Day 1: I am sitting outside the green monster, under overcast, dusky clouds after sunset. There is as yet enough light for me to write without using my headlamp. We are camped on SC120, across the Kelso Valley from our project area, Bright Star Wilderness, which is almost directly on the other side of the Scodies Range and our past work and camp sites on the Kiavah Wilderness Boundary. Despite being a mountain range away from Ridgecrest, Bright Star is still closer than the furthest part of Grass Valley by a nice hour and a half. We have 4 days of restoration work ahead of us, 3 days working with a high school volunteer group building a trail and cleaning garbage out from the wilderness boundary, and 1 final day of fence repair and putting in a hard barrier.
Day 3: I am sitting in the green monster in a post-dinner food-coma. We worked half an hour extra for the last 2 days so that we could have solid ending points. Luckily we got permission from the owner of a conservation easement to cross the property and access our worksites; it should save us a considerable amount of carrying tools and supplies. We spent yesterday monitoring the incursions and mapping out where two of them go; the longest one winds up a canyon and ultimately ends on the ridgeline to the north. Today we built a hard barrier, restored behind it and at the wilderness boundary using a new method of spotting: If you can see the road, people on the road can see you. We were well over a mile from the legal route at this point, so placing vertical mulch in useful places following traditional methods was out of the question. I tried out the new method by lying down and finding out where I could see the road from the incursion. On our way back to camp this afternoon, the area we restored was hard to find, so I think the new method worked! At the very least, it gives us an excuse to do some push-ups and a plank or two.
Day 5: Wake up, eat breakfast, pack lunch, throw back the last of your coffee, toss your pack in the truck, drive to the work site, get out and stretch, strap your pack on and fill your hands with tools, hike to the first fence, toss your pack and set your tools on the other side, slide under the bottom wire, strap back up, hike a half mile, toss your pack over and set the tools on the side, slide under the fence, strap back up and hike to the work site. Repeat as necessary.
It has been an excellent, beautiful set of days with good temperatures throughout the day. The mornings are a bit cold, but make the hike that much more enjoyable. We had a fun time scaling the steep side of the wash on our way back to the truck today; we had gathered some trash including a length of old garden hose. MaryAnne scrambled up to the top and shouted, “Throw me your rope, I’ll haul you up!” So I tossed her the garden hose and she helped me up the 60-degree slope and over the top, and we helped the others do the same. Excellent teamwork. We are looking forward to working with the high school students for the next few days.
Day 7: Today was our second day with the students; we met them yesterday and showed them how to build trails on the side of a hill with a McLeod and how to clear the corridor for the trail using loppers and handsaws. They were fairly enthusiastic about the process and we finished today with a little bit of time to spare at the end. The trail is about a mile and half long loop that descends down to Kelso Creek and then ascends back up to the trailhead on Piute Mountain Road.
Day 9: Yesterday was our last day with the high schoolers, and we are all sore. We knew what was in store, even if we didn’t believe it. The students didn’t know what hit them, their chaperones were incredulous to say the least, one might say they could be called flabbergasted. They thought we were joking, and that it would just be a joke. Ha, they must not have realized that while we may be a goofy bunch of people, we would never joke about something as sinister as this trash removal. The object of our torment: bowling balls, two hundred eighty five intact bowling balls plus the many inevitable fragments that arise when you launch them from a cannon at high enough speeds to go through an old tanker trailer. Our 14 volunteers helped us remove an estimated three thousand lbs of bowling balls from the edge of the wilderness area, much to the chagrin of their gloves, shirts, and aching hands.
Today was a much more laid back day; we monitored a fence line along Piute Mountain Rd, cut up a couple trees that had fallen on it and repaired the damages, and put up a hard barrier to ward off any potential vehicles on a hiking trail just in time for a race this weekend.
All in all, this was a tremendously successful hitch with a great dynamic and a little bit of organized chaos.