Project Leader: Shannon Y. Waldron Project Dates: August 8,2010-May 17,2011 Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org
We in the Golden Valley Wilderness crew have come to expect our life and work to be quite the mixed bag (pronounced beyg, like a true Wisconsonian). So what better way to wrap up our season than with another multi-faceted thrill ride through the arid regions we’ve grown to love?
We began Hitch #13: The Luckiest Hitch Ever without our leader Shannon who was out exploring the wild wild west by car, plane, and bike. With our beautiful fence completed, we had two days prior to the Allcorps finale to fill with meaningful endeavors. Day one was spent in the nearby Southern Sierras where we hiked a segment of the Pacific Crest Trail to discuss trail maintenance theory and techniques. EnviroEdFest continued that evening with a trip to the eastern shores of Lake Isabella where Maddie taught us the finer points of frogging accompanied by the sounds of storks, red-winged blackbirds, and copious mosquitoes.
The next day saw the return of Shannon, who had a severe case of jet leyg but was more than ready to join us on our next adventure. We decided to visit the Trona Pinnacles this day, being a National Natural Landmark right in our backyard (we could see them from various points in our wilderness area) that most of us had never seen up close. We set out in the midmorning hours with lots of anticipation. As we approached the Pinnacles, it seemed our plans hit a bit of a sneyg. Our vista of these strange geologic wonders was obstructed by a mass of vehicles, trailers, and people. So the Pinnacles were being used as a backdrop for a big budget truck commercial. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed a cameo in the SCA Dodge, but we were allowed to hang out for a minute and watch the action. Elaine from the Ridgecrest BLM office informed us that there was a concurrent television shoot going on down at our beloved Cuddeback Lake, so we figured we’d go check that out as well just to make sure they weren’t leaving too much of a mark upon our beautiful valley.
How could things get more exciting?
The second half of the hitch was spent in a really beautiful section of Jawbone ACEC with all of our fellow corps members for our final Allcorps gathering, to come together and fly the fleyg of desert restoration. We spent 3 hard and hot days building check dams on a very steep and sandy slope and finally planting some vertical mulch on a very integral leg of a large intersecting incursion. The nights were filled with cow pond swimming, delicious meals and just generally enjoying the company of all these folks we’ve grown so accustomed to being around these eight months. Being quite acquainted with the atmosphere of SCA corps programs myself, the most amazing facet is the level of comfort and interdependence that develops among people that get thrown together into such foreign circumstances, thus proving the necessity of compassion and community in a media-driven world that would rather each of us remain solitary and vulnerable to unhealthy persuasion. It is one thing to have a set of ideals and ethics; it is quite another thing to carry them out unabashedly. With the strength that comes from belonging to a community such as the one we have made here in the DRC, each of us has a solid foundation to go forth into the world and exercise our ideals without the fear that we are alone in our pursuit of purity and truth.
Be well, fellow denizens of the dusty desert. Life is a mixed beyg. The best we can do is be true to ourselves.
As the season winds to an end all of the corps members are busy making plans for their future in conservation in their free time and meanwhile, savoring each moment here in the desert with our fellow members. We have had such a great time watching the seasons change and the blooming of a plethora of bright spring flowers, and watching the creatures (including rattlesnakes) stir from beneath the soil.
This hitch, our wonderful leader suggested to us that we take some time to be educated on the local wildlife so we had the opportunity to visit the Maturengo museum for the annual flower show. There we saw stunning specimens of every kind of plant in this region. We were also able to visit the Desert Tortoise Natural Area where we met a very interesting biologist named Freya. She specialized in the desert tortoise and took us on a hike to find one. It was a hot day with a light breeze and each member had their eyes peeled while Freya enlightened us with facts about the desert tortoise. After only about a half hour we saw one! She said it was a male between the ages of 20 and 30, it was so neat to be able to see up close such rare and unique specie. The desert tortoise actually started walking towards us and stood to rest in the shade of Freya’s body. It stayed for a moment to see what the hullabaloo was about then went back to feasting on the green fiddlenecks. Watching these creatures move and eat was so amazing, like a creature from another planet. But it is here on this beautiful planet that we are lucky to experience life in such wonderful diversity.
The next few days we spent the last of our time in Golden Valley. When we arrived in the Valley we could see the field of golden Coreopsis were already begining to show signs of withering beneath the rays of the desert sun. We finally finished our 5 mile fence line protecting the new section of wilderness and the desert tortoise from OHV degradation. It was a bittersweet moment of triumph as we pounded in the last t-posts and secured the lines to H-braces. We all cheered then stood a moment to look at our accomplishment, even a little sad to see the end of our project, with the recognance that our time here is coming to an end. We then departed from our Valley we have known so well. I should say I believe we grew to be a part of the life in the valley, we grew to be a part of it as much as it grew apart of us. A valley of desert dreams, memories, magic and friends to last a lifetime.
Sadness does not last long here with the GVC, with all these exciting adventures and changes, it’s hard to contain the excitement! This hitch we were granted the privilege of traveling to The Joshua Tree National Park for Leave No Trace training, on Earth Day no less! Each team member was granted a specific LNT ethic to create a lesson and share with the rest of the group. Before our departure, we got to learn how a pro prepares his pack and were led into the parks interior by program directors Jamie Webler and Darren Grutze. We stopped hiking at a lovely place in the middle of the loop surrounded by pink beavertail cactus, Nolenas and sweet rock formations. We made Gado Gado on portable stoves atop a flat rock that seemed to be waiting for us. We feasted and laughed until it was time to sleep. We slept under the stars that night; it was such a beautiful night.
The next morning each person got to choose a place along our hike to give their presentation. After the lesson we were each critiqued by Jamie and Darren’s expertise in our teaching ability and given advice to better express ourselves regarding the LNT ethics. Now these are college students folks, and boy they studied hard to share what they have learned but we each played a role as teacher and student, our brains growing fat with all this new wisdom.
After each of us had our presentations we climbed into a large rock crevice for lunch and Jamie and Darren concluded the LNT trainers course with a discussion to entice creative philosophical thinking on ethics in society and what kind of leadership roles we would like to play in society after the program. LNT with the directors in Joshua Tree was the perfect way to conclude the hitch, each of us inspired by our beautiful natural surroundings and the wisdom and support of the staff and fellow members of the SCA.
~Angela Powell, DRC/Golden Valley Crew
Is this really Hitch 11? Time certainly does fly in the DRC. You would think that having ten previous hitches would mean that we’re pretty much prepared for everything, right?
Even as we first drove into the valley we noticed the change. As we pulled up to camp we realized that something profound had happened; spring. The hard, barren earth where we habitually placed our tents had traded its sparse brown grasses for new, more robust tufts of green. The concrete slab where many a morning we have stretched was now surrounded by an army of fiddlenecks. Little did we know, these delicate yellow flowers were only disguising the near-invisible, cactus-like spines that seemed to have a supernatural affinity to our skin.
Not surprisingly, this was not our only foray into the world of botany. We had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with two biologists from the Bureau of Land Management, Carrie and Shelly. That afternoon we picked their brains on everything from tortoise habitat to invasive grass species. At the end of the day we headed back to our valley equipped with considerably more knowledge on desert plants.
As you may imagine, spring brought us more than just wild flowers. Besides our multitude of many-colored flowers, out came the herps. Now when I refer to herps, I mean the reptiles of the desert. It was this hitch where we had our first encounters with two highly anticipated reptiles; the desert tortoise (G. agassizii), and the Mojave Green Rattlesnake (C. scutulatus). I love all herps, so this posed no problem to me, but it did cause a little anxiety amongst some members of the crew. This was especially the case when (on separate occasions) a Mojave green was spotted on the road right next to camp. Another, more relaxed, encounter with herps happened with the federally protected Desert Tortoise. Again, on two separate occasions, we played hero and removed a tortoise from the road. Although the tortoises and deadly snakes were cool, we also saw some more low-profile species. Lizards of all colors were out and about, soaking up the sunshine and enjoying the 80 degree warmth. We were also stunned by the well-camouflaged horned toads (P.p. calidiarum) who became almost invisible when placed against the rocky soil of Golden Valley.
Beyond our interactions with the natural world, we also had the pleasure of hosting a multitude of people! For the first three days of hitch we were accompanied by a volunteer group from the Sierra Club out of Lancaster. For a day and a half they showed us that despite their age, they could work just as hard as we did. In return, we took them on a hike into Golden Valley. Once in the wilderness, we caught numerous horned toads, saw a red racer snake (and yes, I attempted to catch it), and got up close and personal with a Mojave Green Rattlesnake. Nearing the end of their time with us they pointed out a metate near our camp, and explained its use in ancient times. All in all we had an excellent time with the volunteers and even learned a thing or two from them!
This hitch we had the good fortune of being able to celebrate the Captain’s 76th birthday! For this, all of the Ridgecrest DRC crews drove out to spend the evening with him. During this time we gorged on two cakes and burnt an effigy in his honor. This also served as an excellent opportunity to share the beauty of our valley with the rest of the DRC.
When all the crews left, there was only one that remained; the faithful Owen’s Peak crew. Owen’s crew worked with us for two days and brought us right up until the last hill climb of our fence. We’ve put in a lot of time with the Owen’s crew so it was awesome to have them here one last time.
Such a busy hitch right!? But there’s more to come! Midway through the hitch we took a break from fencing to do some wilderness monitoring. We monitor to get an idea of the trespass that is occurring within Golden Valley. To do this we hiked through the valley up to Klinker Mountain, then once up continued on to summit Dome Mountain as well. This ten mile hike was breathtaking as we got a real taste of Golden Valley in the spring. Sadly we found a few fresh tracks, but hopefully our fence will help remedy that!
Our last visitors of the hitch came only for the last night. WildCorp made their way down from Saline Valley to spend the evening with us. It just happened to be their project leader Emily’s birthday so to end our hitch we once again gorged on cake and went to bed with humming something that may have sounded like the ‘Happy Birthday’ tune.
In the end I’d have to say that the changes we discovered in Golden Valley were for the better. To compare the seemingly lifeless winter Mojave and the promising fertile green of the spring Mojave is seriously mind blowing. All of these changes taking place in just a single location. I mean come on, where else can you have 80 degree highs and 20 degree lows in one week?
All this really makes me wonder what changes we’ll be seeing next, not in the desert but in ourselves.
Signing off for the last time- Maddie
Equipped with pita chips and almond butter, we braved the desert wilderness and its frequent rainstorms without our ripped canvas sheet and bent metal poles. The first two days, we built fence and it rained. Then our beloved BLM contact Marty and her cat Skidoo came out to visit and work with us. We put in step-overs and sheep-gates with Marty and built more of the fence and it rained. Then, we visited the Rands crew and helped them with a large incursion. The next day we headed back into town for a post-hitch party that was run by M-A-double D-I-E. On the last day of hitch we headed to a volunteer clean up in Sand Canyon, near the Owens Peak Wilderness. We collected some goodies from the river, for example; a BBQ grill. We had hamburgers and hot dogs for lunch.
It was really nice to visit other DRC crews, and assist with their projects. It is unfortunate that due to heavy winds on this hitch, our white canvas community tent is currently out of commission. We were visited by two very playful stray puppies that were rescued and are currently in need of a good home. Owens Peak Wilderness is wonderful and also has beautiful wildflowers that have already begun to bloom! We got to end our hitch working in a breath-taking beautiful area that had a river flowing through it. The riparian area was like an oasis that attracts a lot of wildlife, especially the birds of all colors, shapes, and sizes that we got the pleasure to watch.
We met an awesome fellow whom lives "off the grid" and he let us camp in his backyard. He lives near a little spring where Cottonwoods and Willows grow, and also with other plants such as Wild Watercress that can be found along the water's edge. Everything about the natural land he lived on was quite peaceful and very much like a hidden gem to stumble across. He was an excellent host and we greatly enjoyed his company (and, Saki, his cat's company too!).
This hitch was a very busy one, and the crew traveled around and worked in many different places on many different projects. We are excited to return to Golden Valley Wilderness to continue working on our fence project. Perhaps our wildflowers will be in bloom as well!
After spending our previous hitch traveling around Southern California (for various reasons) we were anxious to get back to our valley and back to our fence! It feels like forever since we donned our multi-tool and headed into Golden Valley with T-posts and bollards in tow. We started hitch eight with the gusto of child in front of an all-you-can-eat ice cream buffet.
As with an all-you-can-eat buffet, things are not always as perfect as they may seem. After our first full day of fencing we came back to camp excited for both a warm meal and for a break from the wicked wind that had chapped our lips and cheeks all day. The scene we came back to was grievous and not even the six rainbows we saw that day could soften the blow of what lay before us. Before I get there, let me back track just a little bit.
We possess a love-hate relationship with our white tent. The tent I refer to is our “community” tent in which we cook our meals and spend most of our off-work time when the weather is colder. She provides us a sanctuary from the elements and for that, we love her. As stated before, not everything that glitters is gold. On multiple occasions we have had to “repair” various abrasions and fissures that have mysteriously appeared with no one the wiser as to how they came to be there. We’ll gladly repair her, but it takes away from the reason we’re here, conservation! Yes, we’re all well versed in sewing with cinnamon dental floss through three layers of tough canvas. We’ve all endured “painting” with formaldehyde based glue and feeling as though we’re a preserved specimen in a giant natural history museum called the White Tent. Despite these new found talents, we’re ready to re-release the white tent into the wild and let her function as what she is, a big beautiful white tent.
As you can see, we’ve been through a journey, the White Tent and Us. To come back to see a six foot rip scarring her front, allowing for the entire side of the tent to flap so carelessly in the stiff wind (and undoubtedly eliciting more rips in the process), irked our nerves a bit.
A day after this unfavorable discovery we found ourselves trekking back out into the wilderness with more determination than when we started the hitch (and with the new found knowledge that Captain Falco was quite possibly a seamstress in his former life). If we weren’t ready to lay some fence down now we never would be.
As excited as we were to fence, we did spend one more of our hitch days out in the Rand Mountain Management Area. This was a whole new experience for us, seeing as how we are working in wilderness and don’t have as much OHV activity in our area. This was a mixed bag of goodies for our crew. Some of us got the experience of talking to large numbers of OHVers and really informing the public about their impact on the environment. Others got the joyful experience of sitting in a truck, straining for any sound of an oncoming vehicle over the roaring wind. If there is one thing that we can all agree upon though, it’s the diversity of people in the OHV community. Any preconceived notions of what an OHV rider should look like were thrown out the window as we saw everyone from five year old children to women done up in make-up and fake nails. Overall our day in RMMA was well spent and we left much more educated than when we came in.
In the end our enthusiasm carried us through to the end of our hitch. We ended up completing a little less than a kilometer and a half of the fence that will soon stretch between two private properties. We learned new techniques as we battled the trials of building a fence laterally to a road. We also became well acquainted with “dead men” as we packed them within our quarter miles. Nearing the end of our fence we have to ask ourselves: strive to finish the fence in a timely manner? Or slow down and enjoy every moment we have nestled on the south side of Golden Valley Wilderness?
The first day of Allcorps was very exciting as all the crews gathered forces to work on 5 very deep incursions on a hill climb near the Blyth Intaglios. In no time at all the teams were to work, picking, shoveling, filling bags and wheel barrels, rock and vertical mulch collecting. Almost immediately a fire line was formed for the efficient transportation of earth and rock. It was a sight to see from both the bottom and top of the hill; as the volunteers were bustling up and down hill to fill the incursions first layer. The sound of our metal tools against the mountain rocks clinked and clanked in a harmonious rhythm that was something likened to music.
The day was over before we knew it and we were off to make dinner. Dinner was a finely orchestrated zoo. A carousel of tents, faces and different cuisines. Each crew prepared a dish to share with the others and once the dinner call was made, there was a mad dash of crew members and staff with bowl and fork in hand, dancing from one tent to another for a sampling of each teams food. Dinner was most assuringly an exciting event, and after a long days work in the field, we were downright spoiled by the fine cooks of the DRC.
The second day of work started in a whirling frenzy of wind that began late in the evening the night before. The entire work day was enraptured in the winds of change and the sands of time. Yes sand was on the menu for lunch. Communication was difficult with the constant roaring wind and dirt covered eyelids; however, each member and most of the staff endured the high winds and shifting sands to get things done. Maybe the SCA is creating a new breed of super humans that can withstand crazy weather! At the end of the day we were all windblown and sand blasted but we survived and are all the more hardcore from the beating heart of Mother Nature.
The third day was so much fun! The fire lines and our combined efforts moved the earth and rocks in a quickened pace. The wind, once our bitter nectar then became the flurry of our merriment. The empty rocks bags were flying gracefully from one hand to the next with an amusing flare. The hours went by so fast. By the end of the day we all had learned new games to keep things fun and exciting and all got a chance to better get to know our fellow corps members. At the end of Allcorps it was great to be able see what work can be done when so many people get together for a common goal. It was sad to bid farewell to everyone and I am sure more than a few of us have developed from the experience in ways that won’t soon depart. We will miss the few days we spent together, but in exchange for happy fleeting moments, we have the awesome memories.
The next few days our crew plus a couple others, were fortunate enough to attend the Sierra Club California-Nevada Regional Conservation Committee Meeting in the quaint town of Shoshone, Calfornia. The group was able to witness firsthand, how conservation decisions are made within communities and how many different things are affected by activism. Many of the people who spoke shared very interesting scientific information, statistics and social issues within the community. There were so many environmental and energy organizations who presented their concerns and beliefs to the community, we met some very interestingly passionate people. We learned how important taking an active role in the community is the only way to get things done. The experience was eye opening and inspiring and I hope more members of the SCA can someday have the opportunity to attend such a meeting and other important community affairs.
~Angela Powell, Golden Valley Desert Restoration Corps
After spending our last two hitches working in conjunction with the Owen's Peak Wilderness crew, we of the Golden Valley crew were excited to once again spend a full hitch alone in our wilderness constructing our beautiful fence. Oh yeah, I should mention we were visited by the Rands crew for a day, DRC Program Coordinator Darren Gruetze for two days, our BLM contact Marty, and we also left to recieve ATV training. So maybe a hitch by ourselves was wishful thinking.
In all seriousness, all of the diversions were rewarding and enriching. The Rands crew taught us how to do restoration and joined us for dinner. Darren came with us on a 3 mile cross-country full moon night hike to Cuddeback Dry Lake, which was a surreal place to visit in the crystalline moonlight. Marty discussed our work, future projects, and conservation with us. We had fun flying around the desert on ATVs, and left our training with a new perspective on those loud and aromatic machines that periodically fly through our wilderness.
Oh yeah, we also constructed some fence this hitch. We were happy to finish up the second of two fencelines along private property boundaries, thus finishing our days of assembly lining tons of fence materials miles into the wilderness. We lined out a 1.5 mile stretch of fence along BLM road RM 1444, which will be our final stretch of fence. We also began, with the help of the Rands crew, our first restoration project, which is quite large and will take some time to complete, but thanks to the Rands crew we are off to a great start.
I can't end this entry without mentioning a very special bird that we've become closely acquainted with: the Loggerhead Shrike. A very unassuming bird with a beautiful repertoire of songs we were treated to every dawn and dusk emitting from the tamarisk trees that boirder our campsite. Oh yeah, it also likes to impale its prey, and we found some very interesting evidence of this throughout our wilderness.
After an extended holiday break, the Golden Valley Wilderness Crew arrived back in Ridgecrest on the night of January 3rd, safe and sound despite some precarious weather conditions. It would appear the Golden Coast is not immune to the snow, a fact conveniently left out of most guide books. While we all enjoyed our time home with family and friends, we awoke the next morning eager to return to the natural beauty and simplicity of the desert. Pre-hitch began as usual, making all the necessary preparations for a comfortable and productive week of work.
Once again we would be teaming up with the Owens Peak Crew, who was taking a reprieve from the chilly mountains to lend their services to our wilderness. The days were spent hauling materials and constructing an invincible fence that will surely stand until the end of time. Our nights consisted of great food, Bananagrams, the intricacies of friendship bracelet making and W.F.R. Jeopardy. Falco dominated most of these events. We were greeted each morning by a thick layer of frost on our tents, but the morning sunrise more than made up for the few minutes of discomfort.
The Owen’s Peak Wilderness crew joined us for the last hitch before the Christmas break. The hitch went well; it consisted of lots of hard work and challenging weather conditions. On the second night, our fearless leader Shannon decided to test the limits of our pressure cooker. The white community tent is now splattered with all natural black bean dye. Our work days consisted of either carrying large quantities of fencing supplies or working laboriously on the fence. The weather turned against us on the last days of the hitch. At the end of these final days the community tents would be filled with hanging wet garments. By the time Shannon and Scott returned most of us were wearing our last set of dry clothes. We survived the desert monsoon and arrived back home safely on the 19th. All in all we completed our goal and hauled over 2 ½ tons worth of fencing supplies into the wilderness.
Hey, I’m Dave Murray. I was born and raised in the Finger Lakes region of New York State, mostly around the small town of Naples. Since childhood, I have participated in many sports including Soccer, Skiing, Sailing, and Baseball. I went off to SUNY Geneseo for college in the fall of 2006, and recently graduated this past spring with a degree in Geography. I have been doing landscape work for many summers but for the past four summers I have been teaching sailing to kids. I am looking forward to the change in work and climate that comes with this internship.
There is no greater self test of being a true leader than to experience the role of a leadership position itself. A position that requires you to call on the help of others (i.e. delegation, trust and reliability) to accomplish tasks rather than doing it all yourself. How about taking a go at being a hitch leader of a DRC crew? It seemed like a well-done, brain-frying waiting to happen when trying to prepare and organize the hitch. Luckily, when you know you’re being backed by a project leader that has full confidence in you and strives to push you forward, and your crew is ready to support your goals and efforts by following your lead...this helps to slowly lift the weight off your shoulders as you feel reassured and fully charged to lead.
The hitch started with the hitch leader's education/teaching presentation: an introduction on watershed ecology and basic topographic map interpretation. A watershed is defined by an area of land that drains water, sediment, and any dissolved particles to a common point along a body of water (i.e. stream, river, lake, or ocean). It's important to note that wherever you are on land that you are always in a watershed and affecting it in some way before the water flows somewhere else. Water is such a precious resource in the desert, and since the plants and animals have adapted "wise" ways to conserve it, why don't we? After discussing basic topographic map interpretation, we plotted a potential route to Almond Mountain (elev. 4155ft). It was here at the top where we truly did get a view of our valley. It was interesting to see the fluvial patterns carved into the nearby mountains and it's not hard to find respect for the powerful moving force of water on mountains that have been around for years.
We left our wilderness for a while to get trained by BLM's Wildland Fire Department on how to maintain and safely use chainsaws. Our BLM Wildland firefighting instructors were Don Washington and Sue Rocha. Sue advised us to "dig our dogs" to let the saw do the work for us, and Don showed us that he means business when cutting down trees as he approached a mounted bollard with a revved chainsaw. In all seriousness, both instructors were adamant about the importance of practicing safety and maintaining control regardless of our use with chainsaws. While our intentions were not to get trained in chainsaws in order to "limb, buck or fell trees" (defined: saw limbs, saw fallen trees or saw standing trees), learning this skill will greatly help us construct H-braces for fences that we build around our wilderness. Soon enough, we were all certified!
And finally, we were able to come back to our wilderness to spend the rest of our hitch. This time, we were camping somewhere new along the Southern side of the valley. We found ourselves in an almost flat grassy plain, if not dominated by the typical Mojave creosote-scrub desert that is speckled throughout the area. Isolated clusters of mountains surround us as they drop into the valley. Light from the sun hits these mountains and pools through the valley, and it creates a mysterious landscape depending on the time of day. Combined with the lack of wind, overcast clouds, and a peek-a-boo sun that we got to experience while we were there, it was almost as if we were being welcomed back to build our fence in perfect fence building weather conditions. It almost felt like Golden Valley was showing us its moods, by showing us different colors and shadows across the land without moving the slightest inch.
We were lucky to camp in an area near three tamarisk trees whose centers had all been occupied by owl nests that seemed to be shared by other birds as we heard them call occasionally. Kit foxes even came out on the first night, and we have a new kangaroo rat friend, Maria. Starry night skies greeted us on most nights, and on our last night before leaving Golden Valley some chose to astro-bivy. It rained on us during the early hours of the night, and while a couple of us ran to our tents, the others roughed it out. Was Golden Valley sad that we were leaving so soon? Probably not, but I sure was. There is nothing like the fragrant smell of the desert after a quenching rain. It’s like an awakening, or maybe just a “remember me until next time”.
This hitch was exciting for many reasons, but personally exciting because we got to begin our fence! We had three working days to spend in our wilderness, and in this time we completed a quarter mile length of fence. This was the project goal of my hitch, and the whole crew exceeded my expectations by beginning another quarter mile extension off of the existing fence line. I am so proud of and happy to be a part of the Golden Valley Wilderness DRC crew (all seven of us). Hooray for our budding fence! May we all continue to grow as leaders as the valley continues to welcome us for many hitches to come!
We, the Golden Valley Warriors, are happy to report that Hitch #2 went off without a hitch (har har). Again it was quite the mixed bag of tasks, including mapping and walking our proposed fence line, scouting vehicular activity within our wilderness area, maintaining a previously constructed fence, and a walk with the local BLM archaeologist.
We started things off with a meeting with our BLM contact Marty, who got us acquainted with topographic maps, compasses, Garmin GPS devices, orienteering, and Almond Joys. We left for the field with a whole new set of skills for the inner geographical nerd we all possess. We also became "acquainted" with the Trimble device on this hitch, which is a beast of a machine that will take some time to figure out, but we made some headway and actually got to use it in conjunction with our work sites on this hitch.
FINALLY, we made it to the valley for which our wilderness is named (Golden Valley), and found it to be a vast and surreal landscape, quite unlike anything any of us have experienced in the past. Once there, we spent a full day mapping a boundary where our fence will come in contact with some private property. We spent a day hiking to two "guzzler" sites deep within the Golden Valley Wilderness Area. A guzzler is a water-catching device installed on the desert floor that attracts not only wildlife but hunters on OHVs. Our job was to see how much water these things held, any recent vehicular activity, any wildlife usage, basically seeing if there was any purpose for the guzzlers to remain in the wilderness. We spent another full day marking the fence boundary we previously mapped out. It turns out marking a straight line with flagging over a mile and a half of terrain is quite a production. A highlight of our hitch was walking this fence boundary with the Dan, the BLM acrhaeologist, to see if our fence line would disturb any historically significant sites. We found more than we bargained for, when our own Captain Falco stumbled across a spearhead that Dan informed us was from the era formerly known as BC. Whether or not Matt took his Delorean back in time 3000 years and planted this thing, we cannot be sure.
Last but not least, I would like to introduce the newest member to our crew: Gusteau the Kangaroo Rat. He would show up every night at roughly 7 P.M. to make himself welcome to any crumbs we inadvertently left behind, and there were many. For a little desert creature he seemed to possess no fear in making himself present with 7 human beings in the room. It is this kind of spunk we look for in the DRC, unfortunately when we packed out he was nowhere to be found. We salute you, Gusteau, and wish you the best of luck in the coming winter season.
Heeere we go!! Mario resounded in my head as we drove the dirt road out to Golden Valley Wilderness for the first time. I bet driving an Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) is fun, but probably not when you easily get car sick. The drive to Golden Valley is around an hour, but it’s only thirty miles away. Once you hit wilderness area you average under ten miles an hour.
Hitch numero uno started on Wednesday the 27th where we prepped food and bought the extra supplies we would need. We made the dough for five loaves of bread and made both peanut butter AND hummus from scratch. I must say, this was my first foray into using a pressure cooker and it was pretty scary. At one point Shannon told us had we let it go much longer the pressure cooker could have blown up the house. Captain Falco and I got to know the employees of the Home Depot pretty well after running there TWICE in order to get the proper supplies necessary (and still need to make another run since the power inverter we bought isn’t working).
On the 28th we drove out to and got our first glimpse of the area we’ll be working in. I’ve got one word for you: breathtaking. Now I’m from Wisconsin and there isn’t much in the way of altitude so seeing mountains is a pretty big deal. While we are at work we camp out IN the Summit Mountain Range (right on the edge though, so not anything hardcore). Every morning we wake to the brilliant colors of the sunrise and a pot of hot water just waiting to be mixed with coffee. I have to say, it’s not a bad existence.
Over the rest of the hitch we did what we came here to do: desert restoration. We learned Fencing 101, how to build H-braces, how to pull tension in a fence, and how to do basic fence maintenance. Darren Gruetze, the program coordinator, came down and spent a night with us and showed us most of these things. The majority of our time spent during this hitch was walking the fenceline. While doing this we looked for areas that have been damaged by either nature or OHVers looking for a way into the Wilderness.
The whole IDEA of a fence is employed only because people don’t listen to signs. A fence is the last ditch effort used when nothing else works. Aesthetically it’s about as pleasing as vomit on a busy street corner. Crazy enough though, it works, at least to a point. Fencing is our main project while in Golden Valley. The first Golden Valley crew built the north fence, and soon we’ll be building the south fence.
Along with the fencing we did a little bit of “trail erasing” where we ripped up ground and tried to erase trails that had been made entering our wilderness. Normally we would employ vertical mulch but the terrain coupled with a lack of vertical mulch material led us to use rocks instead. Other miscellaneous projects we completed include building a rubble wall in a wash area to deter OHVers from driving their vehicles under the fence, adding T-posts to reinforce potential weak areas, and trail scouting to see where work needs to be done.
Overall the hitch was very successful. I feel that every day I spend in the desert makes me love it that much more. I can’t wait to get out and do it all over again!
On October 5th, we arrived at the Great Falls Basin located just outside of Trona, CA. It was amazing that such a magnificent rock outcrop, a flowing waterfall after a significant rain event, existed since the dirt road that leads to it can be easily overlooked as it remains hidden from the main road.
It was here at the Great Falls Basin under the clear blue skies and hot desert sun (with exception of a couple of rainy nights) where we spent 17 days with 5 DRC crews learning about how to get the most out of our experience working in the DRC over the next 8 months by participating in various leadership and community building workshops. We covered Leave No Trace principles when in the backcountry setting, and also familiarized ourselves with the tools that we would be learning to use and love while gaining an insight on desert restoration theory and employing current SCA field restoration techniques.
We got to use our tools and restoration techniques for the first time by breaking up into groups with the project leaders and tackling various work sites that had incursions which needed to be worked on. It was apparent that working in these groups required a lot of planning and good communication and once everyone got their creative juices flowing, we had a strong idea on how we wanted to approach the project and get moving! When we finished the project, we were filled with an overwhelming sense of accomplishment. We stood together and took a step back to admire our hard work, and realized how much energy seeing the finished product gave us to look forward to in the coming months.
The last 9 days of training concluded with an intense Wilderness First Responder course led by awesome Aerie instructors. This course trained us how to properly act and provide treatment as a caregiver in backcountry emergency situations. Everyone got plenty of experience acting as patients and caregivers. We went through a night scenario where everyone was tested on their care giving and leadership capabilities. It's crazy how a short walk from our tents down in the desert wash on a chilly, starry night with talented actors/actresses as patients can make a scenario turn into something that's so vivid and real. So real that pants were definitely cut away to access a tibia-fibula fracture on a particular patient that was in need of splinting. That night we were focused and alert with our adrenaline pumping as if we had all been given about three shots of epinephrine, and as result we treated and prepared to evacuate our patients to the best of our abilities.
The day before we took our written test, we broke up into two teams in order to perfect our skills as acting patients and meticulous caregivers. One scenario involved an SCA worksite in which crew members working at a restoration site were thrown around by a tornado which also involved fatal lightning strikes. The other scenario involved a Southern family reunion gone wrong after loading a deep fryer with a frozen turkey that caused a massive explosion sending hushpuppies everywhere! A couple of intoxicated family members were severely injured in a car accident that happened while driving for help after the explosion. All in all, the two scenarios gave everyone opportunity to be experienced patients and caregivers.
Finally, after filling our brains with massive amounts of information, we were ready to embark on a new journey where we would be introduced to our site in the Golden Valley Wilderness. We hope that the rest of the DRC crews have nice and productive hitches to come. Best wishes from the Golden Valley Crew!
The “First Five” was a whirlwind of new experiences. The term “First Five” refers to our inaugural day in Ridgecrest and the four days that followed. The first of these experiences was the fact that six complete strangers were thrust into a small three bedroom house and will be spending the majority of the next eight months living and working together. It’s practically “The Real World – Ridgecrest” and is anticipated to be the next big thing.
Our group, the Golden Valley Crew, is comprised of a diverse cast of what TBS would dub “real characters”. First up on our crew is our project leader, Shannon “Shay Dubs” Waldron. Shannon is new to the Student Conservation Association and we plan to make it unforgettable for her. She captains our crew of six comprised of Anne Stahley, Angela Powell, Dave “Murricane” Murray, Matt “Captain” Falco, Marko Capoferri, and myself, Maddie Shields. We’re still working nicknames, so stay tuned for updates on that front (these things take time!).
The idea of going from six strangers to a family might seem like a task requiring significant effort and time, but it was a pretty seamless transition for us. By this point in time (a month in? or somewhere around that) we’re gotten extremely comfortable with each other. We share tents, clothes, silverware, and even inappropriate stories. As a crew we attempted to become pirates and instigate a prank war between crews (there are three other desert restoration crews in Ridgecrest besides ourselves). We have designated our front porch as the hang out spot where we spend many a night in our off time. We learned of the joys of the Shave Shack on a hot day.
To educate us on the desert and some of the issues here, Shannon planned a meeting with the people of the Indian Wells Valley Water Department and with some amateur star gazers. We learned about water shortages and the role that Ridgecrest plays in it. It’s interesting to see, despite the fact that we are in the desert, how many green lawns there are here. The star gazers were some of the most interesting folks we’ve met around here. Using their telescopes we were able to take a look at the moons around Jupiter. Since then, we can’t help but point out ‘ole Jupes in the sky every night.
Although this sounds like a lot of playing around, we did do work. Shannon gave us a general safety presentation and a vehicle safety presentation to ensure we are all taken care of. By the end of it we didn’t want to hear the word “protocol” ever again! Our first crew activity consisted of changing the tire on our trailer which was flat when we got here. That was our first taste of working together and I have to say it ran fairly smoothly.
To end these first days together we camped out at Walker Pass. It is here that we learned how to set up camp and slept under the stars for the first time. On our first full day in Walker Pass we hiked around the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and got up close and personal with desert habitat. The second day on our mini trip was spent at a hippie-made hot springs in Kernville on the Kern River. Adorned with children’s handprints and inspirational sayings, it was a little slice of heaven on earth after the heat of the desert.
Overall the First Five gave us a taste of what the next eight months will hold and I’ve got to say, it tastes pretty darn sweet. We’ll try to update after every hitch so check back on our blog often!
The first thing many people associate with Shannon Waldron is her freckles. She has an extreme passion for the outdoors which comes with a serious relationship to sunscreen. While she’s plays outside whether it’s recreating (bicycling) or working (farming) she will have green zinc oxide face paint and/or a weathered cowgirl hat on! Her core family lives in Chicago, Illinois which is where for the first 17 years of her life she was feed on delicious donna meals and dominated in numerous team sports. She then moved away from the concrete jungle to a little Appalachian college known as Warren Wilson College. At this magnificent mountain college she majored in Biology and Environmental Studies, but also got to a milk cow before classes, use a team of Belgium draft horses in a small logging operation, and in the evenings run around as the center midfield for the women’s soccer team. After learning sosososo much and graduating from college she moved out of the NC hollers to Washington State! Since the journey out west, she has been living up and down the west coast as close to the ocean as possible as well as even on the ocean! Up in the Bering Sea, Alaska. She is super pumped to move back "east" and live, work, and play with the DRC!
Matt grew up in the Empire State of New York, where he was exposed to the great outdoors at an early age. He spent the first 17 years of his life hiking and camping the mountains upstate, surfing the beaches of Long Island, and playing every sport imaginable. His next four years were spent in the Charm City of Baltimore, where he earned a degree in Journalism and developed a love for jazz and crab cakes. After too many north eastern winters and his beloved New York Yankees coming off of another championship season, Matt felt the time was right to leave the Big Apple and rediscover his love of nature in the deserts of California. He is really excited to be a part of the SCA and is looking forward to the adventure ahead.
Greetings all. My name is Marko Capoferri. I am a 27 year old native of Southern New Jersey, not to be confused with the Turnpike, MTV's Jersey Shore, the sprawling mess of subdivisions and highways, or any of the other stereotypes generally attached to my oft-maligned home state. After 25 years of not doing much of anything noteworthy, I've spent the last two years bouncing around the States between the east and west coasts and getting mixed up in some great endeavors along the way, including interning at an historic literary center in Los Angeles and two SCA programs, in New Hampshire and Southern California. I have many interests and hobbies; most recently I've been tripping out on geology and the paintings of Hieronymous Bosch. I've been living in L.A. for the past three months, and I can sincerely say I'm looking forward to sleeping on the ground, showering once every two weeks, and enjoying the the beautiful sound of silence once again. Sadly I am no longer sporting the beard seen in the picture. Fear not, young ones; it will return.
|Map of Golden Valley Wilderness|
|Project Leader, Shannon Y. Waldron|
|A Mixed Bag (pronounced beyg)|
|Reptiles, Flowers, and Friends|
|It only rains in the desert when you don’t have shelter|
|Hitch 9: Good times|
|Rollin' with the Punches in the Valley|
|The Winds Of Change|
|Alone Again (sort of...)|
|Golden Valley Episode V: The Ginger's Strike Back|
|The beginning of the Trial Mile|
|A Well-done, Brain Fryin' Fun...Being a Hitch Leader That Is!|
|"though I walk through the (golden) valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no OHV'ers"|
|Hitch One- It's go time!|
|The First Five!!!|