Project Leader: Peter Gernsheimer Project Dates: 9/8/10 to 6/24/11 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: 208.914.0410 Address: 903 Lopez St, Santa Fe, NM 87501
New Mexico. The mind wanders through savannas of conifers and rests on golden grass. The sun
illuminates the landscape distinctly in each moment of a day. The sky is huge. Its scant clouds billow on mesa ringed horizons.
Hitch 12 is something different, something new. We have returned from California to a familiar
geography. But we have not yet made the pilgrimage to El Malpais. Instead work takes us to warmer
climes, down near Las Cruces. We are a hop, skip, and a jump from Juarez, Mexico. But even closer are
the white sands of a bygone nuclear test site. An artillery range stretching Sotol-dotted miles borders
the BLM land in which we are working. As we drive up the winding road leading to our campsite I
cannot help but stare at the needles of the Organ Mountain range. The smooth ovoid form of the
sugarloaf roosts upon a jagged nest of rocks that form its base. This place is startlingly beautiful.
Flowering Yucca and Sotol, Tree Cholla, and Hedgehog cacti bring an exotic feel to these southwestern
grasslands. Mountain Mahogany, Grey and Organ Oaks, Piñon and towering Ponderosa Pines, as well
as different species of the Juniperus genus cover the steep foothills of the range. Brown and black cows
jut out here and there from crags and washes. It is that time of year where a doe eyed calf seems to file
behind each and every dam on the range. The little ones are scared of our Dodge as it wends its way up
It is hard to believe how far the land stretches outwards from our camp and how sharply the peaks of
the needles cut into this expansive sky above me. A sandstorm obscured everything on our first evening here. We were subjected to heavy, near-suffocating winds. We had not erected our white tent. To cope with the lack of shelter, some of us found ourselves huddled inside the cab of our truck. But
overall the weather has been mild.
Our projects on the Pine Tree Trail and the Baylor Pass Trail have been rewardingly productive and
entertaining. Through our usual process of vertical mulching we have disguised a series of spider trails, which depart from the main trail and commonly confuse hikers. Our special brand of restoration work is not commonly seen around the state of New Mexico. Due to its novelty, the BLM put out a press
release to the Las Cruces Bulletin. The paper sent a reporter and a photojournalist to the Pine Tree Trail
to interview us about our work.
Having BLM Ranger Ana Eckhardt join us in the field has also been a great pleasure. She helped us clear brush on the Pine Tree Trail and she showed off her trail work skills while assisting us with a water bar installation on the Baylor Pass Trail. We have enjoyed hiking alongside her and hearing stories of her traveling past, including her time as an English teacher in Japan and how she has hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail.
On the Baylor Pass Trail we have met a wide range of people. Particularly on the weekend we
encountered an overwhelming turnout of hikers. All of the passerbies were more than friendly and
they thanked us for our work on the trail. Some stopped to speak with us while we labored away on
our projects. I had a pleasant conversation with a Youth Conservation Corps alumnus and his girlfriend. They clued me in on great places to visit throughout the state. I also met a man from Shiquanhe, China, who said there needed to be more people like us in the world doing service work. Michael and Alana had the pleasure of speaking with a rancher who had rode out on a roan horse to visit a new “dam,” or cow mother. She told them a bit about the history of the land and about her family’s role in it.
Because of the near endless praise and due to the addition of a new crew member, general crew morale
has been OK. Nathan, the greenhorn, seems to have settled quite well into the routine of ‘life in the
field.’ Perhaps sun exposure and caffeine withdrawal were the missing pieces in his “old life” in “old
Oh, and I cannot forget to mention the BLM’s exhaustive hospitality. Not only have we been privileged
enough to enjoy an exceptionally well maintained campground, compliments of hosts Charlie and
Sandy, but we were also treated to a wonderful barbecue.
The night of the barbecue we pulled into our campsite, covered from head to toe with dirt and grime.
Ranger Eric Ernst was priming the charcoal grill while Ana pulled a seemingly endless supply of food
from plastic shopping bags. Tom Phillips, the Supervisory Recreation & Cultural Resources Specialist,
soon followed. Even though we smelled of sweat and roughly eight days worth of dirty socks, they
greeted us warmly with handshakes all around. After we plowed through an assembly line of burgers,
topped with local Hatch green chilies, Tom uncovered a pecan-whiskey pie he had baked for us with
pecans grown on his very own six acres. He even made the crust from scratch, a skill he learned and
perfected from his mother. We enjoyed this amazing pie with vanilla ice cream. Bellies brimming with
good food and feeling honored to have consumed such good pie, our crew felt appreciated and cared
for by our new friends in the BLM.
But the night would not end there. The amazing smells coming from the grill lured local area deputies,
who were making their routine weekend patrol of the campground, to our barbecue. It is also likely
that the not-so-amazing smells emanating from our work clothes put them on red alert, giving them
reasonable cause to further investigate the campground.
The deputies entertained us with plenty of jokes and stories from their time on the force. Most of our
crew ended up going to bed at the late hour of 10pm, two hours past bedtime. Eric held out pretty late,
enduring cheesy jokes and dutifully flipping burgers. Towards the end of the night we bonded over our
similar upbringings in the New York/ New Jersey area. It turns out we have the same mother.
Hitch came to a close. We packed our belongings into our trailer and made the five hour journey north
to Santa Fe. Along the way we stopped in Socorro to refuel. We will be working there next hitch. But
even though we have to move on, rest assured we will miss our BLM contacts and all of the support they gave us down in Las Cruces.
Photos coming soon.