Follow Me: SCA member blogs from the field

Follow Me is the place to read field dispatches from SCA members serving the planet all over the USA.

When I was younger, I heard about communes and communal living; I was told they were strange and absurd. In college, a friend of mine spent a weekend with a community that shared religious, spiritual, and communal beliefs. He came back in awe of the generosity and kindness he felt, but also uneasy about the distance and isolation, which this community kept themselves in.

Getting up in morning isn’t easy. After a day of traveling and 10 days spent in the woods near Mt. SI Washington, I was ready to come back to my new home in Chesterton, IN. Training in Washington was very draining but worth every second! The scenery was beautiful, nestled in the Pacific North Western Mountains.

For all my talking about Joshua Tree National Park, I never mentioned what a Joshua tree was or even looked like.

Above is a Joshua tree. There you go! There are also many farther away in the picture. Now moving on…

Working with a group of people in the desert is an experience hard to ever accurately illustrate in words.

In an area right by where we were pulling Sahara Mustard earlier, we worked with rangers to help conduct a survey on the desert tortoise population.

After working in depth with the environment and wildlife, Thursday was dedicated to experiencing the more touristy side of Joshua Tree National Park, either through rock climbing or a tour of the historical Keys Ranch.

At first it was simple. As we marched from the road through the desert, there was a small Sahara Mustard here, a small one over there, but really not many. With about one invasive plant per ten SCA volunteers, it wasn’t really much of a job. I was just letting my guard down, only to navigate around a creosote bush and BAM.

A pressing point which I missed in my last post is the concept of “dry water”. I have been to many different laboratories, but never have I seen a substance as strange and fascinating as dry water.

Our first day on site at Joshua Tree National Park opened with sun and clear skies, a pleasant surprise after a night of wind and torrential rain In the desert.

Last week wrapped up Alternative Spring Break in the Everglades. Be sure to check out Teresa’s blogs and follow her adventures with wildlife and restoration projects.

Our last day at the Everglades. Even though it seems like we’ve been here for a long time, I didn’t think too much about leaving throughout the week and now it seems to be coming up very suddenly!

We spent our rec day touring the park, going to all of the neat places we’d passed without visiting on our way to work.

For our last day of work we headed out to the Hole-in-the-Donut, a former agricultural area where invasive plants like Brazilian pepper have overtaken the native habitat. Our worksite was a large artificially formed mound that would barely count as a hill in the north, but which towered over the flat Everglades like a small mountain.

We left our camp this morning before the sun rose because we had a two hour drive to our worksite of the day, Lake Chekika. After meeting the other park volunteers who would be working with us, we stopped at a pond to see a pair of large alligators and several generations of their babies basking on rocks.

We spent our second day here in the Everglades cleaning the Long Pine Key campground. It’s on one of the Florida Keys – but it’s not an island at this time of year.

Our “before” picture on the social trail

Having been on two SCA trail crews, I usually associate SCA with trail construction (I spent the past two summers on high school crews building trails at Delaware Water Gap in Pennsylvania and Denali Alaska.) But today, my first full day with SCA’s alternate spring break crew in Everglades National Park, I did the opposite - I made a trail disappear.

If anyone had told me a year ago that I would spend spring break 2012 planting seedlings on a burned out hillside, yanking weeds from a sandy desert basin, or counting turtles in Southern California, I would probably have been skeptical; but, as things have turned out, this has been a great week.

In keeping with the application of much of our free time around camp, I’ll lead off today’s post with a trivia question: what weighs five pounds, looks like a pair of pie plates, and likes to hide next to Yuccas, under bushes, and in holes? Answer: the desert tortoise.

Our Joshua TreeHuggers were hard at work last week as they battled invasive Sahara Mustard and tracked desert tortoises.

Photographer Michelle Zafico caught up with our Joshua Tree crew last week. Check out the full set on SCA’s Flickr page and enjoy the highlights in this slideshow:

We are halfway through March, and two awesome crews have enjoyed the Alternative Spring Break projects in Everglades National Park and Joshua Tree National Park.

Have you ever pulled weeds in a flower or vegetable garden? If so, I’m sure you’re familiar with the aching feeling that develops in the small of your back and hands after a few hours labor. Now, picture a garden two miles square with weeds as big as a St. Bernard. Just such a land lies on Joshua Tree National Park’s eastern border.

Since all work and no play makes Alternative Spring Break the dull boy, today our crew spent the day enjoying all that Joshua Tree National Park offers its 1.7 million annual guests. After splitting into two groups, half of our team went rock climbing, and half went on a tour of Key’s Ranch.

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