The “First Five” was a whirlwind of new experiences. The term “First Five” refers to our inaugural day in Ridgecrest and the four days that followed. The first of these experiences was the fact that six complete strangers were thrust into a small three bedroom house and will be spending the majority of the next eight months living and working together. It’s practically “The Real World – Ridgecrest” and is anticipated to be the next big thing.
Our group, the Golden Valley Crew, is comprised of a diverse cast of what TBS would dub “real characters”. First up on our crew is our project leader, Shannon “Shay Dubs” Waldron. Shannon is new to the Student Conservation Association and we plan to make it unforgettable for her. She captains our crew of six comprised of Anne Stahley, Angela Powell, Dave “Murricane” Murray, Matt “Captain” Falco, Marko Capoferri, and myself, Maddie Shields. We’re still working nicknames, so stay tuned for updates on that front (these things take time!).
The idea of going from six strangers to a family might seem like a task requiring significant effort and time, but it was a pretty seamless transition for us. By this point in time (a month in? or somewhere around that) we’re gotten extremely comfortable with each other. We share tents, clothes, silverware, and even inappropriate stories. As a crew we attempted to become pirates and instigate a prank war between crews (there are three other desert restoration crews in Ridgecrest besides ourselves). We have designated our front porch as the hang out spot where we spend many a night in our off time. We learned of the joys of the Shave Shack on a hot day.
To educate us on the desert and some of the issues here, Shannon planned a meeting with the people of the Indian Wells Valley Water Department and with some amateur star gazers. We learned about water shortages and the role that Ridgecrest plays in it. It’s interesting to see, despite the fact that we are in the desert, how many green lawns there are here. The star gazers were some of the most interesting folks we’ve met around here. Using their telescopes we were able to take a look at the moons around Jupiter. Since then, we can’t help but point out ‘ole Jupes in the sky every night.
Although this sounds like a lot of playing around, we did do work. Shannon gave us a general safety presentation and a vehicle safety presentation to ensure we are all taken care of. By the end of it we didn’t want to hear the word “protocol” ever again! Our first crew activity consisted of changing the tire on our trailer which was flat when we got here. That was our first taste of working together and I have to say it ran fairly smoothly.
To end these first days together we camped out at Walker Pass. It is here that we learned how to set up camp and slept under the stars for the first time. On our first full day in Walker Pass we hiked around the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and got up close and personal with desert habitat. The second day on our mini trip was spent at a hippie-made hot springs in Kernville on the Kern River. Adorned with children’s handprints and inspirational sayings, it was a little slice of heaven on earth after the heat of the desert.
Overall the First Five gave us a taste of what the next eight months will hold and I’ve got to say, it tastes pretty darn sweet. We’ll try to update after every hitch so check back on our blog often!