On Tuesday, our first day of hitch, we prepared for the next 10 days. We started early, packing up camp at the Crestview Fire Station and loading up the trailer for the journey down to Bishop, where we would be meeting with the Forest Service wilderness / travel management work crew as well as a Friends of the Inyo stewardship crew and a Youth Conservation Corps crew (who left on Friday) to prepare for the journey to Coyote Flat. We bought groceries and packed up our truck (we’d be unable to bring the trailer up to Coyote Flat) and the convoy finally left the White Mountain Ranger Station around 2 pm. Our truck bed packed full and five bear-proof panniers loaded up with food (and graciously transported by a Forest Service truck), we began the lengthy drive into Coyote Flat. Although the area is close in proximity to Bishop, just southwest of the town, the road is rocky enough that even the mightiest of four-wheel-drive trucks is forced to a slow crawl up to the plateau, resting a good 3,000-7,000 ft or so in altitude above Bishop in the Owens Valley. When we finally made it up to what became our campsite, we were already enamored by the beautiful vista, with pine trees and fields of sagebrush and wildflowers.
Wednesday was another long day. We began work on our travel management objectives in an area offering sweeping views of the mighty Sierra Nevada mountain range. At the instruction of Forest Service agency contact Keith Waterfall and project leader Nolan Nitschke, we closed three ATV roads using vertical and horizontal mulching, including transplanting grass, sagebrush, and moving logs; we also assembled barriers and put in Carsonite posts. All crews worked together to achieve these objectives, and the day went by smoothly, even with a Forest Service truck getting the first flat tire of the week (flat tires would become a theme of the hitch as it progressed). The roads we closed weren’t thru-routes and led to dead ends.
On Thursday we worked in a new area. The SCA and Friends of the Inyo Crews as well as Nolan, Trevor, and Garrett from the Forest Service walked up a surprisingly intense ridge, completely uphill, to place a barrier to close off the road. At the top we saw a few ATVers who had greeted us on their way up and thanked us for our work. In addition, we were gifted a serene view down at Green Lake. After constructing the barrier we returned to the bottom of the hill to begin work on road maintenance. Our task would be preventing erosion and improving the road we’d just walked up by constructing waterbars, which would ease the water flowing down the hill onto the slope around the road instead of the road itself. The road was extremely rough and sported a great deal of erosive signs already so these waterbars would hopefully improve its situation and create a more sustainable pathway for hikers, ATV users, and mountain bikers (of which we saw two traveling down the road) to use. The waterbars were constructed by digging a long, deep hole, resting a large log into the hole which we cut from downed, dead trees, and digging another ditch, a swale, uphill from the log to draw the runoff onto the side of the road. Constructing these also required rockwork – large keystones were placed on either ends of the logs to keep them in place and we made crush around the logs and keystones to support them in the ground. Work on the waterbars occupied our crew’s time through Monday and we finished four. In addition, we dug three swales to divert runoff from the road to the sides, essentially a waterbar without the buried log or rocks. We also closed a road or pathway connecting two section of the road we were improving with waterbars using horizontal mulching of rocks, logs, and pine needles in order to discourage off-roading by ATV users and hopefully hinder the significant erosion occurring. While most of our crew was working with Trevor and Nolan from the Forest Service and Robyn, Dylan, and Briana from Friends of the Inyo on waterbars on Sunday and Monday, Frank and Chris were busy working with Brandi from the Forest Service on constructing barriers and putting in “No Motor Vehicles” Carsonite signs. During those two days they put up five barriers and many more signs.
On Tuesday the 9th the entire SCA crew, Friends of the Inyo, and our companions on the Forest Service work crew all united to convert a lengthy stretch of ATV road into a pedestrian trail using sagebrush transplantation and the construction of a barrier with accompanying Carsonite post. Everybody then began work on a project of a novel nature to us: improving an existing road that crossed a stream by placing large rocks and crush on the periphery of the stream, which would ease travel on the road as well as protecting the stream. While everyone else finished up that stream crossing stabilization project, Frank, Chris, Brandi, and Cameron all traveled to finish constructing a barrier on a closed ATV road and then loaded up the trucks for travel back to Bishop.
On Wednesday we departed from Coyote Flat, a lengthy drive out but not nearly as intense as the drive up. We appreciated the attitude and skill of the crews we worked with, both facilitating transit and protecting the splendor of Coyote Flat for future generations. Our crew is pleased by what we learned from and the achievements we collectively reached throughout the hitch with Nolan, Trevor, and Brandi from the Forest Service and Robyn, Dylan, and Briana of the Friends of the Inyo.
11 road closures using barriers, etc. (including one road turned into pedestrian trail)
4 waterbars built
3 swails dug
1 road / pathway closed using mulching (no barrier)
1 stream crossing on road stabilized