Just when we began to feel like camp was home and to lose ourselves in Magic Desert Time, Hitch #3 arrived with the prospect of chainsaw training. With a Friday-to-Sunday hitch, this training could only be completed smack-dab in the middle, during the civilized world’s work week. To maximize work and minimize packing and prep time, this meant spending the entire hitch sleeping in our house and commuting to work every morning.
The house affords many luxuries – heater, oven, and shower, to name a few – but the work week is not the same when the evenings are spent checking Facebook rather than watching the stars or sculpting with scrap wire. Similarly, our work days in the field were much more enjoyable than our days sitting in the fire station looking at PowerPoint presentations about chainsaw parts and operation. I think we can all agree that we’re glad to have the certification and glad that the training is over! Our next few fence projects will definitely go more quickly than the last, when we were only using hand saws.
On this hitch, however, we went back to restoration on our days in the field. We finished up the incursion that we started at the end of last hitch and then moved on to a slightly different kind of project. We were working on a loop trail that the BLM had fenced off and designated as a foot and horse trail. Aesthetically, however, it still looked like an ATV trail, a thick, blank scar in the landscape. Thus, our job here was not to completely hide the incursion, but to narrow it into a winding foot path. At the beginning, this approach caused some confusion with planning and plant placement, but we eventually got the hang of it and learned to combine vertical mulch, horizontal mulch, and rocks with extraordinarily pleasing results. We even finished in time to spend our last day and a half hiking the incursions along one of our future fence projects. We got to enjoy some exercise and great views while finding out exactly where all these trails we are blocking off go. Luckily, most of them dead-end, so we shouldn’t have to worry about vehicles coming up on our fence from other directions.
During free time, the big theme of this hitch was running. After our first day of work, Matt and Jon decided to start training for a 50k ultra-marathon in March. They immediately began working on a training schedule and made a commitment to start running the next day. The rest of the crew, motivated in part by feelings of solidarity, in part by a desire for personal betterment, and, finally, by the fear of falling behind in ultra points, decided to take up a running regimen of our own. It became routine for everyone to go for a run after work and before dinner, and even though we don’t all run the same distances or at the same pace, the group as a unit provides a great support system for pushing ourselves to new heights.