Hitch 7: Big Maria Mountains

WildCorps is back home from an unusual hitch that featured old friends, much vehicle excitement, and the completion of some ambitious work projects. As the oldest and most mature crew of the Desert Restoration Corps, it was our responsibility and pleasure to host the annual mid-season All Corps, a coming-together of all the DRC crews for four days of work and play.

Day 1 was spent setting up camp as our Ridgecrest-based buddies started the long trek southeast. On Day 2, we welcomed familiar faces with some unfamiliar facial hair. To orient our guests to the area, we showed crew members the Blythe Intaglios (mysterious figures carved into the desert pavement) and enjoyed a mini beach vacation at the Colorado River. On Day 3, it was time to get working at the sand dunes on the north side of the Big Marias. First, however, we had to get there. Driving uphill across the dune was no easy task and the sand claimed a few of our vehicles. Add in a tire blowout and we had ourselves quite the chaotic morning. With our fearless leader Natalie managing the vehicle situations, the WildCorps crew stepped up to introduce the work projects and direct everyone on their tasks. Thanks to the can-do spirit of all parties involved, we had ourselves a productive morning of raking, restoration, and fence preparation amidst all the vehicle drama. Notwithstanding a couple more stuck vehicles, we were able to settle into more of a groove the next couple days. We extended a wood post and cable fence to mark the wilderness boundary, restored some major incursions, and filled one giant incursion with bags upon bags of dark rocks. By the third day of work, we had enlisted all the crews, administrators, and special guests on that latter project, creating one epic fire line shuttling rocks from an out-of-sight quarry to the hill of the incursion. It was quite satisfying to end our final work day together atop the dune marveling at how well the former incursion now blended into the rocky slope.

The evenings of All Corps were marked by giant potluck dinners and plenty of lively conversation. On the penultimate night, we blasted pop classics and 90’s nostalgia from one of our trucks and showed off our best and worst moves on the gravelly dance floor. God bless mother nature: she’s a single woman too.

We bid our farewells on Day 6 and WildCorps returned to its normal routine of random work projects, sophisticated humor, and eight o’clock bedtimes. After tying up a few loose ends from the massive All Corps project, we spent the last couple days monitoring the wilderness boundary. Before returning home, we enjoyed an informative environmental education piece from Gannon on search and rescue operations in which we talked through a scenario I hope to never find myself in. Next hitch: onto Needles to acquaint ourselves with yet another section of the California desert.