Project Leader: Scott Nordquist Project Dates: August 8, 2010 - May 17, 2011 E-mail address: email@example.com
The Owens Peak crew stepped into their final full hitch in the Owens Peak Wilderness Area with the promise of warm weather, wildlife, wildflowers, and a wealth of variety and visitors. The first bit of variety came in the form of a near concussion experienced by the hitch leader as the back door of the Suburban came crashing down upon her head. Although spouts of dizziness and nausea slowed her on pre-hitch day, the other crew members pulled through with a multitude of baked goods and other deliciosities. With the truck and trailer loaded, the crew set off to their old campsite in Indian Wells Canyon.
The first day of work brought the first round of visitors as the Rands crew came to teach the crew the joys of erosion control structures. The crews together faced the daunting task of a monstrous hill climb that had been subjected to severe erosion. The job consisted of a life-size Tetris marathon using heavy, strategically-placed rocks to create check dams intended to slow the flow of water and soil that had eroded the hillside. Initial fears of completing the project in the short duration of only three days proved to be mistaken as the diligent Owens Peak crew constructed a total of 29 structures by noon on the third day.
With the completion of the first project came the arrival of the next set of visitors: BLM representative Marty Dickes and her adorable side-kick, Skidoo the blind kitty. Marty joined the crew on the beginning of the next project, the creation of a hiking and equestrian trail to replace the unsightly vehicle incursion leading to the popular climbing area, Schoolhouse Rocks. The first step in the project was the installation of a step-over to allow hikers and equestrians to pass through the fence that the crew had previously constructed. Hole digging proved to be typical of the area, taking almost an entire workday of painstaking rock-barring and post-hole digging by Brogan and Michelle. Other crew members began the restoration of the incursion which included immense dirt work to narrow the incursion as well as make it appear natural and welcoming for hikers. Jon and Diana, pick-mattocks in hands, attacked the compacted soil of the incursion, creating berms mimicking those of the surrounding area. All were impressed by Jon’s firm berm at the entrance.
The following day Marty led the crew to the canyon next door, Short Canyon, for a much-needed and deserved “Recharge Day”. Even Skidoo joined the group for a day of hiking and exploration along a wildflower-lined trail. Diana used her Mojave Wildflower book to identify unknown species, while Jon relied on his sense of taste, sometimes tempting the others to try the new plants; most memorable was the surprisingly strong peppery taste of the bladder-pod. Sticking to a familiar plant, Scott and Ryan meticulously worked to remove a Chia seed from its flower. Parting ways with Marty and her tired kitty, the crew continued on up past the trail to the ridge-line where they experienced the beautiful views of the area before dropping down into the canyon itself for lunch and relaxation.
Feeling refreshed, the crew, along with Marty and Skidoo, went off to repay the Rands for their help with a day of restoration on their never-ending incursion. Rands crew members taught Owens how to build “Restor-osotes” formed by weaving branches to resemble a creosote bush. The crew was invited to stay for dinner, resulting in a high-spirited evening of conversation, jokes, and sing-alongs that even Marty joined in on.
Although not truly Earth Day, the holiday spirit was present in the lives of the crew as they went on to do community outreach at the Cerro Coso Community College annual Earth Day Celebration. The crew set up an informational booth to educate the public about the SCA, BLM, and work specific to the Owens Peak Wilderness Area. They also used the event as a venue to promote a volunteer work day. The day proved to be educational for the crew as well, as they explored the other booths at the event, learning about water, bees, and meeting the other SCAs: Society for Creative Anachronism and the Sister City Association. Crew members also got involved in fun activities throughout the day. Diana found a love for drums by taking part in a drum circle and Brogan was ecstatic about holding a baby tortoise. Michelle and Jon proved to be essential to the child development activity, where they helped daycare children plant flowers. The day was completed with a wildflower walk, accompanied by BLM biologists Carrie and Shelly and the Jawbone crew, which led to the discovery of rare and beautiful flowers such as the Desert Mariposa Lily and the Desert Candle. The crew learned more about the origins of Earth Day through Diana’s environmental education piece. Even the wildlife seemed to be celebrating Earth Day; the crew had sightings of jackrabbits, cottontails, sidewinders, bull snakes, and even a desert tortoise.
The hitch was finished off by the continuation of the trail restoration project that the crew had begun with Marty. Upon revisiting the site, the crew was upset to see that a motorist had torn through the berms that Jon and Diana had built. However, that did not stop them from enthusiastically continuing the project. With H-braces built and step-over in place, the crew was able to focus solely on restoration. The last day of hitch, reserved as a volunteer day, resulted in a cookie free-for-all for the crew when no volunteers arrived. Fueled by sugar, the crew was able to make monumental progress on the trail. Ryan used his trail-work experience to help carve out a natural-feeling hiking trail while Jon decompacted the surrounding soil. The others gathered vegetation and began forming plants. They quickly learned that a couple well-placed “Restor-osotes” and plenty of grass transplants can go a long way. By the end of the day, the crew was able to step back, cookies in hands, and admire the new Schoolhouse Rocks trailhead that they had created.