Hitch 3: Straw bales, Kate & Nate, Sand Canyon (Bob)!

Hitch three began in, well, an interesting fashion. Two of our crew members lost in death valley, the rest of us tried to stick to a normal schedule while waiting anxiously for information about them. Finally around dinner time, they arrived back at the house after a helicopter evacuation, safe and sound, with minimal scratching. We headed out the next day bright and early to set up camp back in Sand Canyon and get to work. Our first project was a beastly one, but we put on our game faces and began to think up creative ways of lugging 50 heavy straw bales up a very steep, 700 meter hill climb. For most of us, hay hooks were extremely awkward to use, although Luke took to using them like he was Captain Hook’s long lost brother. We finally decided that we had better cut the bales in half, to make them easier to carry for those of us who lack superhuman strength. Using webbing, we rigged up a system for making handles so that we could heave the bales on our backs, with straps hanging over our shoulders to hold onto. Many of the people driving by on the road stopped and with much confusion, asked us why on earth we were carrying them up that hill. We asked ourselves the same question. Once we got the bales all lined up on the hill, our next step was to dig trenches to bury them halfway into the ground so that they could help prevent erosion by dispersing water when it runs down the hill (oh right, that’s why we did it.) After that, it was time to do restoration in between the bales. Spending days on this incursion, it was very rewarding to finish it off, and leave the straw bales behind for now. On day 5, we had two volunteers from the Sierra Club, Kate and Nate, come stay with us for a couple nights to help on some projects. Oh, we were excited to have some fresh faces and fresh stories. They were a really wonderful couple, very eager to help and learn about our work, and share insights of their own. We spend the day with them finishing up an incursion in Short Canyon that we had started last hitch. It was sad to see them go, but they might come back sometime in the spring to stay with us again (fingers crossed!). Without our lively volunteers, and with a sharp increase in wind speed, the next two days were spent quietly working on a couple of incursions further back in Sand Canyon. We quickly learned how challenging it can be to stay on your feet when you are carrying a large pile of brush and a sudden gust of wind knocks into you. We also learned that sometimes in order to stay sane, it is necessary to spend your morning break inside the truck, the only place in camp that is windproof. On our last day in the field, we were supposed to be spending time helping Sand Canyon Bob (a really charming fellow) take apart the dam in the swimming hole to let it drain and then collecting the trash from the bottom. Alas, some unexpected events came up, and Bob was not able to stay for more than an hour. So, we collected some trash from around the campsite instead, and made him promise to come back in the spring. After he left, we finished up some loose ends on the straw bale incursion, and called it quits. After dinner, we retired for the night at around 7PM (we are going to bed earlier and earlier, and now can hardly stay up till 7:30), and woke up at 5am to pack up our camp and escape back to Ridgecrest, away from the mouse turds, wind, and cold that are constant fixtures in our life in the Owens Peak Wilderness. Until next time…

-Miriam

P.S. As ToCo, Miriam read us creation stories about the moon on some evenings and presented us with interesting facts about that big bright thing.
 -Dawn