Project Dates: September 28, 2010-May 17, 2011 Project Leader: Emily Frankel Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 760-780-8039 Address: 57087 Yucca Trail, Yucca Valley, CA 92284
75.28m of trail drained of excess water and trail reestablished
2 trail marker signs placed
As a roving crew, we are pretty used to moving around more than once in a hitch and doing a variety of tasks throughout. It’s practically in the WildCorps job description. Despite this, Hitch 7 was still a challenge in that respect because it had 3 very distinct parts: All-Corps, Shoshone Conference, and working for the Barstow Field Office.
Hitch began with a bit of a rocky start due to car troubles – a dead battery. So while half the crew headed out to Blythe to meet the NewMexico crew at All-Corps, half of us worked things out with the dead Dodge in Yucca Valley. Several hours later, we were all reunited as not just a crew, but all of the DRC, descending upon the Midland Long Term Visitor Campground and setting up our tent city. WC chose, as usual, to refrain from setting up our white tent, and proceeded to set up our kitchen next to the trailer. It was a decision we would soon find not to be our finest, regardless of how awesome our new thrift store rug looked in our desert pavement open-air kitchen. Two days later, we found ourselves bumming kitchen space in the tents of other crews to escape George, as we have fondly come to address the constant blustery gusts of wind that blow for hours on end. (Thank you Rands and New Mexico crews!)
For the next three days, we attacked a hillside of 5 incursions with full force. Mixing up the crews and getting to work with new people was a great experience and something WC doesn’t get the opportunity to do. It was also nice to use tools for a change! Especially after the last few hitches being predominantly monitoring, hiking, and Trimbling. Passing rock bags up the hillside and then bags of dirt back down was how most of the hours passed those three days, even the one when George came to visit ALL day and night long. Potluck dinners each night were a delicious way to end the day and with each crew showing off their backcountry culinary flare, I think we all have some new recipe ideas to try out (seitan gyros, loaded baked potato soup, zucchini burgers, and seitan satay, just to name a few). All-Corps flew by pretty quickly and just as our little crew was getting used to the overwhelmingness of 30+ people in one camp, we found ourselves off to our next stop: the Shoshone Conference.
After a quick detour to the Kelso Dunes in the Mojave National Preserve, hiking up the biggest dune and sliding/running/falling/rolling/skipping/scampering/etc. down it, we piled back into the Dodge until reaching our destination in Shoshone, just southeast of the Death Valley region. The turnout was quite a sight for such a small town in the middle of such a striking landscape. Speakers from all sorts of groups, clubs, and businesses presented information and updates, many of them having to do with the issue of renewable energy projects in the desert. I did not expect wind energy to take such a beating from such environmentally minded groups, but there is certainly a right and wrong way to go about it. It was definitely good to hear that such a distinction was made between good “green” and bad “green” because in so many other situations, any kind of “green” is just blindly supported on no merit at all. Some of the most interesting talks, I think, came from groups like Desert Survivors, Protect Our Communities, Powers Engineering, Solar Done Right, Wilderness Land Trust, People Against Wind Zero, and the Sierra Club. It was especially exciting to feel the room alive with energy as Michael Brune answered questions regarding big solar projects. Even though it was a long two days sitting in a folding chair, listening to speaker after speaker, when we are used to really physical workdays spent outdoors, the conference was a really good reminder of the environmental and land issues and politics in which we work. It felt good to stretch our brains and be brought back to the social context of the environment, which most of us left behind when we graduated or finished classes last spring. I think it is important that while we, at times, do seemingly obscure environmental work (hiking for miles to find a GPS point that may or may not be a puddle of water?) it is still part of this bigger picture of conservation work and is in fact connected to what a lot of other people across the U.S. are working towards as well.
Nevertheless, it did feel good to get back out into the field on Sunday afternoon. Directly after the Conference, we met with Tim and Brad, our Barstow Field Office BLM contacts, to start working on a section of trail just outside of Shoshone, near Tecopa on the Old Spanish and T&T Railroad Trail along the Amargosa River. The trail cuts along a mountain and has stopped the natural flow of a spring, now no longer reaching the river in the wash below. Emergent grasses and reeds have further stopped up the area, but almost as soon as we began pulling out that vegetation, water began to flow. It was only a tiny trickle at first, spreading across the dirt like a spilled drink, trying to find its way downhill. And although it was completely instinctual and obvious, it was still amazing to see how the water, once free, turned into a gurgling stream within minutes, almost seconds. Working quickly, we coaxed it along the edge of our trail and helped it over the ledge and on its way to the river. A lot of vegetation removal ensued, as well as brushing, lopping, sawing, raking, and eventually, we reestablished our trail where we wanted it, in our newly drained area. Unfortunately, we had to leave with still a lot of work that could be done on the trail, including the lack of any sort of established trailhead - but that will be a project for some other crew, once the town politics work themselves out. We ended hitch with a delicious trip to the China Ranch date farm for the famous date shakes we have been hearing about for weeks. Driving out of the canyon, and eventually on our way back to Yucca Valley, I thought about everything we had done this hitch and then, as it is a half-way mark for the season, how our DRC life has been so different from hitch to hitch and is still always so interesting, from each day to the next.