For mid-season Allcorps, all five crews camped together outside of the tiny town of Tecopa (population 10, according to the road sign). Jawbone caravanned with Kiavah and Grass Valley for the four hour journey to the campsite. On the way, we stopped for lunch at a desert wetland site where we took some time to stretch our legs and explore the seemingly oxymoronic landscape. That evening upon arriving at our campsite, a flat area surrounded by two ravines, the crews set up whitewalls, green monsters, and personal tents. One challenge of this flat area with little vegetation, where the line of site goes on for miles, was finding places to put the rocket boxes. A clever team of members was able to hide them down in the wash beside the road, a ten minute walk from the crowded camp. The system was so clever that some felt we needed a treasure map in order to locate the latrines.
The day after we arrived we went on a couple field trips. First we went to the Dumont Dunes, deposited on a dry lake bed between lines of mountains. The great white mounds seem out of place and surreal standing in contrast to the surrounding mountains. Here we climbed and rolled, burrowed and buried, sledded and Frisbee-ed. We emerged covered in sand and ready to rinse off at the Tecopa hot springs. The springs were luxuriously warm in comparison to the brisk air and there were only a few naked people at this spring. Some chose to go all out and cover their entire bodies with the muddy substrate from the bottom of the pool, and for those of us who attempted to avoid mud to face contact as much as possible were out of luck. Mud fights soon broke out, and no bystander was spared hits from the crossfire. In true dirtbag form, we kicked off the week of not showering by rolling in sand then bathing in the thick sulfurous mud of the springs.
On Monday we started work at the China Ranch Date Farm, a farm with hiking trails that lead onto BLM land. We scrambled crews, dividing into pods that rotated throughout the week so that everyone had an opportunity to work on a variety of different trail projects. The trail projects included building foot bridges over a submerged, mucky trail; building rock erosion-control walls on hillsides; building rock staircases in hillsides; and everyone’s favorite project, the mesquite “tunnel of love”. The mesquite tunnel involved forging a new trail through a solid tangled web of thorny mesquite tree branches. Two groups worked on either end of the trail clearing the thorny webs of strong wood, trying to link up the two sides of the trail and meet in the middle. Each day, the pods who’d been battling with the mesquite were known by the fresh scratches riddling their forearms and faces. For those on the front line swamping behind the chainsaws, the scratches were worse and the level of exhaustion higher. But at the end of the day, they were hailed as brave heroes. The trail work for the week was a new brand of work for many of us- more physical than we’re used to, but very satisfying in that there’s a very visible product at the end of the long day.
Life at camp during Allcorps was a lively change for the Jawbone crew. This was the first time the entire Corps was back together since Septoberfest, and four months into the program the group feels small and the atmosphere familiar, in contrast to the whirlwind of new faces from the first days of training. Members spent evenings after work playing hacky-sack, making music, exercising, playing cribbage, and reading. The themed dinners planned by Wildcorps were potluck style, with members travelling from tent to tent to sample the creations from all five crews. Some were able to master the art of hitting all five tents- a careful balance of eating while travelling and collecting the most popular meals before they were ravaged. Some found the ordeal entirely too stressful and stuck to visiting just a couple tents each night. One theme night for dinner was a chili cook-off between four crews with Wildcorps members judging. Chef Matt and sou chef Cee brought home the gold for Jawbone, a free stay at the Yucca Valley crew house resort as long as we do Scott’s laundry, with their expert culinary skills.
We left the Allcorps site on the morning of the 15th and drove back to Ridgecrest with the Rands crew. On the return journey, we took the scenic route through Death Valley National Park. Driving through the vast, breathtaking landscape was a great way to conclude the Allcorps experience. We were able to drive by some famous sites, such as the lowest elevation point in the country, Telescope Peak, and the mesquite sand dunes.
For the last couple days of our hitch, we underwent the stark transition from boulder heaving and tree limb-dragging to outreach with the BLM. President’s weekend is a very popular time for families to camp and enjoy a couple days of riding, so it is a prime time for outreach. We teamed up with the Rands crew and BLM officers at stations in the Jawbone and Rands recreation areas handing out maps of the area and signing OHV permits. It was a good way to rest our aching muscles after a week of hard trail work.