Well, December has all but come and gone, which means the 2012 season of the Trail Town Outreach Corps is coming to a close.
Joe Crumbley and Cara Madden, the two TTOC members who began their 10 month term of service in February have gone back to their respective homes. We would like to thank them for their commitment to service, to the SCA, and to the Trail Towns they worked in. They had quite a successful 10 months, donating 500+lbs of fresh, organic produce to the local food bank, finally getting the Adopt-A-Bioswale program rolling, creating a brochure advertising GAP SBN members and the Sustainable Supplier Guide to help members make sustainable purchasing choices, and reviving the Sustainable Trail Guide which will help volunteer trail groups with sustainable trail maintence. We wish them luck in their future endeavors.
Michelle Rapp and Rachael Christie, two TTOC members who started in June, will be with us through April 2013. They have some very exciting projects that they will be working on. You can look forward to updates about a Trail Town Art Brochure, the GAP SBN merger with Certified Trail Friendly, the new 2013 Trail Count System, and the Trail Town re-assessment results and planned projects. We look forward to another great 3 1/2 months with Rachael and Michelle.
Finally, I will be leaving TTOC this January, planning to attend graduate school next fall. I have learned so much from working with the SCA and the Trail Town Outreach Corps as a corps member and a project leader. I have learned valuable project management skills, leadership skills, and communication skills. Most importantly, my work with TTOC has informed what I hope to do with the rest of my life, combining the fields of community development and local food studies. I wish all future TTOCs the best of luck! Thanks for a great two years.
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.
This hitch has aptly been described as an odyssey. The journey seemed long, yet the adventure was always changing. We began with expectations of cleaning up trash around a historic cabin. Except we later found out that this cabin was actually burnt to the ground. A fine piece of vernacular architecture, complete with bottle walls, was lost by some unknown cause. And so, Jawbone, along with the other crews, suited up in gloves, respirators, and tyvek suits to dump all the rubble in an RV sized dumpster. The task was quickly completed and the rest of the day was spent preparing for our coming days in the desert.
The drive to our campsite aroused a bit of nostalgia as we drove by the familiar mountains that enveloped us during our 17 day training in September. We continued past them to what would be a new area for us. Our campsite was nestled in a wide wash complete with boulders, Joshua trees, creosote, and the occasional Sage Sparrow. In a couple of hours, the pup tents and white wall had been erected and staked into the sand. We were ready for tomorrow to come and start restoration.
The drive to the incursions was like a rollercoaster. The trucks crested over ridges and for a brief moment only the sky was visible in the front windshield. The incursions here offered a new experience. Formerly, creosote had been the primary plant species present. Here, the hills were densely dotted with small bushes, and the occasional Joshua tree could be seen in the distance. Some incursions had over 100 vertical mulch. Others had Joshua trees that took four of us to haul to the incursion. Restoration was not all we were up to though.
One night we had some visitors in our white wall. Kangaroo rats came hopping in to search for any crumb we may have left behind. The fearless rodents were nearly stepped on multiple times. The next night we visited some of our extended family, the Kiavah crew, for dinner. Soon after our odyssey took us all the way back down to Ridgecrest to join the Rands crew and our BLM contact for a feast at the Pizza Factory. Some feasted more than others, but no one managed to eat more than 10 slices of pizza. With full bellies, we headed back to our warm home and waved farewell to the Rands crew as they drove back to the desert.
The next day, we awoke excited to attend ATV training. All day the wind was fiercely blowing and sending clouds of dust over us. By the end of the training, our faces looked a few shades lighter. In spite of the wind, we all had a joyous time riding in the dusty cloud that engulfed the coned training course. However, it was especially thrilling to take the ATVs out of the course during the trail ride at the end of the day. Our day didn’t end here though; we dined out at a Vietnamese restaurant. The service was superb; hot bowls of pho and plates of chow mein quickly appeared before us. We savored every last bite as we readied our minds to once again return to the desert the next day.
In no time we were back to restoring incursions for the remainder of the hitch. We began where we left off planting as many dead bushes as it took to cover any sign of a trail. Our most notable incursion went down a steep hill then up the other side. Once we were finished there wasn’t any sign of the trail. Our program coordinator, Matt Duarte, also came to visit for the remaining days. Not only did he supply some exquisite mulch to be used, but he also brought Irish soda bread with cheese and butter. It paired excellently with the copious amount of garbanzo bean salad we had for dinner.
The next nights became quite frigid. Soon after dinner was over, the temperatures began to plummet into the low twenties, and our feet became blocks of ice. The coldest morning that we awoke to was 12°F. Our greatest respite from the cold was going to bed with a hot water bottle. But, hitch quickly came to a close and we made a final drive out of the field, back to Ridgecrest.
We spent our final day unpacking and cleaning hitch supplies. Then we began the process of repacking our possessions and preparing our minds for our trip home. Living in the desert can really change a person. You get used to rising with the sun and going to sleep when the air becomes too chilling. You get used to not showering, to sleeping on the ground, to eating a little dirt, to dry hands, to silence, to the slowness of the desert. All things we’ll have to forget for a bit as we return to our old lives at our former homes.
If you are reading this, than the December 21st wasn’t the end of the world. It wasn’t the end of the world, but an alteration of thinking. Our way of thinking changed to making us more sensitive to incursion restoring.
Hitch 4 started off joining the other crews; Jawbone and Kiavah suited up in Tyvex body suits to enter a cabin clean up event with the BLM staff. We all got prepared with the proper PPE to dive into this burnt down cabin. Dressed in a blue hazmat suit, hard hat, safety glasses, and of course blue latex gloves to match our outfit. We were able to fill a huge dumpster full of burned railroad ties, sheets of metal, and a ton of soot. The soot we wore very well if I might add. Zoe had a very distinctive mustache going on. We worked on cleaning up 3 cabins; Edith E and Mingusville are the names I remember. These cabins were fit for a king hauling 3 full couches, a love seat, and a rat poop infested mattress out to the dumpster. On the upside Kiavah was able to find an extra green monster to patch up their own green monster. We finished the day cooking and putting our creativity to the test.
Our first night in the desert in a while KNIFE (Matt Duarte) joined us for a few days. So in our crew tends to be jinxed. That night we were talking about how likely a flash flood was and how often it rains. Hmm… Next thing we know were all heading to bed and its sleeting. Rain in the desert is seriously unheard of. We all thought it would stop in 2 hours or so, but NO we were all proved wrong it stopped at 3am. Most of us ended up waking up in a puddle wet and cold then on top of that worked the whole next day in the extreme weather. Jeff and Zoe decided to hang their sleeping bags from the ceiling of the green monster to dry out for the day. KNIFE, Teddy, and Zoe even competed in a decompaction of soil challenge of one of our incursions. We all succeeded and finished 40 foot stretch by 4 pm. We ended up restoring far more land than we had thought before. This entailed a few more bollard signs and lining the 400m surrounding the campsite with rocks and at least 50 vertical mulch bushes. On a vertical mulch run Lizzie stumbled upon what we think was a Mojave green snake, which was one of the highlights of our hitch.
After a few days of camping in the desert we were brainstorming ideas to keep warm. We came up with ‘if only we had those blue Tyvex hazmat suits to sleep in.’ Also, Cat came back to the field from her Mexico trip and to our surprise she bought us doughnuts!!!!!!
So on Dec 17th we finally finished the 2 campsites that were on the priority list in Golden Valley. Cat, Erica, and Teddy went into town for Admin day. So we were left with the FAB FOUR! The Fab Four (Lizzie, Zoe, Matt, and Jeff) happily finished the rock lining of the designated route and sweeping out OHV tracks. Rock lining was very relaxing because we thought of kindergarten playing with blocks. Hey, it got us through the long work day of moving mountains…it worked.
Zoe had her Environmental Education (EE) Presentation on Renewable Energy, and she arranged for a field trip to Terra-Gen, which was the Wind Facility right near Mojave, CA. The group was able to see up close these massive turbines that create energy to be used as electricity. Todd Dobbins, the Terra Gen site supervisor gave us the grand tour of their facility along with a brief power point presentation on various projects they have going on. Terra Gen has about 5,000 turbines on their property. Just picture it, WIND Turbines for miles. Although, during Zoe’s EE there was some debate about why Wind Turbines are such a controversial issue, we all enjoyed discussing the pros and cons. It was exciting to listen to everyone’s thoughts about such environmental subject we knew very little about.
We spent our last nights in the desert, which were some of the coldest nights we have had yet. Jeff looked up the forecast which was in the high teens/ low twenties. Burrrr… Seriously, the Desert gets COLD???? We all had some difficulties staying warm this hitch. We all have Zero degree sleeping bags now and wool socks, but we still can’t keep our toes warm. We wake up with toe-cicles! There has got to be a science to layering properly and keeping warm at night in the desert. If anyone has any suggestions they would be appreciated!!! By this point some of us started doing laps around the green monster to warm up then head to bed warm. We tried almost everything to stay warm. The January hitch we can brainstorm more ideas and hopefully overcome this dilemma.
T’was our last day of work in the desert; everyone is happily working together to get our last incursion completed and monitoring the southern boundary fence line. We had our favorite falafel for dinner and finished our chores. We sat around the lantern telling stories, while Lizzie and I had a read 100 page challenge… WHICH DIDN’T HAPPEN! December 21st, the day the Mayan calendar ends. We’re all alive. We wake up pack up camp and were all ready to go. There has been a change, a change of thinking, formally known as Grass Valley Crew, woke up and “WE ARE GOLDEN.”
Sadly, on December 21st 2012 Vin Diesel didn’t make it through the night. Our truck had the same security light on as last time we got stranded in the field. Golden Valley-2, VIN Diesel-0. Cat stayed in the field for 5 hours waiting for a tow truck to tow Vin Diesel out. Vin Diesel and our entire crews working gloves didn’t make it past the December 21st.
Highlights of Hitch 4:
• We dug our last hole for vertical mulch and bollards.
• We planted our last vertical mulch of 2012.
• We went on our last vertical mulch run of 2012.
• We have placed our last rock lining the road for 2012.
• We survived December 21st 2012
We are all looking forward to start fencing hopefully in January with NEW WORKING GLOVES!
“WE ARE GOLDEN!”