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.