderness while the sun shone. We continued our progression of restoration leading out of Horse Canyon, putting in hard barriers where needed to further protect the Wilderness spaces.
Of the work we did, not least of which was to completely update our Trimble GPS device with data of what we have accomplished so far. After having some setbacks with other devices earlier in the season it was great to have a fully functioning Trimble to get all our data in the right place. What this meant for us was that every day we would split into a Trimble Crew and a Restoration Crew, a one-two punch. After plugging in some steady days we’ve gotten everything recorded and put behind us (quite satisfying) and are now ready to keep chugging, Trimbling as we go.
Of course the hallmark of Hitch 5 was the Chainsaw training itself. Instructed by BLM Firefighter John Homer with added lessons from Chief Don Washington and firefighters Craig, Kenny, and Henry, Kiavah Crew joined Jawbone Crew for three days of class room and hands on training with the powersaws. We eased into what could be an intimidating enterprise with the Firefighters support and soon had a sound base for saw maintenance, saw safety, tree felling, limbing, and bucking, and H-brace/hard barrier construction. The lumberjack mythos has been kindled in our smoldering hearts!!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!
This was our first hitch of 2013 after coming back from a nice Christmas break. This hitch was slightly different from our other ones; we actually got to stay in our house eveHry night! You know what that means? Nice warm showers, a cozy kitchen to cook in that doesn’t require lighting the lantern, indoor plumbing, and the handy dandy internet that provides hours of entertainment and a way to keep in touch with our family and friends.
The incursions we had to restore were at Robbers Roost, an area where we went as a crew for our First Five way back in September. Here’s a quick summary of our typical “house hitch” workday: breakfast at 7:00, leave the house at 8:00, the commute to work takes about half an hour or so, we have snack at 10:30, lunch at 12:30, pack up and leave the work site by 3:10, dinner’s at 5:30, and then the rest of the day is ours to enjoy. If we were out in the field, most of us would probably be reading after work. Since we have the luxury of the house and the town, our list of things to do after work has increased. We could go to the local park to exercise, run around the entire block while the Ridgecrest dogs are viciously barking at you, go to the nearest burger place because you’re simply craving it, stay up late to play The Settlers of Catan with your crew, watch hours and hours of Netflix, spontaneously bake some brownies, Youtube something funny just because you can, Facetime and Skype your family, do a quick run to the store to buy some cookie dough ice cream, and even play the dice game called Farkle.
This was a house hitch because we had three days of chainsaw training with the BLM firefighters at Salt-Wells Station. The Kiavah crew was also there taking the classes with us, as always, we enjoy their company. The first day of training was mainly about chainsaw safety and learning different cuts, second day we finally got to start the chainsaw and learn about the maintenance that is involved and we all took turns sharpening the chains, the last day we all got to do a “pie cut” and “buckling” on wooden poles. By the end of that day, everyone received a certificate saying we have successfully completed “S-212 Wildfire Powersaws” training.
One of my favorite highlights from this hitch would probably be our unofficial hair salon in the backyard. We save a lot of money by cutting one another’s hair, though we’re not professionals, the results have turned out fairly well. If you want the whole “business in front, party in the back” mullet or merely just trimming your split ends, the Jawbone crew can do that for you.
Overall, this hitch was a nice change of pace. We are really grateful that we didn’t have to stay out in the field overnight because the temperature definitely dropped and it was quite frigid. I’ve learned to appreciate the simple things that the average person would take for granted, such as the fridge and washing machine. I hope that 2013 would bring great changes for all of us and yesterday (1/13) was officially our halfway mark through the DRC program. 4 more months together and we will be parting ways to begin our next adventures and go wherever life takes us.
Please find attached to this entry the final report for the entire SCA Army Corps Visitor Use Survey Program. Any questions about this program may be directed to Alex Olsen at email@example.com.