We pulled into Bode’s market and gas station, Abiquiu, NM. I hobbled into the store clad in dusty
work boots, shirt, and hat. Organic foods and high-quality tourist items crammed every shelf, nook,
and cranny. I stared at a piece of Mexican-inspired folk art and tried to process what I was looking at.
I was experiencing the same culture shock I have every time we finish a hitch. I went to the women’s’
bathroom and caught a glimpse of my face in a graffiti-covered mirror. I looked like I had just walked
out of the great dustbowl, circa 1932.
Life kind of feels like a dustbowl out here in New Mexico. There has not been much rain in the central
and southern parts of the state and the wind has been pretty strong, kicking up dirt into our faces for
the past few months. The worst of it is the massive forest fire taking place in Arizona, devastating
hundreds of thousands of acres of habitat. At certain times of the day in Santa Fe and in El Malpais
smoke fills the sky and settles over us. It becomes harder to breathe and the sun turns a frightening hue
This hitch, number 17, felt like the longest hitch of my tenure with the SCA. Perhaps I can attribute my
skewed perspective of time to the way we broke up the work. We spent the first five days building rock
dams in an arroyo in El Malpais, basked in the comfort of home in Santa Fe for a night, and then spent
the last five days doing restoration work in the Navajo Peak Wilderness Study Area up north, west of
Taos. Standing in Bode’s, the underwhelming goodbyes we said to Ken and Tim down in El Mal seemed
like they had happened ten years ago, not five days ago.
I looked in my left hand. I was holding an Izze soda beverage but I could not quite comprehend its
function. I put it back in the refrigerator case and walked around the wide sweeping aisles, vainly
attempting to internalize my surroundings in a way that made sense.
I clambered back into our truck holding a cream cheese brownie I purchased at an ice cream stand out
in the parking lot. The interior of the cab felt like a kiln. I instantly began to sweat. The brownie felt like
mud in my mouth.
Perhaps the heat, the bugs, and the bug-bite induced welts contributed to the time warp I was feeling.
I stared down at the giant red bumps dotting my forearms and calves and suddenly became itchy. I
thought about the black clouds of tiny blood-sucking insects that swarmed over all of us at every jobsite.
I began to shiver, quite possibly because I was in the throes of a histamine-induced fever.
I looked at my crew mates. We all seemed weary and worse for wear. I thought about how cruel it
would be to sing a cheesy camp song for the next forty-five minutes of our drive. I decided that I valued
my life over my mild amusement.
Alana turned the keys in the ignition and made a joke about how we definitely would not have to wait to
heat up the coils of our diesel engine on a day like this. As the car came to life and everyone slammed
doors, a smile came to my face. Sure it felt like a long hitch, but the bugs and the heat were just the last
hurtles in our proving grounds.
As a crew we have slept through two degree F temperatures and pulled down fences in snow storms.
We have encountered the world’s oddest spiders and found scorpions lurking under many a rock. We
have vanquished a morbidly obese pack rat that lived in our trailer and we have successfully broken and
repaired our trailer hitch countless times. We braved a bizarre hail storm in October and we have dealt
with plenty of OHV-ers running down our work within hours of completing our restoration. This hitch
we left our seven gallon water jug at home and improvised with stock pots and bungee cords to make
sure we had water while we worked. Heck, we even managed to get our broken down truck out of a
sand dune far away from a decent road. We are the New Mexico DRC crew. When things go poorly we
pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and say, “tough titties.”
While time passed slowly (for me at least) and while the bugs and heat were at times tedious, there
were many enchanting and uplifting experiences throughout this hitch.
In El Malpais, we spent a morning hiking up to and exploring the ruins of a tribal fortress. We found
intricately painted and textured pottery shards. We ran our hands inside smooth mortar holes. We
hopped from precarious rock to precarious rock and we thought about the people that once inhabited
this region. I stared down from our high perch on the mesa. The massive arroyo cutting through
Cebolla Canyon seemed even more impressive at this height.
In the WSA up north by Taos, we hiked to Navajo Peak, peered over an astoundingly beautiful rim,
and observed the confluence of a dried up creek with the Rio Chama. We also found a mysterious
rectangular shaft leading down a considerable distance into the rock of the mountain. A cold draft
pushed up from its depths. We wondered if it were ancient and manmade. We spent time in the
hot springs on the river bank feeling amazed and honored to have such a great and natural luxury
within our reach. A visit from Tami and James allowed us to get to know our BLM contacts on a much
more profound level and gave us the opportunity to ask questions regarding the challenges we faced
throughout the year in the struggle against OHV-ers. And James, as thoughtful as ever, showered us
with BLM and NCLS themed “schwag.”
We are pulling into the tiny driveway of our quaint adobe home on Lopez Street. Peter stands at the
door to greet us. Exciting change is in store for everyone as our program draws to a close, but it is
happening a bit sooner for Peter. He just found out he will be leaving us a few days early to begin work
as a project leader in Oregon. He has spent the last five days at home working hard on a major end-of-
In eight days we will all go our separate ways. But hell, with the adventures we have been on together
we might as well have matching tattoos.