After spending all 12 days at the house during Hitch 5, Kiavah crew was back working on a plethora of projects in the Kiavah and Jawbone area. We camped alongside the Jawbone crew as we experienced many different climates that included rain, clouds, extreme wind speed, cold days and nights, and hot and sunny days. Kiavah crew endured through the obstacles to camp out in the wilderness but also complete a lot of great work.
The big project of Hitch 6 was building an erosion control system on a very large hill climb. Using wooden bollards placed at the right proximity to one another, the bollards will disallow rainfall to trickle down the hill in the same path and erosion will be prevented. This was easily one of our hardest projects all season because we had to carry all our tools and material, including 40 Lbs. bollards, up a steep slope. Even with the high degree of difficulty, we did an excellent job while enjoying our time on the project. Even Marty, our BLM contact, came out to help us with our project!
It wasn’t all an uphill battle; we took a day off from our big project and teamed up with Jawbone to restore more than 900 meters of illegal routes! While restoring the incursions, we used methods like planting vertical mulch, laying Joshua trees on the path, and we broke out the rock bar and teamed up to move boulders on the incursion. While moving rocks, our fearless leader Will Hagen, displayed his super natural strength and moved a massive boulder all by himself! Other projects we completed were putting in hard barriers and restoring the area to block off an incursion and we also used hard barriers to create a turn-around while defining and blocking off an illegal route.
Hitch 6 was full of different climates, beautiful sun rises/sets, amazing work, and great people. After a great 12 day hitch, we are all glad to be back at our “Half-way Home” and to be on break. And we ended just in time for the super bowl!!!
The halfway hitch, or Hitch #6, was different from day one. We found ourselves back at our old SC88 campsite, which was familiar from both First Five and Septoberfest. Ensconced with us at the rocky site was the Kiavah Crew, who also had work in the area. We enjoyed their rambunctious company throughout hitch; sharing cookie recipes, playing Hide-and-Seek and Cards Against Humanity, and shamelessly borrowing numerous kitchen necessities. To cement our friendship we also helped each other with work! One day, Kiavah aided us in completing restoration on two obscenely long hill climbs, and a few days later we learnt how to do hard barriers and set up bollards with them.
Weather was a significant factor in these 12 days. The climate gods, indecisive as ever, threw first a few frigid nights at us. Nothing we couldn’t handle, as a crew situated in such a volatile place as Jawbone. This was followed by two days of rain, which on the last night froze into snow. All of that was seemingly forgotten, as the next days were remembered only for the vicious, bitter winds that tore through fleeces and turned vegging trips into full-on chilly battles with dead branches. And, in the last two days, the gods mocked our traumatised, confused selves with bright, cloudless skies and temperatures almost hitting 70.
We all struggled to cope, but our beloved truck 9005 was having the most serious issues. After work one day, one of its tyres decided to deflate for no apparent reason. Battling the wind and cold, four Jawbone members bravely put their tyre-changing abilities to the test. It was successful, but poor 9005’s problems were far from over. A few days later, we were excited to spend a day volunteering at the Audubon Society Preserve and then visit some hot springs. We sat in the trucks at an early hour, defying the cold weather with our enthusiasm, when 9005 decided it did not feel like starting. After an attempt at jump-starting it, the problem was revealed to be more complex. Our self-sacrificing PL Andy bravely stayed with our truck, while the six members piled into 9001 for our day of fun.
At the Audubon Preserve, we got to experience live restoration, which was something of a revelation to such vertical mulch experts. We also implemented irrigation, which was definitely new material for us. Our work, already interesting, and in such a beautiful area (trees!) was only improved by the two boxes of snacks provided. After a pleasant time and many promises of returning, we headed out to the elusive hot springs supposedly in the area. Most of us had never visited any sort of hot springs, so it was with excitement and apprehension that we examined the rough map and somewhat bizarre directions, following winding roads and searching for landmarks like a power plant and a telephone pole you could drive around. Eventually, we parked in a lot with a fabulously painted school bus, and walked down to the springs. Situated directly next to a river, the springs themselves were quite enjoyable, although it is true that any immersion in water seems nice for desert-dwellers like us. The experience was made somewhat bizarre by the abundance of naked hippies present, one of whom we aptly called demented Santa. He decided to lecture us about our current volunteer positions, and eventually attempted to goad us into an argument about whether or not there are more roads now than 30 years ago. It was a day to remember.
We ended our hitch with good weather and better spirits. A headlight strobe rave broke out after our lantern was temperamental, and was followed by a highly amusing session of star tipping. A campfire with Kiavah made our hitch complete, and we left feeling dirty, exhausted, ready for break, and satisfied with our work. Or in other words, like the best sort of dirtbags there are.
This hitch took all four members of Wildcorps to the far reaches of eastern California, Arizona, and for a short while even south of Mexico. Amidst our journey through the far east we were able to monitor 14 water sources, which required on the fly differentiation between old data sets rife with projection error. The sites we monitored required intense 4x4 driving, many miles of hiking, and an overnight backpacking trek. The “roads” (I use the term very loosely) in this area were so washed out and harrowing that at one point our beloved work truck became incapable of traversing a wash which happened to cut right through a designated route. After approximately 7 hours of intense road building, rock moving, and failed attempts at videoing our escape from the clutches of Julian Wash, we managed to turn around and make our way back out through the mouth of the beast.
It was the end of the day and to our dismay less than a klick away we became stuck in the gray. Our tired mount was beaten alas, this vertical washout too steep to surpass—up, up, karumph and down on its ass, a driveshaft sheared by the heft of our mass. Now seriously stuck alone in this wood we tried our best we did what we could, but sticks nor stones could splint the bones of our metal steed, now graciously digging us holes without need—deep, deep in the wash. So we slept in the truck a cold winter night and awoke the next morning without much delight, til o’er the horizon somebody spied two white trucks, blue triangles aside, come to rescue us— save our crippled ride.
Once we were reunited with our remaining truck and trailer, we decided to hoof it to the other side of the mountain to Senator Wash Reservoir North Shore Campground. Other than an obscenely long name, the campground did not offer much more than a vault toilet, amazing sunrises over a lake, and a quizzical look into the life of generally older people who camp in RV’s in areas designated by signs picturing a roadrunner over a snowflake… apparently the BLM takes its snow birds pretty seriously. Mr. Matt Duarte joined us for some backpackage and monitoring in the Indian Pass, Picacho Peak, and Little Picacho Wilderness areas just in time to catch a massive cold front sweeping over the new south from way up in Alaska. Fortunately, the front fronted forty mph winds for only a fraction of a fortnight, and the rest of our monitoring proved relatively uneventful other than the sightings of several owls, a large mountain cat, burros, jackrabbits, lizards, and snowbirds. We were also treated to a hike with BLM ranger Joya to see several natural rock arches and learn about the BLM’s youth initiative in California.
Until next time,
Our second week began with being introduced to Ryan from Aerie Backcountry Medicine. He taught us how to apply our first aid training in all types of situations. We learned to hold c-spine, splints, all the way to buddy carrying the injured out of harms way. With our CPR and Wilderness First Aid certifications we were well on our way to being prepared for our LNT trip. We furthered out team building in the Superstition Wilderness of the Tonto National Forest. On our five mile hike and overnight we learned about leave no trace and map navigation. For many of us this was our first backcountry experience. We also learned and taught each other about the seven components of leave no trace. We could see first hand the impact we made and the impact of other previous visitors. The Wolfpack roamed the desert with an eagerness to learn and experience all the Superstitions had to offer. All in all it was a successful LNT trip. The new hit single from Brown Is In The Dirt came forth from this trip. The new chart topper is called “Shake Your Bean Spoon”. Till next week!
Our first week in the SCA we all started off getting to know each other and establishing relationships. We learned the finer points of the the SCA and did some fun team building. We also got all of our cool SCA gear: boots, hats, shirts, backpacks, water bottles, and SCA memorabilia. We took a tour of the BLM and Phoenix College. We met our teachers and some of us got our student ids. We had our field biology, career experience, and environmental ethics classes. In our Biology class at the Audubon, we went on a nature walk where we learned how to do nature journals, learned some names of plants, and saw a lot of animals.
We established our group name, Wolfpack. We also established our team band name, Brown Is In The Dirt. Stay tuned for more awesome SCA regales and hit singles from Brown Is In The Dirt!