Project Leader: Natalie R. Wilson Project Dates: Sept. 13, 2011 to May 19, 2012 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org  Phone: 760-608-2256 Address: 56020 Santa Fe Trail, Suite H, Yucca Valley, CA 92284
That's All Folks 
So, this is the end of the WildCorps XI season. Since September 2011, WildCorps has explored the California Desert District, visited some amazing places, accomplished some monumental tasks, and gathered massive amounts of data for the BLM. The crew dedicated over 5400 hours at a variety of locations, including 19 wilderness areas, 1 national monument, and 2 non-wilderness BLM management areas. Major projects included a four-mile fence separating the Kingston Mountains Wilderness from Dumont Dunes Open Area, an intensive water source monitoring effort along the Colorado River that spanned both the Needles and El Centro field office, and hosting four other SCA crews for the midseason All Corps in the Big Maria Mountain Wilderness.
Look at our Numbers!
Incursions Restored: 20
Area Restored (m2): 20997
Vertical Mulch Planted: 258
Seed Pits Created and Seeded: 247
Hard Barriers Installed (#, m): 9, 181
Sites Monitored: 41
Fence Constructed (#, m): 8, 2708
Fence Prepared (#, m): 4, 4222
Fence Maintained (#, m): 5, 80
Mines Exclosed: 3
Water Features Monitored: 49
Biological Features Monitored: 29
Archeaological Features Monitored: 230
Grazing Features Monitored: 32
Misc Features Monitored: 10
Wilderness Boundary Monitored (miles): 6.4
Miles Hiked: 212
Area Monitored (km2): 46
Visitor Service Structures
Hard Barriers Installed (#, m): 1, 59
Sign Posts Installed: 2
Kiosk Foundations Installed: 2
Gates Installed: 6
Signs Installed: 40
Signs Maintained: 12
Signs Removed: 2
Invasive Removal (m2): 6540
Trash Removed (m3): 310
Hiking Trails Created: 1
Fire Rings Removed: 6
Trail Brushed (m): 366
Shelving Units Installed: 3
Washburn Site Preparation for Tribal Gathering (weeds whacked, port-a-potties distributed, trash picked up, ranch house cleaned): 41 people hours
Total Service Hours (ppl hrs): 5457
Big Thanks to the following:
Greg Hill for his interest in the crew and their understanding of the BLM and the current issues the agency is facing.
Tim Williamson of the Barstow Field Office, who shared the challenges, struggles, and accomplishments of the crew by spending day after day with us in the field as well as engaging us in multiple conversations about the agency, its challenges, procedures, and operations. And telling us the story of Willie Boy.
All of our field office contacts: Jen Taylor, Hanem Abouelezz, Mona Daniels, John Johnson, Marty Dickes, and Ashley Blythe.
SCA staff: Darren Gruetze and Jamie Weleber.
The other Ridgecrest crews: that’s Rands, Jawbone, Golden Valley and Owens Peak.
And a special thanks to Rachelle, Caitlin, Dan and Gannon. Y’all are rad and made this year ridiculous. – Natalie R. Wilson
Look at our Pictures!
Hitch 14 marked the end of our field season. It was filled with new experiences, old friends and overwhelming amounts of ice cream. We started off the hitch by heading north to the Sacatar Trail Wilderness where we spent 3 days hunting for archaeological features and artifacts. With the help of the Rands and Jawbone crews and a rambunctious helper named Ellie we were able to find over 200 milling stones, projectile points and bifaces. On day 5 we headed out to Jawbone’s home base to join with the rest of the DRC for our final All Corps event. The days flew by in the company of our fellow corps members leaving us with fleeting memories of completed incursions, fruit kabobs, sing-alongs, non-swag, goodbyes, and one giant super moon.
This hitch represents exactly what WildCorps has been about all season. A new area to discover (with a long commute), crazy terrain to navigate the trailer through, beautiful campsite vistas, new tasks to master, old skills to re-learn, BLM provided treats, wind avoidance with ultimate failure, star filled nights, rest stops for cold beverages, inside jokes, dusty roads and at the end of the day relaxing among familiar faces.
These past 8 months have been an incredible experience and hopefully as we go our separate ways we can say that this isn’t a final farewell, only goodbye for now.
So it’s come to this. Our last full hitch as a crew and our first non-training-related sweat-a-thon, as the desert finally matched its stark visual brutality with surprising heat. After months of cold, windy nights where our crew dressed more like Ralphie’s little brother in A Christmas Story than southern Californians, we finally caved to peer pressure and removed our pants. Our task this time around was to head into the Newberry Wilderness near Barstow on a quest to find and monitor golden eagle nest sites. These nests are generations old and are located in steep, remote, and inaccessible areas within the wilderness. Or on top of power lines, either way is fine. We met up with the California Desert District Biologist for the BLM, the much-renowned Larry LaPre, who came with his spotting scopes, binoculars, radio direction-finders, and his encyclopedic knowledge of desert biology to us as we slogged up washes, traversed across scree slopes, and poked in a whole lot of nooks and crannies looking for birds. At first, we only succeeding in being divebombed by falcons and cooly observed by a pair of Great Horned Owls. For days, we didn’t see anything of the eagles other than their nests, which are composed of large sticks, several feet deep, and perched with commanding views of surrounding terrain. Each night we retired to our camp feeling sadder and sadder, and maybe thinking that the eagles had been poached, much like in the Disney documentary, The Rescuers Down Under. We consoled ourselves with gritty omelettes at the Bagdad Café, the epicenter of the American Route 66 Experience for European tourists on Route 66, a place where the jukebox plays AC/DC, and when you tell it to play a choice track from The Backstreet Boys, it plays AC/DC. But all was not lost.
On our seventh day looking for eagles, we finally saw a pair of ravens soaring…..HOLY CRAP THEY’RE EAGLES! A mad scramble erupted over the binoculars, and we stared in amazement as the animals floated high above us on thermals, taking in the terrain and probably laughing at us, for like flightless birds, we dreamed of the ability to fly. Our hitch picked up from there, and was marked with several highlights, including: Finding a 3” scorpion in my shoes, hugging a 20lb bag of ice as it melted on the 45 minute drive from the gas station (where we repeatedly got ice cream) back to camp, and seeing desert bighorn sheep on two non-consecutive occasions! Oh, and we saw a baby eagle! Le cute.
All cool things must come to an end, and we headed back to Yucca Valley thinking about our lives after the DRC, with our clothes stiff and crusty with salt, and the pleasant odors of our unwashed feet wafting on the hot desert air.
Hitch 12 
For our third to last hitch dubC started with a Leave No Trace trainer course. Darren, our program coordinator, led the training in Joshua Tree National Park. Each of the members practiced teaching the LNT principles, incorporating fun games and activities for the kiddos. We also got to crawl through the Chasm of Doom! Then we spent a day in the house packing and cooking for our 6 days in the field. This day in the house also happened to be a member’s birthday so we had ice cream cake!! With candles!! In the morning we made the long, half hour trek to the Bighorn Mountains Wilderness, just north of our house. We met up with our stellar BLM contact, Big Tim, and got to work. We had some variety this hitch – we put up smooth and barbed wire fence, dug holes and concreted H-braces and poles, and even strung some cable to complete a short fence. We also got to restore some incursions with lots of vertical mulch, and a next level, 2 step mulch was created – a downed Joshua Tree was replanted, assuming it won’t stay up forever and will then morph in horizontal mulch. Brava! And huge, furry June beetles started to make an appearance as we all read around the propane lantern into the night. The sound of their flight is intimidating and they fly full force into whatever is in front of them, which was usually us. And an Air Force plane flew over us, probably only 1000 feet up; that was weird and exciting.
Hitch 11 took WildCorps back to the Needles Field Office to work in the remote Old Woman Mountains Wilderness. We continued our recent streak of wilderness core monitoring, this time with a focus on human-made structures. The Old Womans once hosted numerous mining claims, and still feature active cattle grazing allotments. BLM was looking for updates and new information on what exactly is out there in this vast wilderness so they naturally called on the heartiest group of explorers they know.
To accomplish our task of surveying large stretches of desert flatlands, we heavily employed Walkie-Talkies for the first time and spread out. This allowed for much super official code lingo, daydreaming, and almost getting lost. Needless to say, we did find plenty of stuff! There were a lot of rusted-out cars, mine shafts, and dilapidated cabins. And of course, cows! We had a variety of common bovine encounters such as “Hey look a cow! Two cows, three cows, six, oh my god it’s a stampede!” and “Hey look a cow! Let me get closer…oh she looks angry and has horns, should probably turn around now.” Cows can run faster than I had imagined. As an added bonus, we occasionally saw horses majestically galloping across the landscape and got to hang out with a couple at one of the corrals.
We were also reminded this hitch that it does occasionally precipitate in the desert. During pre-hitch, we enjoyed a short but intense hail storm from inside the friendly confines of our Yucca Valley abode. We were greeted with more rain, hail, and even some snowflakes during our first couple days in the field. At different points in the hitch, threatening storm clouds cast the desert in an unusually dramatic light. All in all, another rollicking time with the WildCorps crew that took us all over a beautiful Mojave landscape full of Mojave yucca, barrel cacti, and stunningly historical trash. Next up: Leave No Trace training in our scenic backyard, Joshua Tree National Park!
This hitch WildCorps headed back south towards El Centro. Our task was to explore the canyons in the wilderness surrounding the Anza Borrego State Park to monitor for invasive tamarisk plants. After a majority of back country campsites over the past few hitches WildCorps switched things up and settled down into the relative lap of luxury in a campsite within the state park. We were supplied with a stone picnic table, a large pagoda perfect for chin up contests and a vault toilet right around the corner. With all indications pointing to 10 days of flawless weather we decided to forgo the setup of our tents and cook and sleep in the open air.
Our proximity to the border provided us with the unique opportunity to be introduced to the local border patrol agents. They were kind enough to give us a firsthand insight into what they do and take us on a tour through their various patrol routes and the city of Calexico.
The scenery in the Jacumba, Carrizo Gorge and Coyote Mountains wilderness areas did not disappoint. We were treated to panoramic views of the Anza Borrego badlands, crazy mountain top caves carved by the wind filled with shells that once littered the ocean floor, lush green canyons, running streams and underground water falls. This time however, the scenery held a bit more of a challenge for us. Nature threw us a few curveballs in the form of cholla cactus attacks, bee swarm encounters, non-swarm related bee stings and heavy winds. Being WildCorps we took it in stride (sometimes literally) and after a few mad dashes to safety, needle removal hiking breaks, and the liberal use of antiseptic wound cleanser we carried on looking for and recording the presence of tamarisk for future removal.
We were also treated to the sight of a few elusive bighorn sheep as well as our first desert tortoise sighting! Being careful not to crowd her, we gave the tortoise a well-deserved photo shoot to record our sighting. Next up we’ll see what Needles has in store for us!
Indian Pass Wilderness
It was another beautiful morning on the far reaches of the American frontier when we made it to the suspiciously named Imperial Valley. After a brief operational pause to air down our tires and search for Prussians, we rattled and jounced our way down a washboarded back road with the squeals of our brakes and the high whistle of our turbochargers adding to the standard regional music of Border Patrol sirens, low-flying Navy attack aircraft, and I think at one point we heard an actual bird.
As our first foray into the El Centro Field Office's area of operations, we were constantly reminded of the somewhat challenging nature of our work in an area that is well-known for its...international tourism. According to our BLM contacts, if you want good Mexican food you have to to go Mexico. Thing is, that's actually something people do for dinner! Very cosmopolitan. We aren't allowed to leave California, so we kept on truckin' towards Picacho Peak, an extremely aesthetic and imposing desert monolith that has been added to our off-hitch hit list. Along the way, we ran into more law enforcement officers than we have ever seen in the desert. Not just the ubiquitous Border Patrol, but also the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and our personal favorite, State Park Rangers! Being the wayward volunteers that we are, we flagged down State Ranger Sue and asked her advice about routes, campsites, and the best access to our monitoring areas. Like every good ranger, Sue was incredibly helpful and even pointed us to a semi-secret spot along the Colorado River. Don't get me wrong, we love a good dry camp as much as the next crew, but there's something wonderful about waking up in the morning to watch the sun start peeping over Arizona while Coots and Canadian snowbirds paddle their way downriver.
Our work for the next six days was to monitor guzzlers, tanks, and tenajas in and around the Indian Pass Wilderness, a small and not very visited tract of land sandwiched between the Imperial Wildlife Refuge, Picacho State Recreation Area, and the vast agricultural machinations of the Imperial Valley. Monitoring is an interesting thing and it goes like this. “Here are twenty sets of coordinates. Go to those places and let us know what's there. See you in a week.” Of course, we needed some water monitoring practice, so we started by testing the effects of cannonballs, swan dives, and belly flops on the Colorado River, and the effects of mud fights on our ear canals. After that warm-up, we split up and tramped our way deep into the wilderness core, always alert for the telltale palm trees that we have associated with oases. Unlike our Needles hitches, palm trees in this area were very hard to come by, and we had to resort on our fall-back indicators, bathtub rings on the rock and tons of burro poop!
We also managed to get out to the North Algodones Dunes Wilderness, monitoring sites with BLM biologists who had a lot to say about wilderness, holes, and the inherent challenges of the federal job process. Trekking across the wavering expanse of dunes as far as the eye could see, we realized that this was the desert we had all imagined as kids, the desert that exists in the memories of people who have never been to it. As the end of our season draws closer, its hard to say what the lasting memories of our desert year will be, but it will probably have something to do with all of the wonderful and interesting people we have met, from Big Tim and Ron to Ranger Sue, and all of the hours we have spent behind the wheels of our trucks listening to the music and each other on our search for adventure. And water.
Hitch 8 brought the dubC crew to the Needles BLM field office for a marvelous hitch of water monitoring. We got to spend our days hiking around the Whipple, Chemeheuvi, Dead, Sacramento, and Clipper mountains in search of elusive springs and seeps. Our first attempt was made simple when we spotted a palm tree in the distance, what we learned to be a classic sign of water nearby. Other hikes were a little less successful, but always an awesome way to spend the day. With temperatures consistently in the low 70’s we would suddenly remember that it is February and how lucky we are to be here. Our campsite was visited by wild burros nightly, whose symphonic bellows nearly put the melodic howls of coyotes to shame. Seriously, they made crazy noises. Every night. Multiple times.
This 12 day hitch ended with a few days in the charming town of Shoshone. The entire DRC sprawled out on tarps at the intersection of 127 and 178. We attended the Sierra Club’s Desert Committee Conference, held annually in Shoshone, and dubC had the honor of giving a presentation on what exactly all the dirty young folks are doing in the California Desert District. Muck Tromp 2012 through the natural hot springs in nearby Tecopa was a success, and good thing, because this time it counted. We also enjoyed a visit to China Ranch Date Farm and ate various goodies filled with dates.
The blood oranges were delicious!
WildCorps is back home from an unusual hitch that featured old friends, much vehicle excitement, and the completion of some ambitious work projects. As the oldest and most mature crew of the Desert Restoration Corps, it was our responsibility and pleasure to host the annual mid-season All Corps, a coming-together of all the DRC crews for four days of work and play.
Day 1 was spent setting up camp as our Ridgecrest-based buddies started the long trek southeast. On Day 2, we welcomed familiar faces with some unfamiliar facial hair. To orient our guests to the area, we showed crew members the Blythe Intaglios (mysterious figures carved into the desert pavement) and enjoyed a mini beach vacation at the Colorado River. On Day 3, it was time to get working at the sand dunes on the north side of the Big Marias. First, however, we had to get there. Driving uphill across the dune was no easy task and the sand claimed a few of our vehicles. Add in a tire blowout and we had ourselves quite the chaotic morning. With our fearless leader Natalie managing the vehicle situations, the WildCorps crew stepped up to introduce the work projects and direct everyone on their tasks. Thanks to the can-do spirit of all parties involved, we had ourselves a productive morning of raking, restoration, and fence preparation amidst all the vehicle drama. Notwithstanding a couple more stuck vehicles, we were able to settle into more of a groove the next couple days. We extended a wood post and cable fence to mark the wilderness boundary, restored some major incursions, and filled one giant incursion with bags upon bags of dark rocks. By the third day of work, we had enlisted all the crews, administrators, and special guests on that latter project, creating one epic fire line shuttling rocks from an out-of-sight quarry to the hill of the incursion. It was quite satisfying to end our final work day together atop the dune marveling at how well the former incursion now blended into the rocky slope.
The evenings of All Corps were marked by giant potluck dinners and plenty of lively conversation. On the penultimate night, we blasted pop classics and 90's nostalgia from one of our trucks and showed off our best and worst moves on the gravelly dance floor. God bless mother nature: she's a single woman too.
We bid our farewells on Day 6 and WildCorps returned to its normal routine of random work projects, sophisticated humor, and eight o'clock bedtimes. After tying up a few loose ends from the massive All Corps project, we spent the last couple days monitoring the wilderness boundary. Before returning home, we enjoyed an informative environmental education piece from Gannon on search and rescue operations in which we talked through a scenario I hope to never find myself in. Next hitch: onto Needles to acquaint ourselves with yet another section of the California desert.
Riverside Mountains 
Hitch 6 saw us heading out to the Riverside Mountains Wilderness in sight of the Colorado River, green fields, distant sand dunes and the lights of Parker, Arizona. On our first day of work we returned to our roots by putting in a post and cable fence with the purpose of blocking OHV traffic into the wilderness. After much digging, burying, planking and shot-putting of rocks we deemed the border thoroughly defended from any sort of motor vehicle. The rest of the hitch was spent monitoring and restoring other incursions leading into the wilderness. Tasks that involved many miles of hiking with our trusty GPS and occasionally testing the true meaning of four wheel driving. We found that our recently re-sharpened restoration skills had not been lost over winter break and we successfully managed to make multiple incursions disappear back into the wilderness landscape. We had a few memorable nights including making ravioli from scratch, battling ferocious winds whilst gathering escaping papers and a phantom coyote visitation. During the day we were able to do a little scouting in the neighboring Big Maria Mountains, the location of our Hitch number 7 and the site of mid-season AllCorps! We also managed to take the time on our last day to investigate nearby interesting features including the nearby Blythe Intaglios (mysterious giant geoglyphs carved into the desert floor) and the scenic Colorado River where some of our members dared to brave the cold to perform handstands and imitate surfacing sea monsters. We returned to Yucca Valley with our data bin overflowing, semi-dry clothing, and pounds of dust clinging to every available outer and inner surface of our equipment. And with the knowledge that we will be able to share this amazing area with the rest of the DRC on our next hitch. I think I can speak for the entire WildCorps crew when I say that we can’t wait!
Hitch 5: Oreocopias!
Our fifth hitch started like any other, with last minute packing and a dirty food processor full of peanut butter. When our two truck caravan departed home base, we headed to the Orocopia Wilderness between Palm Springs and Blythe, adjacent to Interstate 10 and the freedom-centric Chocolate Mountains Aerial Gunnery Range. After settling into our new tents and adjusting to the horrors of living without a roof over our heads for the first time in over two months, we were visited by the local welcome committee, a happy fox that visited one of our crew members while she slept, and occasionally other members of the crew, while the sonorous sounds of laser guided bombs and night helicopter sorties helped us drift into slumber.
The days ahead were arduous, not least of all because it was raining! In the desert! Amidst pitter-patters of rain and clouds that made threats at us, we took turns with pick mattocks making big pieces of concrete into small pieces of concrete, and then walking a half mile to our trucks with said small pieces of concrete. We tried to remove an old water-for-wildlife guzzler at Gucci Springs, placed well before the area was bought out by Prada and subsequently designated as wilderness, but the iron was too heavy for our muscles so used to pounding posts, but not yet adapted to dragging stuff. Fortunately, the next morning we got in our CrossFit exercise for the week, cleaning up a tire dump and removing over 120 tires from within the wilderness, evicting a pack rat in the process.
The rest of our days were filled with cold, wet, hot, windy, sunny adventures as we ranged all around the Chuckwalla and Orocopia Wildernesses. Whether clear cutting an entire canyon's worth of Tamarisk and then spraying herbicide over the stumpy remains (it's the only way to be sure), planting dead sticks in the ground to make them look like live sticks, or clearing over 300 pounds of shot-up garbage from box canyons, every day was a test in careful navigation, technical driving, and patriotism.
All good things must come to an end, and as we headed back home with our flags waving and chests swelling with pride at all things American, we regaled each other with personal interpretations of the best holiday songs that the first amendment had to offer, and opened our wonderful secret Green Man gifts sent from the crews way out on the lonely frontier....And there was much rejoicing!
Hitch 4 brought some variety to the dubC crew. We began our hitch in the Big Horns constructing a few t-post fences with barbed wire to block off incursions and pounded carconite signs. We also came upon three mine shafts as we turned an incursion into a hiking trail with proper signage. Because the Big Horns are a short drive from home we spent those few days working out of the house for the first time. The comforts of home were much appreciated as one by one each member began to develop stuffy-and-then-runny-nosed illnesses. The majority of hitch was spent at Dumont Dunes completing a portion of the fence that includes over 1500 steel posts that we pounded during our previous 2 hitches. We ran cable and put up safety reflectors in order to turn 1.5 miles of posts into a F E N C E. Our BLM contacts continued the cherished tradition of stuffing us with candy and baked goods -- highlights included cherry turnovers and Harry Potter cupcakes complete with pinky rings. The RV’s proved very useful on day 7 when the wind was deemed dangerous enough to halt work for the day. Moderate cabin fever occurred, but overall we continue to enjoy working and living together as a solid crew of absurdity. Although appreciative of the RV’s, a couple members opted to sleep outside, thirsting for a little bit more of the wilderness experience – the height of which was a coyote visiting the nearby leaky water tank and nearly throwing up on an unsuspecting sleeper. We had the chance to visit an Area of Critical Environmental Concern called Salt Creek Hills near the dunes and marvel at the riparian flora, including a magical, tangled grove of Athel trees. Once again we visited the hot springs in Tecopa and enjoyed shooting stars and muck between our toes. Oh, and on the way out to the dunes we encountered a porcelain goddess atop a mini-mountain. We climbed and took a moment (or was it an hour?) for a photo shoot, see below…
Hitch 3 - Dumont Dunes 
We are back from another delightful hitch of pounding fence posts at Dumont Dunes! With one hitch of fence-building already under our belts, we were able to fine-tune our process and work with even greater efficiency. Some of the most satisfying moments of this hitch were the times when we seemed to be working in perfect lockstep as one fence-building machine. Between the two hitches, we put up just under 4 miles of fence posts marking the boundary between the Dumont Dunes Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area and the Kingston Wilderness. To make sure we were producing quality (i.e. straightness) as well as quantity, we set a straight tensioned wire to act as our guide for each section and also leveled and adjusted posts along the way. I am proud that we remained perfectionists and I think it will be quite the good-looking fence when all is said and done.
Though most of the hitch was marked by post-pounding routine with our friendly power tool the Pneumatic, there were also some breaks in the regular action. On our first day back at the Dunes, we went into the nearby town of Tecopa to do some outreach at a community festival and check out some of the local attractions. The festival featured friendly vendors, pork chops on sticks, and a rockin’ band called Earth Blues. We also browsed the Shoshone Museum where we learned some local history and viewed mammoth remains. Our day of fun ended with a visit to the China Ranch Date Farm. The drive down to the farm was spectacular, with dramatic rock faces on each side, and the “date shakes” (aka milk shakes with dates mixed in) sold at the gift shop were equally spectacular. Other memorable excursions were a night-time swim in a community pool in Shoshone (complete with underwater photos, a few of which actually turned out!) and a return visit to the natural hot springs near Tecopa. For our second stint, we were feeling a little more adventurous and explored the marshy channel coming out of the main spring. We felt like alligators trudging through the mucky water with tall grass on either side. At times the muck far outweighed the water, but the heartier members of our crew (Caitlin and I) pressed on army crawling through the mud. A final unplanned moment of excitement came when one of our trucks got stuck in the sand. We got to break out the shovels and our ferocious hand-digging skills to successfully recover the vehicle. Though a little stressful in the moment, it was certainly a crew-bonding highlight. Luckily we don’t have to say goodbye to the Dumont area yet as we’ll be back for part of next hitch stringing cable along the fence line!
Hitch 2 - Dumont Dunes 
Our second hitch sent us out to Dumont Dunes located north of Baker, California bordering on the Kingston Wilderness and managed by the Barstow BLM field office. On our way out to the Dunes we stopped off at the field office to meet our BLM contacts and were treated to some interesting presentations on the history of BLM lands, some large and impressive mustaches, and an up close and personal meet-and-greet with some rescued desert creatures including scorpions, snakes, tarantulas, chuckwallas and a large desert tortoise named Zeus.
Our first couple of days coincided with the first big weekend of the OHV riding season, and we were stationed in unaccustomed luxury at command central in two spacious RVs and were serenaded day and night with the dulcet tones of OHV engines. Our project for the area is to create a fence separating the Dumont Dunes open area from the bordering Kingston wilderness area along the historic remains of the Tonopah and Tidewater railroad track. Days 1 through 6 saw us manually pounding hundreds of fence posts into the sand alongside our BLM contact, Tim. On the 6th day something wonderful called a pneumatic post pounder came to us and showed us again what an impact power tools can have on our lives. We put up about a mile and a half of fence line and are raring to go back to continue the job.
Our hitch didn’t end up being all work and no play. We fully took advantage of the amazing natural resources all around us. We made the time to drive out to the nearby Tecopah Hot Springs where we were able to relax and take a long and incredibly hot soak. By day 4 the OHV traffic had petered to a stop and after a few days the wind had erased all of the tire tracks and we were able to see the dunes in all of their glory. Seeing this we decided to fulfill the goal of more than one Wild Corps member to climb and roll down a sand dune. We managed to climb Competition Hill, the tallest and most dangerous dune in the area at 1,200 feet, for a stunning view and then proceeded to sprint, frolic, roll and tumble back down. Dan won the competition for longest continuous roll!
Luckily this won’t be our last goodbye to Dumont Dunes. We will get the chance to get back out there and explore some more during our next 2 hitches during which we will be putting in many more miles of fence line. WE POUND POSTS!!
It was another hot morning in Yucca Valley as we finished our final checks and pulled onto the highway for our six hour drive to Carrizo Plain National Monument, a 240,000 acre tract between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara that remains largely unknown to all but birders, hunters and archaeologists. Along the way, we drove through the northern fringes of Los Angeles County and the southern extreme of the Central Valley, passing Swedish furniture superstores and cotton farms in the same mile, and being constantly amazed at the high levels of particulate pollution in the air. That's okay though, because like the late great Ronald Reagan, none of us trust air that we cant see.
After lots of cramped legs, cheap coffee, and dirt roads, we finally entered the arid monument and headed to the visitor center to meet our Bureau of Land Management supervisors for our eight day hitch. During the short jaunt, we had concerns we had wandered into Jurassic Park, because we were surrounded by raptors of all shapes and sizes! Fortunately, these raptors were of the present-day, airborne, rodent and other bird hunting kind, not the door opening, fence testing, “clever girl” kind. Red-tailed hawks, Harriers, Peregrine Falcons, and even Golden Eagles were a daily sight while on hitch. At night in our campground, the raptors and game birds would come home to roost in the sparse cluster of trees around our tents, while the owls went out on the prowl, along with the coyotes, bats, and various other critters that roamed the night.
After welcoming greetings and a tour of the new visitor center, our BLM contacts soon put us to work with civilization's single greatest achievement – power tools! We used power augers to drill postholes for setting H-braces on fence lines, in pouring concrete to make foundations for interpretive signage, and to dig for gold. We learned that a Sawzall, in fact, sawz all. It's just a matter of how many spare blades you have handy when you're cutting stainless steel pipe (have a lot). One designated campground is now fully enclosed by vehicle, horse, and people gates (velociraptor gates aren't in the budget this year), concrete sign foundations have been installed in two high-use areas, and several sections of “bobwire” and cable fences have been repounded, reset, and restrung. We also prepared for a gathering of local Chumash Indians, who used to inhabit the land before the homesteaders and settlers came in the late 19th century to try their hands at dry-land farming.
The vistas from anywhere in the monument were impressive in their austerity. The Temblors, a low, hot range of foothills and dubious mountains to the northeast, and the Calientes, a slightly higher but no less dubious windbreak of scrubby juniper to the southwest. In between, a flattish, sparsely vegetated plain, with the occasional obvious landmark of a handful of deciduous trees on the horizon marking a former homestead and farm, now “unmaintained” by the BLM. According to the staff, they aren't allowed to fix the buildings and have to let them fall down, but they can't let anyone knock them down. It seems odd, but that is the ebb and flow of history.
Speaking of history, one morning, we hiked to Painted Rock, a renowned feature for its historic rock art and more recent etchings from 20th century visitors. Sadly, because of some of the less reverent recent visitors, access to the site requires special clearance from the powers that be, and we were fortunate enough to be trusted to explore and enjoy the shady spot and interpret the paintings like the Vibram-soled connoisseurs that we were.
Alas, all good things must come to an end, and on our ninth day, after spraying out Portapotties, bagging dead birds, removing fire rings, whacking weeds, combing deer, and a few rousing games of pool, we said goodbye to Carrizo Plain in a whirl of alkali dust and thoughts of hot showers and cold beverages. As a team, we worked fast and well, but still made time to sass each other. One hitch down, many more to go. It's going to be a great season! 'Merica!
After seventeen days of training and playing in Great Falls Basin the members of WildCorps are still delighted to be here in California and ready to get even dirtier once hitch time begins. We learned about the ethics of Leave No Trace, how to drive our massive trucks through a creosote gauntlet, and theories of restoration (such as, a shovel digs a better hole than a rock bar). There was much constructive discussion about what a community is and how we want our community to operate. During our second half of training we successfully completed a Wilderness First Responder course and can now consider ourselves certified. While the discussions, training, and chance to put theory to use by vertical mulching a few incursions were all beneficial, we also had ample time to enjoy our surroundings recreationally. Highlights include frisbee, whiffle ball, soccer ball antics, starlit chats, sunrise hikes, sanctioned scrambles, and the opportunity to get to know our fellow DRC members - folks from the four crews based out of Ridgecrest. Lots of sun, sandy-stoney dirt, delicious meals, laughter (cliche but true), and lack of mirrors, showers, walls (other than those of the canyon), and internet made these days quite pleasant and allowed us the chance to focus on the environment we were in and the people around us. We have come back to Yucca Valley with a lot of new knowledge that we will hopefully enjoy putting into practice -- although we'll probably be happy to not practice pulling femur traction and stabilizing sucking chest wounds. Perhaps the pictures below will tell you more than I can...
Wild Corps XI is under way! These first five days have been jam-packed with technical training, community discussions, and a lot of food. This food aspect has been one of the most pleasant surprises for me so far. The program puts an emphasis on making delicious vegetarian food using unprocessed organic ingredients. We have made such staples as yogurt, peanut butter, and bread from scratch and learned how to use fancy equipment like a pressure cooker and high-powered juicer. All of the meals have been stupendous and I think it's safe to say that food has made our hard-working days a lot more joyous.
After doing some orientation with our two heavy-duty Wild Corps trucks, we set out to nearby Whitewater Preserve for two nights of camping. We heard reports of a bear who's been hanging out in the preserve recently, and though we didn't see it, the legend was fodder for many jokes and the “desert bear” has become an early symbol of our crew. After a night's rest under the stars, we hiked along the Whitewater River, learning some desert flora and fauna along the way. Near the end of that hike, we began some discussions on what helps and hurts communities, and I think our collective engagement in the process yielded some strong starting ideals and guidelines. The next morning we continued our technical training: changing flat tires on the truck (good life skill) and assembling our field tents.
Since then, we've been doing a lot of preparation and materials-gathering around the house for our big upcoming orientation (known as “Septoberfest”) where we'll meet other SCA restoration crews in the area. It has been exciting to acquire so much knowledge so quickly and to get acquainted with what seems to be a great group of thoughtful hard-working individuals.
Desert Pictures 
Here are some photos of the desert. Most of these are from WildCorps IX, last season. Beauty!
"Love me or hate me, the desert seems to say, this is what I am and this is what I shall remain. Go north for astonishment if you must have it. What I offer is different."
- Krutch, The Desert Year
Schedule - DRAFT 
This is a DRAFT schedule. Subject to change. Winter break (12/21 to 1/1) is solid, so feel free to plan around it. All other breaks may move 1-2 days either way so take that into consideration when making plans.
The mission of the California Desert District (CDD) of the Bureau of Land Management is to protect the natural, historic, recreational and economic riches of the beautiful California Desert for generations to come. California is a state wealthy with resources and natural beauty, but this beauty can quickly disappear if not properly taken care of. The California Desert District is responsible for protecting and preserving nearly 11 million acres of California’s natural heritage.
In 1976, The United States Congress created the California Desert Conservation Area (CDCA), which covers nearly one quarter of the State. As one of the government’s primary authorities for the management of public lands, the Bureau of Land Management - through the California Desert District - acts as steward for 10.4 million acres of this 26 million acre preserve. In an effort to provide the most benefit to the most people, while preserving one of the west’s most rugged and awe inspiring landscapes, the CDD developed a balanced, multiple-use plan to act as a guide for the management of this vast expanse of land. The plan, completed in 1980 with the help of the public, divides the desert into multiple-use classes. These classes were created in order to define areas of in critical need of protection, while allowing for the use and development of less-vital swaths of desert.
In addition to the lands under the CDCA, the California Desert District also manages 300,000 acres of scattered parcels in Kern, Inyo, Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino, Orange, Imperial and San Diego counties. The district is divided into five resource areas, governed by field offices in Ridgecrest, Palm Springs/South Coast, El Centro, Barstow and Needles. The CDD currently has over 200 full time employees.
- via BLM, CDD website (http://www.blm.gov/ca/st/en/fo/cdd/about_cdd.html )