As the end of the desert season comes to a close and the Wilderness Crew heads up north to magical Klamath National Forest for the summer, this hitch made us pause and reflect upon the past eight months. Here are some of my favorite memories!
Grass Valley was our first taste of the real Mojave. We spent the first few hitches feeling like we were in the movie Holes as we crossed Cuddeback Lake and saw the most amazing sunrises and sunsets of any Wilderness Area. Grass Valley was where we had Pat’s Party Hitch (PPH), went into battle against the Banditos and learned our favorite type of work, fencing.
Kiavah was where we spent our first real hitch and a major part of our season. It is by far one of the most diverse areas we worked in, with over four canyons full of wildflowers, snakes, lizards and mountain views. Kiavah was the setting of the Great Black Bean Burger Incident of 2013 and the spring adventures of Horse Canyon, with its Joshua tree groves carpeted in wildflowers.
Owens Peak was my favorite Wilderness; it boasts six beautiful canyons, and a trailhead to Owens Peak, the highest mountain in the southern Sierra Nevadas. From the night we camped at the abandoned mine, telling stories about ghosts and the OPB, to the mountain lion sighting, to the hitch we had two nights of rain and wind howling through the morning but woke up to the most beautiful rainbow across Indian Wells Valley, a hitch in Owens was always one to remember.
True to its name, come spring Golden Valley is covered in blankets of golden flowers. Half of our crew was lucky enough to do a backpacking trip to do interior monitoring; they even saw four rattlesnakes and, later in the hitch, came upon a brand new abandoned car!
The El Paso Mountains are located in the high desert in between Ridgecrest and the Sierra Nevadas. It is characterized by the rocky northern and western boundaries, the desert oasis of Sheep Springs in the east, and the beautiful grassy southern boundary, which borders Red Rock Canyon State Park. The El Pasos was where half of us got to hike the eight-mile stretch of the not-so-little Little Dixie Wash doing interior monitoring
Brighstar was a place of legend to our crew until the last few hitches of the season, and it definitely lived up to its name, as it encompasses part of the Kelso Mountains and the headwaters of Kelso Creek. Our first hitch there consisted of hiking tools a mile and a half to and from our work site each day. The second half of hitch involved the High School volunteer project, our first introduction to trail work, and the infamous bowling ball cleanup. Brighstar is where we saw our only deer of the season, where we finally got that impossible photo of a jackrabbit before it darted away, and where an OHVer saw me pee for the first time.
Coso Range Wilderness was where we spent our last two hitches, and where the ten of us finally got to camp together again. The amazing thing about the Coso Range is that you can feel the history all around you, with a large obsidian source in the area, prehistoric pictographs, and several old cabins along the boundaries. We felt the most confident and proud of the restoration that we did in the Coso Range, and we could not have picked a better place to finish out the season.