Hitch 3: We’re not in Kansas anymore

In our minds, hitch started a day early when one of our teammates, the notorious Josh Jones, and four other Desert Restoration Crew members were decidedly lost somewhere in Death Valley National Park. Their trip had started out more or less normal until…they got lost. After being helicoptered out of their secret hiding spot on a mountain side, they started their drive home to Ridgecrest. We greeted Josh with encouraging signs (as much as our humor would allow), a candy bar, and a confusing mess of hugs. We could now start hitch!

Our first couple days were pretty typical for us Jawboners: collecting extreme amounts of vegetation, pick mattocking, and rockbarring the goodness gracious heck out of the first really compacted soil we’ve encountered. Basically, we turned out incursions left and right like no one’s business.

Tae Bo and general karate-esque moves were incorporated into our morning stretch routines and continued at random times throughout work or evening time. I might say we generally spent our evenings nestled around a fire with hot cocoa telling lyrical tales of yore, but that would be a lie. Realistically, we sat in a tent for a few hours at night, two people cooking us delicious dinners while the others tried to stay awake for as long as they could. People usually started to retire to their tents around 6:30 while the truly strong of head and heart made it to at least 9 o’clock.

On day six of hitch we had the opportunity to go to the Friends of Jawbone (more commonly referred to as FOJ) meeting. This meeting is a place where all those who work and have interest in the Jawbone area come to discuss the status of the area, any events and changes and the overall well being of the Jawbone area. People represent all different types of offices and activities in this meeting. These people include those from the BLM, the Desert Tortoise Natural Area, the Pacific Crest Trail, mining camps, governmental offices, police stations and general restoration laborers such as ourselves, among others. We heard about topics ranging from potential solar panels being installed in the area, updates on the Pacific Crest Trail, grant issues and upcoming events like Thanksgiving weekend (when a whole slew of people come out on their motor bikes and quads to recreate in the area). We then chowed down on some delicious Thanksgiving dinner-style lunch and had a hard time getting back to work as our stomachs were trying to digest the delectable meal. Needless to say, it was a good day.

Day 7 found us in eager anticipation as we knew that Steve, our BLM contact was coming to join us for the day and teach us about desert plant identification. Steve did not disappoint. Not only did he bring us muffins, but he taught us many very interesting things about the plants in our area of work. Karina was particularly interested in the medicinal uses of these plants and was sure to ask about those every time. Some interesting facts we learned include: the oldest living creosote (ring) is 12,000 years old! Also, ephedra contains a stimulant similar to caffeine, which, as Nico can tell you, seems to be addictive…

No hitch is ever complete without its day or two of extreme weather. On day 8 we returned back to our campsite after a windy day at work to discover Josh and Nico’s tent had been ripped apart. We geared up for an even windier night while Josh challenged the wind and Mother Nature over and over again “Is that all you’ve got?! Come on! Bring it on!” At about 1 o’clock in the morning the wind started to die down and all was well again in the world.

All in all, we managed to complete 6 incursions (1846 meters squared restored) and disguised the beginning of another incursion that was likely to do some damage to the other ones we worked on this hitch in light of the mass of riders that will inevitably ride the roads (and off the roads, unfortunately) of Jawbone this coming Thanksgiving weekend. A job well done, Jawbone. A job well done.

-Sam