Hitch 5: Oreocopias!
Our ﬁfth hitch started like any other, with last minute packing and a dirty food processor full of peanut butter. When our two truck caravan departed home base, we headed to the Orocopia Wilderness between Palm Springs and Blythe, adjacent to Interstate 10 and the freedom-centric Chocolate Mountains Aerial Gunnery Range. After settling into our new tents and adjusting to the horrors of living without a roof over our heads for the ﬁrst time in over two months, we were visited by the local welcome committee, a happy fox that visited one of our crew members while she slept, and occasionally other members of the crew, while the sonorous sounds of laser guided bombs and night helicopter sorties helped us drift into slumber.
The days ahead were arduous, not least of all because it was raining! In the desert! Amidst pitter-patters of rain and clouds that made threats at us, we took turns with pick mattocks making big pieces of concrete into small pieces of concrete, and then walking a half mile to our trucks with said small pieces of concrete. We tried to remove an old water-for-wildlife guzzler at Gucci Springs, placed well before the area was bought out by Prada and subsequently designated as wilderness, but the iron was too heavy for our muscles so used to pounding posts, but not yet adapted to dragging stuff. Fortunately, the next morning we got in our CrossFit exercise for the week, cleaning up a tire dump and removing over 120 tires from within the wilderness, evicting a pack rat in the process.
The rest of our days were ﬁlled with cold, wet, hot, windy, sunny adventures as we ranged all around the Chuckwalla and Orocopia Wildernesses. Whether clear cutting an entire canyon’s worth of Tamarisk and then spraying herbicide over the stumpy remains (it’s the only way to be sure), planting dead sticks in the ground to make them look like live sticks, or clearing over 300 pounds of shot-up garbage from box canyons, every day was a test in careful navigation, technical driving, and patriotism.
All good things must come to an end, and as we headed back home with our ﬂags waving and chests swelling with pride at all things American, we regaled each other with personal interpretations of the best holiday songs that the ﬁrst amendment had to offer, and opened our wonderful secret Green Man gifts sent from the crews way out on the lonely frontier….And there was much rejoicing!