The first hitch went well as all the crew members were excited to get into the field and experience the work that they’d be engaged in over the next nine months. The more intangible aspects of the program and the conservation methods that were difficult to define theoretically were clarified by the group getting out and doing them. Vertical mulching, that ever-elusive restoration technique of taking dead plant matter and replanting it to resemble a living or, at least, recently dead plant, became second nature and even drew the crew into an aesthetic mindset as they tried to perfect their “bouquets” of vegetation. Fencing, particularly the taking down of fencing, became second nature to the crew, and after removing almost one mile of fence in less than three days, it became evident how substantial an impact a small group of people could make working together.
As the seasons transitioned from summer to fall, a change that seemed to happen over the course of the first hitch, a change amplified by living in and with the elements, the crew was given a great opportunity to experience the benefits of a well run camp. After being caught in a hail storm and returning to camp to find many personal items drenched by the downpour, it became clear that a better system of campsite management was needed if everyone was going to live comfortably in the outdoors. Personal tents were erected and improved upon, sleeping bags were protected by any means necessary and backpacks were stowed with great care. The crew became aware of their living conditions and environment in a new way and were able to become truly prepared for the outdoors, a skill that will become increasingly important as the temperatures drop and winter conditions set in and everyone gravitates more and more toward the yellow glow of the white tent lit by gas lanterns and warmed by the stove.
The second hitch will be a great test of the crews newly gained abilities as some large scale projects are expected to be started, including restoration of a major and established road and a substantial fence removal far up in a canyon, but even as the projects gain in scope, the crew gains in motivation and involvement. Perhaps without consciously realizing it, the crew members have thrown everything they have into what they’re doing, a sure sign that they all understand they are working for something greater than single person and that they plan on doing the best they can to succeed.