If you are reading this, than the December 21st wasn’t the end of the world. It wasn’t the end of the world, but an alteration of thinking. Our way of thinking changed to making us more sensitive to incursion restoring.
Hitch 4 started off joining the other crews; Jawbone and Kiavah suited up in Tyvex body suits to enter a cabin clean up event with the BLM staff. We all got prepared with the proper PPE to dive into this burnt down cabin. Dressed in a blue hazmat suit, hard hat, safety glasses, and of course blue latex gloves to match our outfit. We were able to fill a huge dumpster full of burned railroad ties, sheets of metal, and a ton of soot. The soot we wore very well if I might add. Zoe had a very distinctive mustache going on. We worked on cleaning up 3 cabins; Edith E and Mingusville are the names I remember. These cabins were fit for a king hauling 3 full couches, a love seat, and a rat poop infested mattress out to the dumpster. On the upside Kiavah was able to find an extra green monster to patch up their own green monster. We finished the day cooking and putting our creativity to the test.
Our first night in the desert in a while KNIFE (Matt Duarte) joined us for a few days. So in our crew tends to be jinxed. That night we were talking about how likely a flash flood was and how often it rains. Hmm… Next thing we know were all heading to bed and its sleeting. Rain in the desert is seriously unheard of. We all thought it would stop in 2 hours or so, but NO we were all proved wrong it stopped at 3am. Most of us ended up waking up in a puddle wet and cold then on top of that worked the whole next day in the extreme weather. Jeff and Zoe decided to hang their sleeping bags from the ceiling of the green monster to dry out for the day. KNIFE, Teddy, and Zoe even competed in a decompaction of soil challenge of one of our incursions. We all succeeded and finished 40 foot stretch by 4 pm. We ended up restoring far more land than we had thought before. This entailed a few more bollard signs and lining the 400m surrounding the campsite with rocks and at least 50 vertical mulch bushes. On a vertical mulch run Lizzie stumbled upon what we think was a Mojave green snake, which was one of the highlights of our hitch.
After a few days of camping in the desert we were brainstorming ideas to keep warm. We came up with ‘if only we had those blue Tyvex hazmat suits to sleep in.’ Also, Cat came back to the field from her Mexico trip and to our surprise she bought us doughnuts!!!!!!
So on Dec 17th we finally finished the 2 campsites that were on the priority list in Golden Valley. Cat, Erica, and Teddy went into town for Admin day. So we were left with the FAB FOUR! The Fab Four (Lizzie, Zoe, Matt, and Jeff) happily finished the rock lining of the designated route and sweeping out OHV tracks. Rock lining was very relaxing because we thought of kindergarten playing with blocks. Hey, it got us through the long work day of moving mountains…it worked.
Zoe had her Environmental Education (EE) Presentation on Renewable Energy, and she arranged for a field trip to Terra-Gen, which was the Wind Facility right near Mojave, CA. The group was able to see up close these massive turbines that create energy to be used as electricity. Todd Dobbins, the Terra Gen site supervisor gave us the grand tour of their facility along with a brief power point presentation on various projects they have going on. Terra Gen has about 5,000 turbines on their property. Just picture it, WIND Turbines for miles. Although, during Zoe’s EE there was some debate about why Wind Turbines are such a controversial issue, we all enjoyed discussing the pros and cons. It was exciting to listen to everyone’s thoughts about such environmental subject we knew very little about.
We spent our last nights in the desert, which were some of the coldest nights we have had yet. Jeff looked up the forecast which was in the high teens/ low twenties. Burrrr… Seriously, the Desert gets COLD???? We all had some difficulties staying warm this hitch. We all have Zero degree sleeping bags now and wool socks, but we still can’t keep our toes warm. We wake up with toe-cicles! There has got to be a science to layering properly and keeping warm at night in the desert. If anyone has any suggestions they would be appreciated!!! By this point some of us started doing laps around the green monster to warm up then head to bed warm. We tried almost everything to stay warm. The January hitch we can brainstorm more ideas and hopefully overcome this dilemma.
T’was our last day of work in the desert; everyone is happily working together to get our last incursion completed and monitoring the southern boundary fence line. We had our favorite falafel for dinner and finished our chores. We sat around the lantern telling stories, while Lizzie and I had a read 100 page challenge… WHICH DIDN’T HAPPEN! December 21st, the day the Mayan calendar ends. We’re all alive. We wake up pack up camp and were all ready to go. There has been a change, a change of thinking, formally known as Grass Valley Crew, woke up and “WE ARE GOLDEN.”
Sadly, on December 21st 2012 Vin Diesel didn’t make it through the night. Our truck had the same security light on as last time we got stranded in the field. Golden Valley-2, VIN Diesel-0. Cat stayed in the field for 5 hours waiting for a tow truck to tow Vin Diesel out. Vin Diesel and our entire crews working gloves didn’t make it past the December 21st.
Highlights of Hitch 4:
• We dug our last hole for vertical mulch and bollards.
• We planted our last vertical mulch of 2012.
• We went on our last vertical mulch run of 2012.
• We have placed our last rock lining the road for 2012.
• We survived December 21st 2012
We are all looking forward to start fencing hopefully in January with NEW WORKING GLOVES!
“WE ARE GOLDEN!”
Greetings from the Kiavah Krew!
Our 4th hitch was just as ducky as the last, filled with snow, cookies, holiday cheer, and a few unexpected surprises to boot...
We started out our first day of hitch doing a multi-corp project alongside the Jawbone and Grass Valley crews. We were told it would be a "cabin clean-up", but our sneaky, albeit cheerful archaeologist- Ashley, pulled one over on us. After a short presentation on the historic significance of the site, we spent the remainder of the day day cleaning up the debris of the cabin that had actually burned down in March. Regardless, it was a fun day to collaborate with the Ridgecrest BLM office in the El Paso Mountain Wilderness.
After the cabin clean-up, we headed back to our favorite Mojave Wilderness- Kiavah! Loaded with everyone's favorite holiday cookies, (we used 8 sticks of butter in pre-hitch cooking) we spent the majority of the hitch restoring OHV incursions in Horse Canyon.
The main dirt road that connects highway 395 to the Kiavah Wilderness is known fondly to us as LA 2, and is also the main route of the L.A. aqueduct. Throughout the hitch we capitalized on Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power's graded road debris. The plants sacrificed in the name of smooth driving were collected to use as vertical mulch for our restoration sites!
On Monday the 17th during a particularly jovial run to the LA 2, Aurora, Sam, and Max felt sudden turbulence on the starboard side of our Heavy Duty Dodge Ram 2500. We immediately skidded to a halt to investigate, only to find a brand new Leatherman open and askew a few feet behind. The Leatherman punctured a rather large hole in our custom desert tires. Surprisingly, the accident left the Leatherman intact and unharmed, but our tire as flat as the four grain flapjacks we ate for breakfast that morning. We fixed the tire in a jiffy and continued with a great day of conservation.
That evening, the Jawbone crew came to visit for dinner and we shared our wares; enjoying some homemade s'mores and gourmet popcorn thanks to an awesome package from Sam's parents!
The next day, Tuesday the 18th brought an even more exciting surprise for many of us who miss that east coast weather. It was particularly exhilarating for Wisconsin Molly who loves weather phenomena more than all of us combined.
It snows in the desert, who knew? After a stormy day, with menacing clouds blowing over the Eastern Sierras, the sky opened up and large white flakes began to fall! It is truly something to see the desert landscape, Joshua trees and all, blanketed in that white fluffy stuff. :)
We ended our hitch with ATV training from Ranger Jason Woods. I think everyone on the Kiavah crew got some insight into the psyche of why people ride OHV's so much in the desert- BECAUSE IT IS SO MUCH FUN! Ranger Jason spent all day teaching us safe quad riding. Now if only they were more responsible about staying on designated routes.
As the holidays and our winter break are fast approaching, Kiavah crew is currently busy in the kitchen cooking up a thunderstorm. Tonight we are heading to our BLM contact Marty's house for a holiday party and a white elephant with the Grass Valley crew! Will is "taste testing" the cookies, Molly is roasting fennel, Mal is wrapping white elephant presents, Max is putting the license plate on the trailer, Sam is making squash soup, Charlie is cleaning the kitchen, and I am writing the blog!
We are anxiously preparing to return home to our families for the holidays and the new year, but not before celebrating and saying goodbye to the desert.
See you soon and happy holidays!
Greeting from the Spanish Flats Mobile Villa. After hearing that SCA found a trailer for us to live in for the next six months I envisioned shag carpeting, wood paneled walls, and six of us squeezed into an area the size of a sardine can. However the past month has proven that life in the Villa is quite comfortable. We are living the high life in a double wide with everything an SCA crew could ever want; a refrigerator, stove, showers, and even a washer and dryer. All that is missing is the pink lawn flamingos.
Our agency partner, the Bureau of Reclamation, is having us construct trails in heavily used areas surrounding Lake Berryessa. Our first project has been building new trail at the Smittle Creek Day Use Area with the intent to open the area up to all users. Once completed, our trail will tie into the Smittle creek trail which currently connects the Smittle Creek and Oak Shores Day Use Area. On rainy days we are tasked with completing other projects that the Bureau needs addressed due to concerns of water contamination from the soil that is moved when we are building the trail. These concerns have entailed removing trash from the lake shore, checking erosion control structures and repairing fencing all in an effort to help protect the lake and its shoreline.
Outside of our time spent on the trail, we are working as a crew to become more environmentally conscious and active members in the community. One way we are working at becoming more environmentally conscious is by purchasing a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) share. Every other week we drive into town to pick up our share; which so far has provided us with a bounty of fresh, organic produce ranging from Oranges to Romanesco. In addition to joining the CSA we participated in an olive picking which resulted in a 55 gallon yield of olive oil.
Two and a half months… Really? Has it really been that long since we packed our bags and converged in the middle of the Mojave Desert? It doesn’t seem like it, but I guess keeping busy in a stunning area makes the time fly by.
This hitch was unlike the previous ones, and will probably be drastically different from our future hitches as well. This hitch was packed with different trainings and different areas, so Cat decided that being based out of our house in Ridgecrest was the best course of action- and I’m sure you know that we had no objections.
So our adventure started off with two days in the Golden Valley Wilderness Area. We were working on the Northern boundary monitoring a few spots on the fence line as well as restoring a few incursions. A neighbor of Cat's,Sara, came out to volunteer with us for a day to see if our line of work was something that she was interested in pursuing in the future. I think we may have convinced her just how awesome our gig was. Our crew had split into two groups that day to multitask a bit. When Matt, Jeff, Zoe and I went back to the western boundary to fix an incursion; Cat, Erica, Lizzie and Sara had an unplanned adventure.
The girls group had started the morning with some restoration, vertical and horizontal mulching, seeding pitting and broadcasting, (you know- the normal stuff) when the fun began. They pulled off to a nearby campsite midday to enjoy the leftover turkey sandwiches from Thanksgiving. They soon came to discover that no one had brought a knife to cut the bread, cheese, or cucumber, so the only tool they had to cut with was the wood saw... a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. As Cat is about to make her first cut, in her proper PPE after cleaning the saw with alcohol wipes a dirt biker approached them. He proceeded to explain that a member of his group’s dirt bike had broken down nearby from where our diesel truck (we named Vin Diesel) broke down last hitch, and asked if we could help them out. They jumped at the opportunity, but insisted in finishing their sandwiches first. The bikers didn’t have a knife either, so I am sure they admired the creativity. The girls quickly ate and followed the dirt bikers to the broken bike. They rearranged the tools in the truck to make room from the bike, and securely strapped it down. They then all piled in the very full truck and drove the dirt bike and the dirt biker himself to his campsite. Although they didn’t really get in a full work day in, the public outreach was priceless! Hopefully, they tell their fellow OHVers friends and community about the conservation corps that valiantly and fearlessly came to the rescue.
The following few days consisted of the Federal Government (The BLM) teaching us mature adults (immature children at best) how to properly and safely use chainsaws (TREE REAPERS OF DOOM) with the S-212 Chainsaw training course. It was a 3 days course where we coupled with the Rands Crew, with the first two days mainly entailing sitting in darkened room watching a power point about everything involving chainsaws. On the Third day we finally got to use the Chainsaws under close supervision of the experienced BLM Fire Fighters. Everyone, especially Zoe, learned how to easily start the cold chainsaw without flooding it, and we all had a blast felling and bucking the imitation trees. Alas, we couldn’t play- err I mean effectively operate chainsaws forever, so the next two days we unhappily drug ourselves back into the field for some more real work.
The first day back in the Wilderness, Matt, Lizzie, Jeff and I hiked the western boundary line all day looking for incursions heading into the park and recording them when we found them. It was one of the coldest days of our hitch, with a sustained wind of about 30 miles per hour and an overcast day, the lifeless grey clouds preventing us from absorbing whatever warmth the sun was sending. It made for a chilly day of hiking, following the fenceless boundary using our orienteering skills with our map and compass. Needless to say holding on to the map proved difficult, but at the end of our day we ended up near an amazing cave in the side of one of the mountains, where we huddled away from the wind and rested before we took the long drive home.
Unfortunately for us (fortunately for her), Cat left us half way through our hitch. Despite our pleas to take us with her for her planned vacation in Mexico, we were left to work without our PL for a few days. It was odd not having her with us, but we diligently finished up the tasks we had planned. Hope you’re having an AMAZING time in Mexico Cat!
This Hitch we cockily decided that we excelled at our work too much, so we decided to spend two days with the Rands crew in the Rand Mountain Area, schooling them in the ways of restoration as we assisted them in tackling a few of their bigger incursions. It was a wonderful change of pace to work alongside them in the field, and with 14 of us (Matt Duarte made an appearance); we nailed them out one by one. Our time spent with them was enjoyed by all of us and I hope we can work with other crews in the field in the future.
Our last activity of our hitch was ATV training with the BLM Law Enforcement Officers. It...Was... So AWEOSME! We spent the morning and the beginning of the afternoon going through the proper way to do every action on the quads. The beginning was tedious, doing the simple things like starting and stopping, basic turns, and weaving through different obstacles. Then it got interesting! We were learning how to hill climb, swerve and stop to avoid hitting objects (one of the BLM LEOs), as well learning how to turn sharply by breaking traction with the back wheels. Around two the training ended and one of our trainers took us out in two different groups for a joy ride through the surrounding desert. The first group (Matt, Lizzie and Jeff) left while the rest of us enjoyed a much needed lunch and talked to one of the rangers about his job patrolling the vast Mojave Desert. When they finally returned we quickly refueled the quads and hopped on to follow the ranger in this adventure. With Erica taking the second slot behind the ranger, and Zoe following her, I was left to take the back to watch for any accidents. The ranger leading us finally took off, and at a much faster pace than I would have thought. Cruising around at about 40 mph, I finally realized just how fun these ATV’s are. I found myself seeking out every possible bump and divot in the road. Constantly pushing my limits on the bike, I soon realized the euphoria that comes with riding on these trails, as well as the urge to go off the beaten path to climb a hill, hit a jump, or go over some obstacle. I even had the honor of watching Zoe “get some air” as she calls it, remembering her stray from the legal route into the desert scrub. There may or may not be one less creosote bush now, but I’ll never tell. Overall, I believe it was essential training to receive as desert restorators. It allowed us to see through the eyes of the OHVers and to better understand their mindset when looking for trails and paths to take. It will surely improve how we do our restoration.
Well its post hitch day now, it’s a fantastic 64 degrees outside, the sky is a striking blue with a touch of gray in the clouds, and the leaves are still falling off the trees. The trucks are clean, the water tank in our trailer is being fixed, and there is currently smoke coming out of the kitchen from Jeff and Zoe making one of their masterpieces. This hitch will surely go down as one of the best in our season.
I think we are all excited to get out of the house this break and have our own adventures in this wonderful state, but thanks for checking in on us! You’ll hear from us after our next hitch, but for now we’re going to finish up our tasks for the day. Farewell from Grass Valley Crew!
Teddy, Lizzie, Erica, Matt, Zoe, Jeff, and Cat.