Final Report 
For the six strangers who became a family for me over these past eight months. Thank you for service. Thank you for believing. Thank you for being the six strangers who became family for me. It is to you that I dedicate this report. The Rands Crew spent the 2012-2013 season serving the Rand Mountain Management Area (RMMA) as a part of SCA’s Desert Restoration Corps (DRC). This crew, comprised of six members and one project leader, completed restoration projects in partnership with the BLM’s Ridgecrest Field Office. The RMMA was once a hazardous ‘free for all’ of braided trails, unmarked abandoned mines, habitat degradation. While there are still many challenges, the DRC has served to restore the area to safely offer riding opportunities while balancing environmental impact. The Rands Crew continued that legacy. Charged with restoring undesignated routes in the RMMA, monitoring the effectiveness of previous restoration efforts, and various other projects, the Rands Crew:- Restored 63 sites- Monitored 158 effectiveness sites- Restored 12,112 meters squared- Reached out to 1670 peopleNone of this would have been possible without the support of our partners from the BLM Ridgecrest Field Office. From all of the trainings you offered our crew to the time you spent working alongside us. Special thanks to our agency partner contact Dana Jacobs for being an amazing friend and resource for our crew.
After doing a vast amount of research on stars for my Environmental Education, I realized that every ending is just the start to a new beginning. Massive blue giants, 20 times more massive than our Sun die and give birth to new stars, to planets and in the rare case of Earth, life. When we humans die, the atoms that compose our corpses become a part of the Earth’s environment. According the first law of thermodynamics, energy is neither created nor destroyed. Nothing can truly be lost, just reformed. This is now a prominent philosophy, among many others, that fuels my mentality. Even though I won’t see many of the friends that I made in the DRC for some time, maybe never again, my experiences and knowledge gained will stay with me for the rest of my life.I will no longer breath the dry desert air, speak to creosotes like a mad man during mulch runs or have the pleasure of pooping while watching the sunrise over a land liberated almost completely of other humans. However, now I have the luxury of breathing the humid air of Tennessee, laying out my life plans to my pets and being able to have access to shower on a daily basis. Perspective seems to hold a lot of weight in this conversation. I could have been angry and dissatisfied with living in a tent, pooping in an ammo container or having no internet access. But instead I saw opportunity. I began to not only play guitar more and exercise regularly, but I also found time to just think. To think about my past, present and future self. To really scrutinize my actions over my entire life. The desert, as dry and dead as it may be, has been an exceptional environment for self-realization.As my crew will often say – “welp it’s about that time”; time to end this phase of our lives and to begin something new. Many members will be distraught following the end of this season. People we have leaned on emotionally for several months will now be ripped from beneath us. But how else will we learn to stand properly if we are not picked up and pushed down every once and a while? Life seems to constantly do that to humans. We are taught to go one way and we trust this way until our eyes are directed to a new path by someone else or out of our own volition. And that is what we want. Humans desire variety and excitement. Sure, there may be a healthy dose of fear that comes along with the unknown but that is part of the excitement. We keep attaching the word “last” onto everything towards the end of the season. I am putting an end to that with the last blog post for our crew. And the final quote of the season from Carl Bard – “Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.”-David Sellari
It's the stretch run now, folks. We're down a man, the temperature is creeping up, and the future looms, summer beckons. Hitches always seem daunting at the beginning, as the desert is slow and the days plod along like our heavy-booted steps through the sand.
Hitch ten, though, has passed in the blink of an eye. It seems that just yesterday we were in Sand Canyon helping fourth-graders discover the wonders of the desert, like just hours ago we came back from a magical trip into no-man's land (i.e. the naval weapons center) to see petroglyphs (and wild horses as a bonus!), that we just now drove out to Yucca Valley to begin Leave No Trace training... but suddenly, it's the end of the hitch and our adventures that took us to so many corners of the Mojave are all behind us, lingering in our memories like dust trails in the wake of our Dodge Ram.
This hitch certainly racked up the memories: entertaining elementary school kids with our particular Rands charm in Sand Canyon; holding our breaths and our bladders as we traversed through a canyon filled with petroglyphs; taking in the Dr. Seuss-like scenery of Joshua Tree National Park; inhaling the mouthwatering pizza aroma at Pie for the People after two days of backpacking; giggling over the antics of our BLM contact's nephew at our dinner party chez Rands; sliding down obsidian deposits at Fossil Falls.
We were spoiled this hitch with so many activities outside the norm that restoration now seems like a distant haze-dream, a foggy relic of our old days. We certainly took advantage this hitch of the lighter side of DRC life: trainings and outreach and environmental education enrichment and good ol' road-trips north, east, and south through miles of creosote and patchy forests of Joshua Trees.
We are true students of the Mojave now. We've learned of its secrets, its undisclosed wonders, its ebb and flow. We know its plants, its wildflowers, its geology, its whispered history, its storied past as a land of lakes, innovative peoples, and megafauna. We know how dynamic and diverse it actually is, and we know this in our bones, in our lungs, in our skin, a knowing that enters through subconscious means, at a depth we may not have even fully realized yet.
This year wasn't the best for wildflowers, but still our heads turn with every flash of green or burst of color. We celebrate the desert's small victories, and we rejoice in its subtle diversity. We have one hitch left, one more stint out in the dust, the final exam, the graduation ceremony. It's all coming together in one final synthesis, and at the end we'll raise our dusty Nalgenes in a triumphant toast to the season, to our new status as scholars of the dust and the sun.
Memories of howling, hissing winds, frigid nights, and evenings without daylight are but a cracked film reel in our mind’s eye. The images collected over the past ten days conjure only the warm spectrum of sevenfold color seen at sunrise and sunset.
Spring has sprung in the Mojave Desert marking a shift not only in our exposure to the sun, but also in our season of restoration; we are entering the home stretch. With but three full hitches remaining, the Rands crew strapped on their worn work boots and headed back to the field. Inspired by calm nights that asked us to listen to the soft musings of swaying creosote limbs we embraced the rising temperatures and hit our stride doing what we do best: camouflage restoration. Vertical mulch flourished along incursions like tulips stroked into a watercolor painting. Our breaths-although sometimes labored as we re-acclimated to the aridity and heat of the warming desert-seemed to release fresh air into the Rand Mountain Management Area. Hailing from the Northeast, much of the crew had previously shroud spring not in symbols of perennial growth and rejuvenation but rather in recollections of salt-stained stretches of road and trees still sagging beneath snow. Here, in California, however the equinox excited the senses; bustling bugs (sometimes sadly stationed in our humble tent homes), flowering Joshua trees, and sprouting stands of native plants provided subtle inspiration and helped us to focus our efforts on the dynamic desert that we occasionally find droning.
Blues-infused guitar tabs with a BLM botany intern, a relaxed visit from our beloved contact, Dana, and an educational field trip to the otherworldly tufa towers at the Trona Pinnacles kept our spirits lifted as the hitch progressed.
Longer days of light and carefree demeanors, however could not keep conversations constantly buoyant. Despite our best efforts to remain present, we are not akin to the hearty creosote bush; we cannot simply wait for the next desert rain. Our best defense against the drought is to pick up our roots and find a home that can better support our thirst. We have all found ourselves with our minds focused on which cardinal direction our feet will be pointed on that final day of this desert experience. For one of our own, that day has come early. We wish Ryan the best of luck as he turns east to Ohio to complete bat fatality surveys as a biological science technician. Thank you for your work and the laughs!
By: Bridget Tevnan
Silent Lessons 
Welcome to the desert.
This is your new home.
Let me drink you in,
I want to swallow you whole.
Your dust chokes me instead,
Tell me your fears,
Listen to my story.
I will tell you of the seasons,
I will show you the ocean.
Your jokes kill me,
Tell it again.
Don’t touch that,
What did I just step on?
Does anyone have tweezers?
Drip, drip, drip.
Canvas proves stronger than any rain.
Sadly, holes unleash frustration.
It is 4 a.m.
It is dark.
Good morning Mojave.
My back is breaking,
I’m mining for rocks, it seems.
This pick-mattock weighs at least a ton.
It’s laughing at me,
It’s taunting me.
Who threw that dirt clod?
The thermometer must be broken,
It’s twenty-what degrees outside?
My toes will surely fall off,
Call an ambulance,
Call my mother,
She’ll want to hear about this.
It’s happened: I have transformed.
I have scales.
Must. Seek. Moisture.
Where am I?
A picture from home,
A song sparking nostalgia.
I miss you too…
Wish you were here…
How many days left?
Don’t tell me what I don’t know,
Show me what I dream of.
Balls of fire shoot through the sky,
There is beautiful clarity.
Here I sit,
Why didn’t you warn me?
Where were the signs telling me to “Turn Back Now”?
I must not have been paying attention.
Eruptions of laughter resurrect my soul,
Smiles welcome me into consciousness.
“Good morning, the eggs are ready. The coffee is hot. How did you sleep?”
A grumble of appreciation,
But soon I am alive and I have joined in.
So I had this crazy dream last night…
What is the price we pay for knowledge?
How much do words of wisdom cost?
Not $10.99 at Barnes and Noble,
Or $20,000 a year for a nap during a lecture, no.
Anger, frustration, joy, excitement, sweat, tears, blisters, aches.
For some, it’s unbearable.
For all, it’s tiring.
Why are we battling a place we have come to love?
Our efforts futile,
We give in.
Enjoy the silent beauty.
We stand as one,
No man left behind.
We adapt to the unfamiliar,
Do not fold under difficulty.
We are desert rats,
Hear us roar.
Hitch 7 started out not with a bang, but instead, an extra night sleeping in our beds (which is equivalent to a cot for an SCA member). After the pre-hitch day ended, we spent that night in town so we could pick our CSA (no relation) farm box. The next morning we finished the last leftover tasks from pre-hitch day, packed up, picked up the CSA order and headed out to our campsite. During the four hour drive, we took a few wrong turns. Unfortunately, one of those wrong turns could not be corrected by a simple ‘spotter otter’. The path was too narrow and dangerous for the truck with the trailer to back up and turn around. After a failed attempt at going straight back, we knew that there was only one solution – to get girdled. We unhitched the trailer, pulled the truck around to the other side of said trailer and then got our girdling pants on (which happened to be exactly the same as our work pants we were already wearing). We deadlifted the trailer and pivoted it on the left tire. Once the trailer was back on the truck we set out to finally meet up with our fellow crews. Even after a difficult day with several tiring tasks, we still found time to socialize with the other crews.
The first full day with the other crews was spent relaxing, conversing and enjoying two amazing places. After a morning of chewing the fat, we came out of camp “rolling deep” as the kids would say in a convoy of eight SCA trucks. The first stop of the day was comparable to the aunt who always gave you socks at Christmas. At least that is what I was expecting, until I saw the dunes in person. Then I realized that Aunt Mary hit the lotto and bought me a flat screen. The dunes were absolutely gorgeous. Their size alone was mesmerizing to a mere 5’6 man like me. Thinking back to that day, it may not have been the size or beauty of the dunes but the strong feeling of community. We all felt like one giant family on the beach (minus the water and crabs of course). Later in the day, we washed the sand off in the local luxurious hot springs.
The first day of trail work on the China Ranch Date Farm was most definitely a refreshing experience for everyone. We mixed the crews together into different groups, enjoyed the leadership of a lovely BLM member and got to work in a truly astonishing atmosphere. My group spent the first day clearing a path for a new trail so a 200+ year old house could be preserved. Our BLM leader Rose told us the history of the house, which sparked a connection with the work that day. We also did some maintenance work with some other trails, but the work near the amazing artifact of a home was my favorite part of the day.
As the next few days passed by, we constructed rock stairs, built bridges, touched up old trails, carved out a new trail, and redirected the water flow of a creek. On our last day of work, the owner of the Ranch treated every SCA member to a free date shake and the BLM member presented their sugar-covered thank you as well with cake and candy. The free date shake was delicious (and it was the 5th one that I had the pleasure of consuming since my time on the ranch). During the last night at our campsite, we were presented with the option of going back to the hot springs or gong to a local heated pool. I chose the pool, but both groups had a wonderful time relaxing that final night. The next day was spent taking a serene drive through Death Valley. We saw Badwater, the lowest point in the continental United States, during the drive. While we were not able to hike through or camp in Death Valley, driving through it still unveiled much of its majesty.
With four days left in our hitch, we faced the daunting task of outreach. Outreach wasn’t discouraging due to some fear of speaking to the public or anything along those lines. It was the sitting. Siting in a chair for a multitude of hours is more tiring than an entire day of restoration work. However we made it through those two butt-cramping days and in the process handed out 269 permits and spoke to 378 members of the OHV community.
The second-to-last day of this hitch was my favorite. We drove out to Sage Canyon, where I did my Environmental Education presentation about meditation. After changing into a very comfortable gi I spoke about the history, benefits and techniques of meditation. I then led my crew in meditation and asked everyone to address something that has been bothering them. Luckily the meditation went well as everyone felt at peace. Bridget couldn’t help but smile for a short period after the session. The next few hours were spent relaxing and further developing one’s sense of self awareness. We finished off the day with our post hitch meeting.
It seems as if we can go nowhere but up as a crew at this point. Sure, we have hit the occasional snafu, but that is expected. And the fact that we can surmount those problems just shows how strong we have become as a crew. The actor Michael J. Fox once said “Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” And nowhere does that hold more true than in the family that I call my crew.
-By David Patrick Selllari
Hitch Six brought the Rands crew to a milestone in the DRC season, reaching the midpoint of our time in the Mojave as well as the last hitch in cooperation with the Transitional Habitat Conservancy(THC) . A move to a new campsite North of Freemont Peak provided breathtaking sunrises which a few hours later melted away the chilling January mornings.
After only two days of restoration the work plan was completed, leaving the crew to revisit all of the polygons to monitor the sites for restoration effectiveness. Equipped with our rugged Dodge Ram 2500’s the Rands crew set out to visit the 16 THC polygon land parcels where restoration had closed incursions as part of a multi-crew effort in conjunction with the Jawbone crew. In the process the crew had the opportunity to visit a number of areas where only Jawbone had completed work, invigorating the spirit of adventure or as the crew would say, “ ‘sploring”.
Rands found ways to make the days of long, jostling, and sometimes hair-raising commutes to the incursion sites enjoyable. We even discovered some curious desert souvenirs along the way.
73 Effectiveness Monitoring points later and the Rands crew completed the monitoring component of hitch and work in the THC was in the books. Evaluating restoration provided insights into how the work fared over time and ultimately validated the months of hard work. The analysis required the crew to take a step back from the paradigm of restoration and see the sites as components of a greater area and envision OHV traffic from a different perspective. While the work in the THC took the Rands crew away from its home in the Rands Mountains Management Area , it provided new challenges and strengthened the work skills in different terrain and vegetation.
As the crew packed up camp and made its final trip to California 395 on Fremont-Peak road the story of the Rands 2012-2013 was half written, with great anticipation to return “home” to the Rands area and the opportunity to work with the other crews at the All-Corps hitches.
-By Noah Creany
With a panoramic view of break before our eyes we fluttered our feathers and flocked from our humble Ridgecrest abode-that, infrequently inhabited, still fails to feel like home. Without wings we took flight in cars along California highways and in planes pushing eastward.
The holiday break overwhelmed our senses. With sounds of San Francisco, brackish sea breezes, flashing faces of families and friends, we hustled and bustled. We were fueled by caffeine. We relished in the chance to push the snooze-once, twice, wait…for what reason did we even set these ticking, tiresome alarms? We found ourselves surrounded again by the electronic buzz and abundant amenities that demarcate the differences in our desert and domicile lives.
And before we had the chance to consider what really constitutes a period of revitalizing rest, we found ourselves bouncing along the barren roads that would bring us back to our quiet camp nestled at the base of Fremont Peak.
If given the choice, perhaps we would have preferred to stay where comfort is constructed and the familiar has a human face or at least lies at our feet. Maybe we would have waved a wayward farewell to the dust clouds and creosote stands. Perhaps we would have considered spending the year of the snake in a place where the slithering creatures reside in tanks. Given no other option, and committed to at least another twelve days, however, we did the only thing we could: we dutifully returned to the desert.
Hitch five consisted of our longest stretch of uninterrupted restoration work. Compounded by the fact that on any given day at least one of our crew members was struck down by the flu, the risk was run that exhaustion, stress, relative monotony, and the coldest nights encountered thus far, would erode our community carefully constructed on communication and cheer. When met with such adversity, however, we vivaciously responded with a collective spirit that could not be corroded. Whether taking on extra chores, combating encroaching negativity with a joke, or checking in with those under the weather a sense of solidarity and pro-sociality could be felt over the frigid nights in the field and fevered chills in town. While the pace of our restoration efforts was slowed, our commitment to creating a presence of conservation was still physically manifested.
Watching the sun set, I watched the shadows of creosote bushes and a distant Joshua tree fall. For a moment, I felt at odds with an environment where only the hardiest and best-adapted survive. Despite our inability to absorb the few centimeters of rain that fall on this cracked earth, however, I considered that perhaps we have begun to strike a balance in this harsh ecosystem. Chilled and almost completely enveloped in the subtle, natural movements we humans identify as silence, I was pulled back into the glowing white wall by the soft rise of laughter and the promise of artificial warmth.
Until next time,
-The Rands Crew
By: Bridget Tevnan
Spoiler Alert for Hitch 4: The world didn't end, but we would have had a great view for it. Guess you can't always get what you want :) 
As the Rand Mountains crew prepared for their fourth hitch, there was something significantly different than in hitches past. Though the pre-hitch preparations were the same, they were headed to a different environment. For the coming hitch (and the two to follow) the Rand Mountains crew wasn’t headed for the Rand Mountains Management Area, but to Fremont Peak and the areas managed by the Transitional Habitat Conservancy(THC). The change in partner agencies, albeit temporary, meant that the Rands crew would have to operate differently than they had on BLM lands. The new environment brought new scenery and new challenges which would surely make hitch four an interesting one.
Upon arriving in the Fremont Peak area, the Rands Crew quickly set up camp and began preparations for our first meal in our new environment. The area was certainly different; the roads were less tame, the camp sites more remote, and there was the massive Fremont Peak looming over our camp site. As we began work, we soon realized that the road systems were not as easily identified as those in the Rands, and that the work sites were a considerable distance further from camp. As our project leader broke out the USGS map of the area and began to introduce the basics of backcountry navigation, it became increasingly apparent our time in this new management area would require a different approach to restoration.
Within a few work days (and a few instances of getting “turned around” on the way to the worksite) most of the crew had become familiar with the area and navigation became second nature. Aside from being in a different environment, the crew employed the same tactics of soil de-compaction, vertical mulching, horizontal mulching, and berm construction as they had in the Rands to keep OHV riders off of trails that led to THC managed parcels. With the Winter Holiday break following the completion of the fourth hitch, the work moved along quickly and the Rands Crew restored nearly 1500 square meters of illegal OHV trails.
As the hitch wound down, we were given the opportunity for a team building day, in which we worked standard restoration procedures in the morning, and hiked Fremont Peak in the afternoon. As it had been looming over our campsite for the duration of the hitch, all of us were excited at the proposal of a hike to the top. We summited Fremont peak in under an hour. Upon our arrival at the top, a quick check of the Trimble indicated that we were currently at 4,795 feet above sea level. The view was nothing short of spectacular; given that it was a clear day we were able to see for miles and miles in every direction. After taking a few pictures, someone pointed out that the date was December 21st, 2012: The last day on Earth (according to the Mayan calendar and popular superstition). As we looked out on the desert, we all agreed (in jest) that we had one of the most beautiful views for the end of the world.
As we descended, we joked about being the last humans to set foot on top of Fremont Peak before the end of the world. Within a few days we would pack out and head home for the holidays. As we left, we knew that we had not only summited Fremont Peak (which had often glared at us from a distance while we worked in the Rands), but that we had also done some quality restoration that would hopefully help this region heal itself a little bit.
Just as the Rands crew was getting used to the ups and downs of a normal work hitch, our post-
Thanksgiving schedule up and turned the whole durned thang inside out. For those who prefer brevity, here's a summary: We handed out permits, we monitored a fenceline, we cut things with chainsaws, we played hosts, and we even got some rain (or was that just extreme condensation?)!
The crew began the hitch on what the rest of America knows as Black Friday, and like much of America, we woke up with full bellies from the previous evening's Thanksgiving festivities (in our case, this included the most local and organic turkey EVER, which even our crew vegetarian bravely sampled). Instead of heading out to contribute to the economy, though, we met up with several hardy folks from the Ridgecrest BLM, who cut their vacations short to devote their energy to the busiest weekend of the year of Off-Highway-Vehicle riding. On both Friday and Saturday, the crew split into three groups and each group joined a BLM member in three different locations in and around the Rands. Our task: distribute free permits and maps to people looking to ride in the area, with the goal of raising awareness about the importance of staying on maintained routes.
Thanksgiving weekend certainly lived up to the hype we had been hearing about since our arrival in September. The tiny “living ghost town” of Randsburg filled like Disneyland on Christmas with riders of all ages on dirtbikes and quads. Amid clouds of exhaust and dust, riders dismounted their vehicles to meander into the General Store for a milkshake, into the art gallery for a postcard, into an antiques shop for who-knows-what, or into the White House Saloon for what I can only assume was a presidential pick-me-up. Outreach provided the crew with an opportunity to sink our teeth into a whole new aspect of land management: public interaction. The experience was predominantly positive, occasionally entertaining, and undoubtedly eye-opening. At the conclusion of our two days of outreach, we talked to over 1,000 members of the public, and the crew felt we had gained a broader perspective into the minds of OHV community members.
Following a sluggish Sunday of fence monitoring that left us all thankful to be a restoration crew, we began our much-hyped training session: S212 Chainsaw! We endured a day and a half of classroom instruction in order to get to the good stuff-- hearing the growl of the engine and the whir of the chain, seeing sawdust fly, and feeling the satisfaction of making a really good cut and sending our “trees” toppling (safely) to the ground. It was a personal victory to overcome my fear of the tool, and a collective triumph to emerge from the three-day training as a Chainsaw Certified Crew.
The collage-like nature of this hitch received some added color from our friendly neighborhood wilderness crew: Grass Valley. They joined us for dinner one night, then for the three days of chainsaw training, and then got to be our guests for two work days (see below)!
Everyone expressed excitement to be able to head back into the field for the final half of the hitch. We were all looking forward to our new campsite, a new polygon in a more interesting area, and a fresh new set of incursions to tackle in a short time. We packed our whitewall, our coolers, our rummy cards, our poetry books, our cameras, and our Nutella and headed out for six days back home in the Rands.
The field didn't disappoint, and the desert even held a few secrets for us during this short time out. We woke up each morning to dewdrops glistening on our tents. One morning was even sheathed in thick fog, so that the joshua trees emerged like mystical creatures from the hazy ground, and the sun's rays diffused into a golden orb that dangled above Fremont peak during breakfast. During the day, the clouds kept the temperature cool and the horizon interesting, and sunrises and sunsets were a sight to behold every day.
We had four days to accomplish a chunk of our self-created work plan, and for two of those days we doubled our numbers. The Grass Valley crew helped us patch up a number of incursions, and brought a new and amiable dynamic to our work environment. Hopefully they enjoyed their time in the Rands, as we certainly got a lot out of being hosts in an area we now consider home. Program Coordinator Matt also joined us in the field, and we enjoyed hosting him and learning from him, whether it was whilst constructing a check dam or playing rummy back at camp.
It was fitting to end such a hodgepodge hitch back in the prettiest part of our little corner of the Mojave, and though diversity in the schedule is never a bad thing, I at least felt a rush of gratitude each night in the field as I looked up at the sky. What a great place to live, what a great place to share laughter, food, ideas, and a blossoming sense of contentment and fulfillment at having landed here in this little pocket of the desert.
By Irene Gilchriese
Day one of Hitch 2 began with a delicious menu from our first Toco, and the motivation to bang out some pre-hitch duties, along with some giggles, naturally. Some members of the crew had already baked food in advance (bread, tortillas, veggie chili, cookies), so the tasks in the kitchen were minimal, thanks to the lovely Rands chefs. We were also able to stop by Home Depot to pick up lumber to install shelves in our trailer; hello organization! After getting to the field and setting up camp, we found time for some good ‘ol Rummy, never a dull moment in a crew Rummy game! Pre-Hitch day went off without hitch (no pun intended), although we did forget the hot sauce, to which many members of the crew were devastated. Although without Frank’s Hot Sauce, we still managed to enjoy a delicious hot meal after a long day.
Day two started by diving right into a long incursion, all of us excited to begin work again. Our first incursion included rock hard soil, a zombie lizard we named Randal, and 49 bushes. This was maybe one of our most physically and mentally draining incursions we’ve faced so far, but we still managed to kick butt and find times to goof around to keep everyone in light spirits. Every incursion after that seemed like a piece of cake compared to the first one, though there was one that we spent much longer on. During the longer incursions, we adopted a game called Virtual Hide-and-Seek, thanks to one of our crew members. Someone was found in the Derek Zoolander Center For Kids Who Can't Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too, and even in the tire of one of our trucks.
Along with restoration, we also found time to spend an afternoon monitoring and recording abandoned mines in the Rand area we were in. There were quite a few, but we did a systematic sweep of part of the area and recorded about half a dozen.
During the midst of our restoration, one of our crew members had to be brought back to camp because he wasn’t feeling well. After a day in the quaran-tent, some rest, and delicious sweet potato soup, he was feeling back to normal and able to join us the next day for work. Although another one of our members wasn’t as lucky. He had to be brought to the hospital in the middle of the night with the stomach flu and spent the next day and night at the crew house with our project leader, Patrick. During their absence, the rest of the crew worked really hard and finished two incursions, despite there only being five of us. Our crew member who had fallen ill was given medicine and got well quickly and was able to join us the day after, although we think it was our lunch-time conference call that did the trick. With no other illnesses in the crew, we all finished the work plan, and some, in good spirits and good health.
During our last work day, our BLM contact Dana came out to help out with some restoration work in the beautiful Rand. She greeted us that morning bearing muffins, tangerines, and granola bars… WE LOVE YOU DANA! It was a fun day, filled with interesting conversations, a delicious lunch, and the enjoyment of our first visitor. Her presence was a great way to close out the last day of restoration, but the hitch wasn’t over yet…
On the very last day of hitch we spent a few hours with the other crews and the BLM for plant identification! We learned how to better identify the plants in the area for our data collection, while also being reunited again for the first time since the BBQ, also with the BLM. The day was cut short when it started to drizzle, a beautiful anomaly in the Mojave Desert. Overall, the hitch was very productive and satisfying. As we always say on the Rands… Keep calm and restore the desert.
By Alyssa Beck
Howdy, and welcome to the Rands! Whew, two months have swept by as quickly as the desert breeze. We have a lot of catching up to do. The Rands crew shared these past months in the desert, a place quite alien to most of us, training for this year’s work and learning how to live in the desert. We have finally incorporated our sixth member into the crew bringing both new personality and a refreshed identity to this small community we have all thrust ourselves into quite head-on.
There is much to consider for what to think about the desert. A favorite quote I recently came across goes a little something like this:
This is the desert
There’s nothing out here
Certainly the desert does upon initial survey appear to be a rugged, vast expanse as far as the eye can glean. Coming from the East Coast and growing up in the woods, it is admittedly an altogether different “wilderness” experience. The desert does ooze the majesty, the wisdom, and the palpable passing of days in the seasons. The desert is discreet, it remembers a history much too long to recount but shows no sign of age or time. The desert has a rough edge, drawing in and catching some unprepared for its needles, sun, wind. The desert, if given enough time, can evoke an other-worldly enchantment.
The patch of desert we call home in the Rand Mountain Management Area has a very different story than other groups in the DRC. According to Roberta Starry’s “Exploring the Ghost Town Desert: A Guide to the Rand Mining Area, its Natural and Historic Points of Interest” the Rands was the veritable pot of gold at the end of the rainbow and the site of substantial precious metal and mineral extraction. However, like most natural resource extraction sagas; the frenzy waned, the wagon was packed, and people moved on leaving behind the house, mine and all, to be reclaimed and consumed by the desert. Our first hitch placed us at ground zero, and the effect of such extensive mining was visceral with abandoned mines dotting the landscape and relics of the food cans scattered nearby. With arsenic in the soil and considerable bulldozing and digging crisscrossing the desert, vegetation was brown and the ground scarred with mine reclamation and restoration. Nevertheless, the Rands had quite a surprise for us on this hitch – the sighting of four Desert Tortoise hatchlings right in the midst of our first work-plan polygon.
After fearlessly tackling several small incursions the crew was finally tested with a four-hundred meter incursion cutting clear across the desert, a shortcut to somewhere for OHV riders. The length tested the resolve, the muscle, and the eyes to continually come back and stare down a formidable restoration project. Sure enough, Rands completed planned projects for the first hitch and worked well into the second and third hitch, successfully tackling seven incursions for our first stint at desert restoration.
In what appears to be an evolving theme among group conversations and meetings, food is at the forefront of the crews mind. When, how, what we eat – “How good does _____ sound right now?”- cue “Oooo (mouthwatering)”. Nonetheless, there is a shared passion for food which makes meal time a congenial experience, gathering in the cooking tent taking shelter from the ever-chilling temperatures.
By Noah Creany
Early morning, September 25, 2012- The Rand Mountains crew of the SCA Desert Restoration Corps has just finished its simple, but satisfying breakfast of oatmeal, coffee, and toast. Soon after, the trailer was loaded with all of the necessary gear and we were headed to the Jawbone region of the Mojave Desert for 17 days of SCA training. Upon our arrival, we were introduced to the other four crews that were to be doing desert restoration work this season. That night, the groups came together and had our first meal together; there were close to 40 of us, project leaders and cooking staff included. We had gathered in the desert to learn everything from restoration theory to wilderness medicine - “Septoberfest” was upon us.
First on the agenda for Septoberfest was a variety of community building and conflict resolution skill workshops. These first few days were spent practicing inter-crew confrontation techniques and perfecting our “community contract” (rules that we, as a crew, agreed to live by for the coming eight months). We closed this portion of Septoberfest by sharing some of our personal life stories with our fellow DRC members. As we began to know more about each other, our desert community seemed to grow closer, and we quickly became quite comfortable with one another.
Following the community building portion of Septoberfest, we dove into the actual meat and potatoes of our training. We split into three groups (each led by two project leaders), and began to discuss the theory and methods behind the restoration work to come. We were taught that, although vertical mulching (our primary restoration method) may seem like no more than the planting of dead sticks in the ground, it actually serves several purposes in the restoration process. Primarily, and perhaps most obviously, it disguises the incursion (a name given to illegal OHV routes) and thereby keeps riders from continuing to ride on it. Additionally, vertical mulch bushes provide habitat and shade for all kinds of desert wildlife, and work to reduce the habitat fragmentation caused by the creation and use of illegal routes. Finally, the vertical mulching process allows for the breaking up of soil which has been ultra-compacted by years of OHV use; this allows seeds to take hold and promotes new growth of local plant life. After being lectured on the science behind restoration theory, each group was assigned an incursion near camp. We put our new-found knowledge into practice by spending the next two days vertical mulching our assigned incursions.
After restoring our incursions, we were all given one day off before our week long Wilderness First Responder course. On this day, several groups went on hikes and attended a variety of environmental education programs headed by the project leaders. The following day Aerie’s instructors arrived at our camp and we began our Wilderness First Responder training. This training lasted a week and covered everything from CPR to anaphylaxis, from arterial bleeds to hypothermia, from hypoglycemia to head injuries. We became well versed on splints, and practiced our assessment skills in a variety of hands on scenarios. We were tested in adverse environmental conditions in the cold and dark of night. We were tested with the daunting task of managing a multiple casualty incident (MCI) in which we were required to care for a group of 7 injured campers. At the end of the week all of us were subjected to a final test, after which we all became certified Wilderness First Responders.
Following our WFR course, our training was complete - the crews prepared to depart to their off-hitch housing. We had spent 17 days in the Jawbone region of the Mojave Desert and had been trained on everything from restoration theory to wilderness medicine. As we set off in anticipation of the coming 8 months, we were prepared with not only a solid foundation of work and wilderness skills, but also a sense of community amongst our fellow DRC members that would carry us through the season.
By Ryan Ledden
Whenever someone asks me the question "Where are you from?", I like to point to my Ford Windstar parked outside. Though I am a native of Ohio; for the past five years, my life has been mostly lived on the road, traveling from one project to another. Upon graduating from Ohio Wesleyan University in 2007 with a degree in History, I found myself asking the same question that I asked when I started college, 'what do I want to do with my life, now?'
To begin to answer that question, I joined up as a Corps Member with AmeriCorps NCCC in Sacramento, CA. After two years of building houses and playgrounds in New Orleans, coordinating logistics in Mississippi, and fuels mitigation work in South Dakota and California, I found my answer in national service and conservation.
I first got involved with SCA as a Project Leader in 2010 on the Angeles National Forest (http://www.thesca.org/angelesnf ), leading a crew dedicated to helping the forest recover from the Station Fire of 2009. Since then, I bounced around to work on a variety of other projects, such as building mountain bike trails in Utah, restoring desert wilderness areas in Needles, California, leading college spring breakers in central Florida, and chainsaw work on OHV trails for the Rio Grande National Forest in Colorado.
In fall of 2011, I took a break from the nomadic life and settled down in Durango, CO serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA for Southwest Conservation Corps, supporting their grant writing, marketing, and youth programming projects. For a time, I thought I would never pick up a pick maddock again, and that I had become desk jockey for good. One phone call changed all of that. After I got a call from SCA offering me a chance to be a part of the Desert Restoration Corps, I packed up my van again and hit the road for Ridgecrest, CA.
The thing that I love about programs like these is; that you can take six strangers from across the country, pack them up in a truck and head off into the desert for twelve days (without a shower), and put them to work on a project they have no experience doing; and they will not only excel at the project, learn how to live with each other, but also make an real impact in the community they serve.
Its going to be a blast.
The Rand Mountains Management Area (RMMA) is designated as a limited-use area that is comprised of approximately 65,000 acres of public land. The RMMA is located 35 miles south of Ridgecrest and immediately north of the California City boundary. The RMMA has been a popular OHV recreation area since the 1960’s and was a desired location for competitive race events through the 1970’s, with a peak of 25 events and 10,845 participants in 1975. The RMMA has seen a steady decline of OHV use and disturbance since 1980 when the California Desert Conservation Act (CDCA) was passed. There is currently 129 miles of designated routes for motorized vehicles within the RMMA. Each operator of a motorized vehicle is required to obtain a free permit before riding within the boundaries of the RMMA. The management area contains 110 square miles of crucial Desert tortoise habitat, which is part of the Kramer-Fremont Desert Wildlife Management Area. Resource inventories conducted in the 1980’s determined there was a decline in Desert tortoise population from 250 tortoises per square mile in 1981 to 179 per square mile in 1987. The BLM and other Federal agencies have implemented a number of management plans to improve habitat and protect the Desert tortoise. These include the CDCA, the Rand Mountain-Fremont Valley Plan, the Rand Mountains Education and Permit Program, and the Endangered Species Act. Other sensitive species that reside in the RMMA are the Mojave ground squirrel (Spermophilus mohavensis), burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia), desert kit fox (Vulpes velox), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos), and prairie falcon (Falco mexicanus). Dominant plant communities within the management area are creosote bush scrub, creosote bush-rocky slopes, Joshua tree woodland, and alkali sink scrub. The management area supports 154 species of annual and perennial plants including creosote bush, Joshua tree, winterfat, cheesebush, four-wing saltbush, and California buckwheat. The RMMA is used for various recreation and commercial activities including OHV riding, hunting, mining, and grazing. The nearby mining town of Randsburg has a couple of restaurants, antique shops, and a general store that caters to tourists and recreationists. ~ (courtesy of the BLM Ridgecrest Field Office)
Bridget Tevnan 
I remember learning about plant metabolism in freshman biology and thinking that I likened my personality to the adaptations of a CAM plant. In much the same way that these plants use specialized carbon fixation to maximize the amount of time their stomata are closed during the hottest part of the day, I think that similarly I can adapt to the environmental and social challenges that I encounter. Through open mindedness and positivity I always seek to gain the most out of a demanding situation. Raised in New Hampshire, my passion for environmental preservation and outdoor recreation has long been a large part of my life. As a rising junior at Trinity College in Hartford, CT, majoring in Environmental Science and Anthropology, I’m thrilled to be taking a year off to quench my thirst for environmental and civic engagement in a novel environment!
David Sellari 
In my eighteen years on this Earth, I have realized that helping the world brings me the most joy. During my last two years of high school, I worked with a program that feeds kids who depend on school lunches over the weekends. I have to admit that the work wasn't very hard and only took 40 mins to an hour of my time. However, knowing that I was helping to change the lives of the kids in my community for the better made the work seem effortless.
Earlier this year, my mother received an email giving her general information about the SCA. She showed the email to me, and I was immediately infatuated with the idea of getting to fight for the health of mother earth. Of course, I do realize that what I do in itself will not have a huge impact. But I believe in the butterfly effect. I think that if I can do good, then the ripples from that splash will reach out farther than my eyes can see.
I am extremely excited to start my first internship with the SCA. I am not only overly enthusiastic about the work itself but also about the opportunity to meet and form friendships with new people. I am a bit nervous when I first meet people, but those anxious feeling fade with a little time. I have also been playing guitar and singing for about a year and would love to teach what I know to anyone who is interested.
Ryan Ledden 
Being unsure of what direction to take with regard to my studies in college, I immersed myself in a wide variety of classes. Upon taking my first Introductory Political Science class, I knew that I had stumbled upon something I could sink my teeth into. At the end of that semester I decided to declare a major in Political Science. The following semester I was introduced to the challenges surrounding environmental policy, energy, and sustainable development. This very quickly became an area of special interest and over the next few years I took as many classes pertaining to environmental issues as my degree would allow. I began to work with my academic advisor on extracurricular projects building towers and recording wind data for small scale wind turbines for various sites across southern New Jersey. Additionally, I became a skilled backpacker and undertook a Wilderness Survival Skills course to develop my back-country knowledge further. I was also able to spend several weeks in Yellowstone National Park during the summer of 2010 meeting with park officials and locals alike to discuss the challenges of managing natural resources. In my studies and extracurricular opportunities I found a deep seeded love for the environment and a devotion to expanding my understanding of modern issues.
As graduation from the college drew closer I began applying for and was introduced to the SCA and the many opportunities for experience they had to offer. I accepted a position with the SCA as a Visitor Use Survey Intern for Parks managed by the Army Corps of Engineers in Northern Georgia for the summer of 2012. During SCA training for this position, I was introduced to the DRC and the opportunities it held. As soon as I returned from training, I put in my application for the Desert Restoration Corps, and in early July I accepted my position into the DRC for the 2012-2013 season. I look forward to the chance to participate in hands on restoration work in the coming season.
Irene Gilchriese 
I recently graduated from UCLA with degrees in Spanish and Anthropology, and though I loved nearly every minute of it, my interests have never really been able to align into particular disciplines. Instead, they've spread themselves all over the map into other fields like education, life science, the humanities, and social work.
It is with this broad curiosity that I arrive in the Mojave. I grew up in the blue-green sparkle and sprawl of the San Francisco Bay Area, but I've always harbored a soft spot for the desert and its whispering—sometimes howling—beauty.
Besides being an academia nut, I love good food, good music, good conversation, and bad puns (a recent favorite is describing this position as “intense,” 'cuz we're camping, ha!). I'm grateful for the opportunity to throw myself into this new challenge, and I'm ready to learn a lot and conserve the heck out of the desert!
Noah Creany 
Hello, my name is Noah Creany. I grew up in rural Pennsylvania with its mountains, streams, and forests out my back door. I recently graduated from Penn State University with a degree in Community, Environment, and Development and I enjoy traveling- seeing new places and experiencing its people. I am looking forward to getting acquainted with Southern California and am excited to meet the other SCA’ers who I will be sharing the wild Mojave Desert with.