Project Leader: Scott Nordquist Project Dates: August 8, 2010 - May 17, 2011 E-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Owens Peak crew had long been looking forward to a “normal” hitch – just our crew, in our own wilderness, working hard on our fence whose completion now looms near. Alas, it seems that normality is unattainable for intrepid desert restorers. Brogan was out of commission for the beginning of the hitch due to a skiing accident, so we had to set up camp with only five workers and double up on chores for several days. She joined us for the end of the hitch to help with chores and more stationary tasks, but we were still short-handed on our fencing work. Despite the difficulties, we had fun and built about a half mile of fence.
This also promised to be our corniest hitch (though bad puns had never been lacking before), as I had deemed our corn consumption far from adequate and planned a menu that involved a can of corn a day and such delicacies as hush puppies, corn chowder, and corn pudding. However, the most exciting meals of our hitches continue to be those improvised from the ingredients we receive in our community-supported agriculture box. This time, we chopped up beets, potatoes and seitan into a blood-red “Sopa de la Muerte,” which, served with sour cream and homemade corn tortillas, turned out to be a surprisingly delicious combination.
Our first two days of work were beautiful – cooler and cloudier than last hitch, to my delight. Beginning on the third day, however, the desert in its ineffability presented us with weather that contrasted sharply with the customary dryness and increasing heat of the past couple months. That morning, it began to rain, and then it rained and rained all day, while we dug holes, sawed notches, and stretched wire, feeling the wet and cold soak through our layers, run down our sleeves, and numb our fingers and toes.
That evening, we huddled in the Green Monster, surrounded by our hanging wet rain gear, thankful for our relatively dry changes of clothing and the after-work treats of hot tea and cookies. Putting on our still-sopping work boots, gloves, and clothes in the chill of the following morning was brutal, but that day was thankfully sunny, with a biting wind coming from the newly snow-capped mountains to our west that was at first numbing, but dried us out quickly.
The next rain event came on our last day of work. Before lunch, we finished both of the fence sections we had been working on, during a morning of temperatures that fluctuated wildly with every movement of clouds over the sun and a pleasant calm except for a five-minute sleet-snow episode. After lunch, we set off to scout potential incursions from the highway to a wash we had previously fenced off. As we climbed higher and higher toward Walker Pass, we could see snow falling on the other side of the highway and low clouds rolling in, obscuring the mountains in front of us. By the time we returned to the car, the rain had begun to fall, and we were forced to spend yet another afternoon in our tent, listening to perhaps the hardest desert rain we have yet experienced. We consoled ourselves, however, with double cookie rations and several rounds of Bananagrams, and after another wet, windy night, we were all glad to return to the house, where coffee and hot showers awaited.
Our last two days of hitch were spent commuting from the house to Sand Canyon, a couple canyons north of our usual worksites, for some community events. The first was the Sand Canyon Environmental Education Day, where we assisted volunteer instructors in teaching local fourth-graders the basics of desert riparian ecology. The kids got to go on a nature walk to look at plants, learn about the history of the area, create their own artwork, catch and identify aquatic insects, and more. And we got to show off our wilderness to a bunch of very enthusiastic participants.
Finally, we returned to Sand Canyon the next day for a volunteer clean-up, organized each year by a local man with family ties to the area who has adopted the canyon and helps the BLM with its maintenance. After a low-key, sunny morning of work scouring the ground for glass shards and shotgun shells, we enjoyed hot dogs, hamburgers, and conversation with the others who had come to help out. Now we’re feeling refreshed, ready for break and then our final 0.15 miles of fence!