This hitch started out with some shuffling. The recent rains flooded the area where the team planned to do pole plantings. We took an education training trip to BioSphere2 near Tucson,AZ. We learned of and witnessed 5 different controlled biomes within the facility. The following day we went to Table Mesa, north of Phoenix, and did some restoration work illegal jeep roads. No one was going to pas through there once we got done! Finally on Thursday the waters had receded and we made it out to River Bend in the Agua Fria National Monument to do our pole planting. We went above and beyond and planted all 95 poles (trees) in one day instead of two. We camped at Aqua Fria,which for many of these Phoenicians turned out to be one of the coldest camping experiences. Fire, long horn cattle, coyotes, and the frost were our friends for the evening. On Friday we packed up and headed back to Table Mesa to plant 98 more trees along a sensitive restoration area along the river. We also put a fence around these poles, as cattle and OHV traffic tend to hinder restoration efforts in this area. The team band, Brown is in the Dirt, also hit the song writing hard and is looking to add new songs to the debut album forthcoming. Till next time!
Hitch 6 could not come soon enough as Wild Corps began work out of the long anticipated Palm Springs district office. Not only is Palm Springs the closest office to our humble abode in Yucca Valley, it also offers stunning views, outstanding weather, and (debatably) the crew’s favorite vegan restaurant—Native Foods. Before heading out into the field, we spent two days at home preparing for the spectacle that will be the All-Corps Olympics, aka hitch 7. To prepare the other Ridgecrest crews for the games, we bestowed upon them the first film to have ever been nominated for 21 Oscars in the genre-bending phenomenon entitled “The Invitation.” [See below for exclusive behind the scenes shots.]
This hitch, the DubCee had the privilege of doing trail rehabilitation in, yes, I am not kidding, a ZOO. The Living Desert Zoo & Botanical Garden in Palm Desert offers the surrounding communities access to thousands of diverse desert plant species, miles of beautiful hiking trails, and sand cats. In case you didn’t know, the sand cat is like a regular house cat, but with a boxy head and stocky legs, and two million times cuter. While not kicking and screaming because we could not have one of those sand cats for ourselves, we were using our McLeods and rock bars to polish up some of the washed out sections of the 3.5 mile Wilderness Loop (Eisenhower Trail Wilderness Loop)
Historically, the Wilderness Loop has been a popular hiking destination among the Palm Desert community; built about fifty years ago by a group of Boy Scouts with questionable trail building decisions, the trail has long been suffering from heavy erosive forces. So with clear eyes and full hearts, we put our bodies to work to turn severely cupped trails with 2 foot high berms into the sweetest trail you’ve ever laid your Asolos on. From backfilling to backsloping to outsloping to sauerkrautsloping, the Wilderness Loop will now hopefully stand the test of flash floods and heavy use. While the implementation of knicks will help with non-erosive water runoff, the installment of steps will mitigate berm build-up as well as improve safety for the public. I bet your Grammy could even hike this trail in her flippy-floppies.
On the home front, we were fortunate enough to stay at the Ritz-Carlton of all Forest Service campsites: the (read in your head like an old British woman, think Judy Dench in Skyfall) Ribbonwood Equestrian Campground. While previous hitches have involved camping under large power lines in the Palo Verde Mountains Wilderness, or a different set of large power lines in the Chemehuevi Mountains Wilderness, Ribbonwood had a stunning array tables, fire pits, and yes, again, I kid you not, a bathroom with hot showers. Although most members only indulged in the controlled deluge once or twice, we were grateful for the option, and forever thankful to those kind BLM souls who convinced someone to let us desert rats sleep on their fine soil.
The inauguration of the President coincided with Wild Corps’ inauguration of The Green Monster, an animal whose picture should be placed on the walls of every government building right next to the big man himself. The Green Monster, to all ye front country folk, is a large 10-man-Army-Surplus-Arctic tent that can very comfortably fit 4 people in the cold desert night. After the whirlwind rain-dance required to set up the Monstruo Verde under the leadership of DRC pro Matt Duarte, Wild Corps rejoiced in a week long inaugural ball that involved a hearty buffet of peanut-based dishes, Joni Mitchell’s “California” on repeat, and philosophical discussions about the mythology behind the Celtic cave-dwelling creature Anna Kendrick Lamar.
Some other highlights of hitch 6 include: opening up one’s pup tent to a snowy winter wonderland after working in the hot desert sun the previous day, Kettle brand Honey Dijon chips, sand cats, dried mango, the wonderful Canadian woman who called us “Angels” for improving the Wilderness Loop, all the other Canadian women who commended us for our work, aaaand sand cats.
Wild Corps Peace Out
SIDEWINDER aka Scottie
I love the crew I work with. We’re made up of a bunch of like-minded folks from all across the country who have a shared passion of the great outdoors. Luckily another thing we have in common is the ability to get trail weird. You may ask yourself, “What in tarnation is trail weird?” I’m sure other subcategories of labor-induced weirdness exist as well. Restaurant weird, retail weird, farming weird - they all accomplish the same thing. It’s a sort of coping mechanism used to lift spirits among a crew when times get tough.
Our days start off upbeat for the most part, but after lunch the weirdness usually starts to take hold of us. People get tired physically, and restless mentally. When you combine these traits you are left with an opportunity for greatness to ensue, should you seize it. Someone starts speaking in an amusing accent. That evolves quickly into the entire crew speaking in that same accent. As we tire of our new voices, our minds wander. People start asking questions that they consider to be deep and thoughtful, but to anyone outside the crew would sound like the ravings of a lunatic.
“Hey Guys! If you had a magic water bottle divided into four sections, that could each contain four separate liquids, all of which having an infinite supply, what would they be?”
We generally take these questions with the utmost seriousness. It’s as if we believe that if our answers are witty enough, and our justifications sound, that we would turn around to find that magic water bottle on the ground behind us.
Another symptom of getting trail weird is temporary aural ignorance. Often, a member of the crew will experience a momentary lapse in conversation, but not in their subconscious. After a statement is registered as a sudden thought instead of part of a conversation, it is often blurted out as the same exact words that were uttered in the first place. I guess we just wouldn’t be ourselves if we didn’t repeat ourselves.
One of the greatest side-effects of getting trail weird is the boost in morale that it brings with it. There are always more things to accomplish around Lake Berryessa, and getting trail weird has helped us to tackle an enormous amount of work in the last few weeks. After returning from our winter break, we completed a loop trail hugging the shore of the lake at the Smittle Creek Day Use Area. The trail is a 3/4 mile jaunt with minimal grade changes and a wide tread. After completing the new loop, we maintained a large section of the Smittle Creek Self-Guided Nature Trail. During the first week back, we also took a grip hoist rigging course. Our newest endeavor is at Markley Cove, where we are improving the water access at roadside pullouts along Route 128.
So next time you find yourself wandering the shores of Lake Berryessa, if you come upon a group of dirt laden, overall wearing, tool wielding trail philosophers with muddy boots and big smiles, slowly approach and say something strange -just don't be surprised if we manage to make a conversation out of it.
Greetings from the Grass Valley Wilderness! Hitch 6 has come to a close and we are more than halfway through with our time in the Mojave Desert. The Grass Valley crew finally made it to their homeland and we were able to camp in the wilderness, we voted it our favorite campsite yet! We definitely are getting better at the camp set up. Teddy lined the path to the rocketbox with flagging so we wouldn’t get lost when we really had to go and Jeff/Matt even got out the level when setting up the stove. Exciting things have returned to the desert during this hitch. Cheese is back in the game and we think spring is coming! We saw green grass, singing birds, ground squirrels, kangaroo rats, beetles, lizards, sunburn, short sleeved shirts, and 3 days of steady rain. You know what they say, January showers bring February flowers??? We were also closer to the Naval Air Weapons Station (NAWS) fire range so everyday was an air show from the jets and sonic booms that makes you shake in your boots.
We started off this hitch having a meeting with Marty, our BLM wilderness contact which involved lots of Starbucks coffee/muffins and discussion about Golden and Grass Valley wilderness areas. I educated the group on our waste disposal options while living in Ridgecrest and working in the field. We discussed landfills, recycling, and composting. We journeyed to the Ridgecrest Landfill to get a first-hand experience of where our trash goes and offered suggestions for how we could improve our compost buckets’ decomposition rate.
We spent most of the hitch protecting the Grass Valley wilderness from OHVers. We resigned all the northern, southern, and corridor routes with new wilderness carsonite signs. Lots of sweeping of tracks took place…..just keep sweeping. We monitored all the previous restoration sites and touched some up as well. Teddy and Erica were under the weather for a few days so the FAB FOUR (Zoe, Lizzie, Matt and Jeff) were back again tackling one large incursion that was previously restored with hay bales. The ground resembled desert pavement and after all the decompacting and rock barring, our shoulders could eat people. The hay provided us with some entertainment including Jeff Havey’s HAY-V jokes. Luckily, Erica and Teddy returned the last day to help us out. We planted 119 vertical mulch bushes and worked on it for 3 days….our largest incursion yet.
We did have an interesting run in with 6 dirt bikers. We were monitoring the fence and they were caught on the wilderness side of the fence where no motorized vehicles are allowed. We informed them of the boundary and where they could exit the fence while we snatched some sneaky photos of their license plates…..they may or may not get a ticket in the mail. We enjoyed being spies for that short while.
We are all looking forward to All Corps next hitch in Shoshone near Death Valley!
Peace, love, Hydroxycut
Lizzie and the Grass Valley Crew
P.S. Vin Diesel shined his light at us again….you know the rest.
(Ashfield, MA, February 1)- Kindergarten thru sixth grade students at Sanderson Academy will be experiencing a variety of winter activities this Friday. AmeriCorps members from the SCA Massachusetts program in Hawley will take the students outside to explore their local environment in winter.
Students will be split into small groups and will rotate through a variety of stations, including animals in winter, tracking, and snow shelters. They will have the opportunity to play a variety of active winter games and learn about physics concepts with tubes from Berkshire East. Corps members will eat lunch with the students and entertain them with a skit about animals in winter and related songs.
This is the fourth year of the Sanderson Winter Enrichment event. Kare Marshall, Math Interventionist at Sanderson Academy, said that she loves the positive energy the corps members bring to the event each year and notes that they are always “educationally flexible” with last minute schedule changes due to weather. The purpose of this event is for the students to be active and enjoy the outdoors during winter in Massachusetts.