Project Leader: Sterling B Collins-Hill Project Dates: Feb - May Email Address: email@example.com 
We left for Cibbets Flat campground in the Cleveland National Forest feeling both excited for the last hitch and slightly melancholy because it was our final hurrah before parting forever. After a lovely drive on a day that was as fine as any of us had ever seen, we arrived, set up camp and enthusiastically greeted our volunteer Eugene and Sam the PCTA rep for our section. As usual we committed ourselves to do sterling work, creating a section of the PCT that would serve as an example to both hikers and future crews for generations to come.
Over the next several days we moved hundreds of enormous rocks, lopped overgrowth and avoided a plethora of wildlife, only some of which was venomous. After work we divided our time between bathing in a nearby swimming hole and exploring the surrounding natural wonders. Of particular wonderfulness was a waterfall hidden several miles to the south just off of the PCT. We swam safely, felt proud and pushed each other to achieve greatness on a daily basis.
Towards the end of the hitch we traveled to the thru hiker kickoff near Lake Morena and conducted a volunteer workday that was interrupted regularly by hikers expressing their heartfelt thanks for our work. To be personally thanked by people just starting out on a journey of such spiritual and physical magnitude was an indescribable feeling, a mix of joy and satisfaction that will stay with us for the rest of our lives. After participating in kickoff for several days, we packed up our campsite and drove back to Joshua Tree, treasuring the bond we forged in the crucible of trailwork.
This is the last of our posts, the final rise on a trail that has stretched from the high, dry desert of Joshua Tree to the sweet rushing water of Mission Creek. For three months we have given our blood, sweat and tears to the trail and in the end there is no question in our minds but that it was worth it. Standing outside the house on our penultimate day together we watched the fire of the sun shatter on the jagged peaks of southern California. It was not a sunset, but the dawn of a friendship that is stronger than rock bars and will endure so long as hikers stride from Mexico to Canada.
Our 4th hitch was not as we had anticipated, due to mountain biker activists, missing paperwork and Congressional delays. But we soon found ourselves (only a day late) back at the location of our 2nd hitch: San Bernardino National Forest. Once again we had a whole campsite loop to ourselves, and we felt so at home, we decided to bring along one of our couches. It made a lovely addition to our campsite decor!
We were able to get a good workout every day, our hike to work started at about 3 miles. It was great to hike over our previous work, enjoy the wide, freshly brushed corridor, and see how well our rock structures were holding up. After we completed two rock retaining walls that were started by another crew, we tackled the thick brush up trail. We played many a game whilst we lopped. Ada had many boxes of mysterious contents, hinky pinky's abounded, and I learned that you can't tow a head of lettuce across a stream so that a goat won't eat it. We lopped until we got a little bit loopy, but eventually we worked so far up the trail that we could enjoy views of snow capped peaks, our previous work looked far far below us.
The last two days of work, we were able to drive our truck to the top of the ridge and hike down (1 mile) instead of up (3 miles) to work. This was quite a relief, although it did get us into a bit of car trouble. But the Forest Service and their glorious mustaches came to the rescue. Over the course of the hitch we worked hard, had glorious weather, a campfire most nights, and many a delicious meal. Now we're all looking forward to our next, and sadly last, hitch at Laguna Mountain!
Using pack animals to carry our food and tents into our site illustrates the backcountry nature of this hitch. Instead of having a truck with 100 gallons of water we could easily tap for drinking, cooking, and cleaning, every milliliter of water had to be hand pumped or filtered through a gravity bag. This truly was the backcountry we had been looking forward to, and luckily we had Mission Creek flowing strong right next to our camp and the trail. Our remote location also made the dangers of trail work even more dramatic. With the spring thaw in full effect, and warm nights with even warmer days upon us, we had a plethora of reptiles to observe as they emerged from their winter dens to sun themselves. This includes, unfortunately for us, the 7 types of rattle snakes that we could possibly encounter on this section of the PCT. Luckily our snake sightings were limited to one fairly large yet nonvenomous snake, and a rattler on the hike out.
Given the wildlife and truly remote nature of this hitch, we didn't allow this to prevent us form working as hard as we ever had. We covered almost 3 miles of trail in our 8 work days, and even worked on a small project on the hike out. In many places we knew that our work would be washed out by the floods of biblical proportion that occasionally rush through this canyon, as well as the smaller, seasonal floods that move through. Because of this fact, many of our projects were built with a sturdiness that is rarely matched. The first day, we had a 2 minute walk to work, and by the last day, it was well over an hour back to camp at the end of our often 9 hour days. The creek was a godsend on some of the hot afternoons that we had yet to experience on our other hitches, even though we were nearly a mile above sea level for much of the hitch, the frosts of the first few nights quickly disappeared into warm nights and mornings, and hot afternoons that we will need to get used to for the next hitches. Luckily we had the creek to cool off in with quick dips of the head, or longer, relaxed, backcountry baths at the end of the day.
Because of the aforementioned flooding, much of the work we did was extremely transformative. Turning washed out side-walls into ramps, rocky areas into clear smooth trail, impassable areas with 16 inch diameter trees as debris into a grassy spot that looks as if it never was obstructed. We were also lucky enough to use our crosscut saw for the first time, cutting some trees thicker than 2 feet in diameter, and taking off a branch in one spot that took well over an hour of face cutting, sawing, and wedging before it finally fell and cleared the trail corridor.
As we hiked out the last day we worked on a small project, and knocked it out with the efficiency and teamwork that we have developed during out time together as a crew. We walked out cheery yet feet dragging from extreme exhaustion, using the buffet we had planned as our first meal back in civilization (along with Ada bars) as our fuel. Happy with our progress and high quality of work, we stuffed ourselves full as can be at the Morongo Casino Buffet, knowing we had truly earned it. Also it was quite funny to walk into a fairly nice buffet covered in dirt from head to toe, looking as if we had just survived a few months on a desert island.
Due to circumstances wildly out of our control, our hitch prep was less than ideal. Our truck, “Tiny,” was out of commission; it needed a new transmission pump. Our original plans to go to Vasquez rocks were thwarted by a crazed mountain bike man. While the PCTA scrambled to find alternative plans we remained for three days flexibly inflamingo. Though our best laid plans had gone awry we persevered through the opposition and arrived at San Bernardino National Forest with our heads held high and our bellies full of Jack in the Box.
At Applewhite Campground Greg, our PCTA liaison, greeted us and declared, “Everything you see, from campsites 1 through 14, is yours.” As we surveyed our kingdom, from the grassy knolls to the picnic tables, we felt things were looking pretty good. We had access to running water and flushing toilets, ample food and ample space, and we thought to ourselves, “not bad!” It didn’t feel quite right to have all of these amenities at our fingertips, but we can’t complain.
We spent our first three days slashing through 6,900 feet of trail. We dug treat, busted down berm and removed vegetation. On the fourth day we set two check steps and a water bar like it was our job! Oh wait… it was our job… But either way we rocked it! On St. Patrick’s Day we were lucky enough to be graced by 14 volunteers from Pomona College. The volunteers ventured valiantly to the worksite vanquishing the verminous undergrowth with a vengeance. That day we covered 1,400 feet.
We spent our final days hunting for rock, sending rocks downhill, sliding rocks, rolling rocks, carrying rocks, dancing on rocks, and setting rocks in place; all in an effort to build two rock retaining walls. It rocked! On the last day we laid the finishing rocks of our retaining walls, which stood erected like monuments to our triumphs on the trail. Words cannot describe how we felt at the end of this hitch, so we leave you with five possible farewells. Choose your own adventure!
I.Rather than walk down the trail we soared from peak to peak, de scending like eagles, our wings gilded with triumph and rock bars clenched in our talons for we were the raptors of victory and the mountains were our nest.
II. As we made the long trek down one last time, salty beads poured down my face, whether they were tears or sweat I do not know, but the feelings that welled up inside me were those of a champion. As the moisture saturated my luxuriant mustache I realized that this was the true reward for my labors; the taste was pure like the finest champagne California has to offer.
IV. As the golden orb of the sun set over the mountains, a sense of pride washed over me, the kind that I have not felt since the last time I listened to the styling’s of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. It was in that moment that I realized that I was The Boss and the mountains were my band. Together there was nothing that we couldn’t conquer. We were unstoppable. AMERICA!
V. “It was like the part in the movies, when the hero shows up at the end to receive his hard earned medal, and all of his enemies in the crowd start to shrug off their grudges, as they crack slow smiles, clapping their hands off for him! Yeah!”
On our first hitch, we were joined by the other PCT crew and two volunteers, Levi & Roger. Everyone was pumped up and ready to put the skills they had learned at work skills training to use. However, the weather had it out for us and our start date was pushed back two days however, due to snow.
Travel day came and we headed for Tule Spring. We soon found out, as we neared the work site, that the melting snow made the roads slick and near impossible to drive with our truck and trailer. The crews received instruction to move to Scissors Crossing, a site at a lower elevation so there would be no chance of snow. The next morning we met up with a few trail volunteers from a group called the Trail Gorillas. They taught us how to use a brush saw (imagine a weed whacker with a saw at the end of it) and then everyone got to practice with one. They are noisy little things but helpful when cutting thick brush.
Things were looking better the next day as we got the ok to move back to our original worksite. Before leaving though we took a side trip to the town of Julian, a place with some of the best pies you'll ever eat. We made it to Tule Spring on the dry roads, set up camp, and prepped for the next days of intense brushing. With only three days to use the brush hogs, we tried to clear as much trail as we possible. We widened the trail corridor and cleared over 8860 ft of the PCT. As the sun set on our final day on hitch, our spirits were as high as the crescent of the new moon, rising over the hills of Anza-Borrego.
Patrick Hall 
I am 26, gingeronomous and wildly responsible on all of our hitches. I enjoy bathing in mountainous streams, devouring with gusto the constant parade of gastronomic delights that we have for our evening repast and doing above average trail work. I most recently lived in Philadelphia for several years and am enjoying the desert environment and climbing opportunities of Joshua Tree immensely. I am looking forward to the many diverse challenges that the future will bring me both in and out of the SCA.
Sterling grew up in rural Maine and got a unique view of the world from the bow of his father’s canoe and through his mother’s passion for playing host family to students and teachers from all over the world. He spent his first five years in the workforce as a part of his regional conservation corps where he learned the joys of serving his community and saving his planet.
He went to college in upstate New York where he studied Art and English. After moving West and working a variety of education jobs from woodworking instructor to snake handler to after-school teacher he led high school crews in Oregon and then last summer's Pacific Crest Trail crew for six months where he had the time of his life.
He views leading a crew down the PCT as an incredible gift and an opportunity to practice his craft. When not in the backcountry he can be found taking in live music, sampling local cuisine, dreaming about his next travel experience and pickling whatever vegetables he can get his hands on.
Matthew Jones 
I'm a 24 year old eagle scout with a passion for conservation work. I spend most of my free time in the outdoors. I like to snowboard, boulder, hike, skateboard, and make metal tools like knives and small hatchets. I love to listen to and write music and I hope to work in some sort of backcountry setting as a career. I'm excited to work on projects that are not just physically but mentally challenging as well.
Jake Baechle 
Jake grew up in the buckeye state (Ohio) where he spent his free time running and playing music. After graduating from high school he ventured west to attend school at the University of Redlands. Here he studied business and music, and took an interest in sustainability. Upon graduation Jake returned to his hometown to help Automation Plastics establish a recycling program. A few months later he began his first SCA position with the Green Cities Corps. Through this program he was able to spend a year working with Sustainable Pittsburgh, encouraging businesses throughout the region to take on sustainability initiatives. Now Jake is looking forward to getting out of the office and taking on his second SCA internship where he will be doing trail maintenance on the Pacific Crest Trail.
Corps Member Training
February 8th – February 14th
The crew met in Tucson, Arizona and we traveled North to begin training in beautiful Catalina State Park. We were lucky enough to spend the week working with some Native Plant and Trail Conditions and Survey crews as well as our sister Pacific Crest Trail crew. We were schooled in Wilderness First Aid, Leave No Trace, basecamp setup and all things SCA (history, policy, goals, etc.). We had a great time making friends and getting psyched for the coming season. We then departed for Southern California and made plans for our intitiation to PCT trailwork at our new barracks in Joshua Tree.
February 18th – February 22nd
Our workskills session took place in Coyote Canyon, just South of Anza CA. We were under the tutelage of seasoned trails veteran Steve Hester and thoroughly enjoyed our introduction to trail theory and tool use. We had a variety of projects that challenged us and provided great learning experiences. We also were privy to the spectrum of weather that the desert can offer; from 80 degree bluebird days to snowy nights in the 20s we got a taste of what may be in store for the rest of the season... lets hope its more of the former.
We contributed to the:
2628 feet of trail restored
8 drain dips
66 foot realignment
20 foot stone retaining wall
25 square feet of riprap
2 rock waterbars
3 check dams
4 large gargoyles
And a stream crossing
Heather McGee 
My name is Heather McGee, and I'm a member of the Pacific Crest Trail Team II. I recently graduated from Beloit College, where I studied phytoplankton, technical theater and ecology. Lately I've been spending my time back on the East Coast, taking tourists sailing on a schooner in Newport, RI. In order to further confuse my resume, I decided to take a break from the ocean to come out West and work in the desert. I'm excited to see new parts of the country, and get dirty and tired!
Ada Fox 
Having spent the majority of her life on the east coast, Ada Fox decided it was time for a change and head for the west coast to join the PCT maintenance crew. She grew up in Massachusetts where a middle school field trip to an outdoor school in NH sparked her interest in the environment. From there, an SCA flyer hanging in her high school photography class introduced her to the joys of conservation and trail work. Her high school crew experience inspired her to further study environmental issues and so she headed to the Hudson Valley to study Environmental Science at Marist College. Ada’s studies became more research oriented observing the effects of different pollutants on the growth of plants. After graduation, she wasn’t ready for the graduate school route but was longing to be in the outdoors doing trail work. She saw this as the perfect opportunity to join the SCA again, meet new people, and explore the outdoors.