The second season of restoration work in the Owens Peak Wilderness is under way. The crew, gathered from every corner of the country and mildly favoring the mid-west, has pushed through new experiences, taken on unanticipated but rewarding challenges, and has thought deeply about what it means to live within an intentional community. Each member has put a remarkable amount of dedication and interest into preparing locally sourced meals from “scratch.” Homemade peanut butter and almond butter have been enjoyed by all. Quinoa is the new food of choice for some and fruits and veggies from our CSA have inspired amazing impromptu meal improvisations. The same dedication and interest brought to food preparation has been applied to all of the work. Each crew member is eager to take on new challenges as well as bring their experiences and knowledge to the fore. I have never witnessed such fierce and defined spotting skills. I have never encountered so many individuals who are bursting to learn how to ratchet a truck’s cargo. And greater still is the interest the crew has taken in our wilderness area and desert life. Owens Peak Wilderness is a striking landscape of jagged mountain peaks. Our campground on LA 1 affords expansive views of the valley floor below and at dusk it gives the observer the feeling of being on Mars. The wilderness area is teeming with rich anthropological and natural history. A hike up the mule trail in Short Canyon, coupled with some time for quiet reflection, gave the crew some time to unwind and to think about the way humans use desert space. The mule trail is a vestige of LA Aqueduct history. Pack animals carved this path while carrying the cast iron materials for its construction at the turn of the 20th century. As we climbed we encountered a fractured adult desert tortoise shell. This sad occurrence brought home the importance of habitat preservation for this endangered species. As the crew adapts to a new way of life, it is clear that the forming stage is well underway. Laughter resounds from every corner of the house and inside jokes abound. Over their rest days, the crew is running errands and will be bringing peanut butter cookies to their neighbors as a way to introduce themselves to the community at large. Around these parts we are known as “tortoise lovers” and many folks are confused by what it is that we are doing around here. Perhaps it is time we began bridging the gap between the wilderness boundary and the Ridgecrest city limits. Soon the crew will be heading out to Great Falls Basin near Trona, CA, for a seventeen day training covering everything from restoration theory to wilderness medicine. And so another season in the OPW begins, filled with great promise and potential.
October 7, 2011 •