Our planned work has nearly run out for us, but luckily we had several other events to occupy us this hitch. The first was helping with the Sand Canyon Environmental Education Program (SEEP). Over several weeks, fourth grade students from area schools have a field to visit Sand Canyon to learn about the natural history of the area. Groups of students rotate through several stations set up in the canyon. In them, students learn about birds, plants, aquatics, and archaeology. Most students were especially thrilled to catch a glimpse of the Red-tailed Hawk that was nesting in the canyon. Soon after SEEP, all of the DRC crews united to see the petroglyphs on the China Lake Naval Base. After undergoing a thorough search by military police, we were allowed onto the base. An hour long drive brought us to the canyon where all of the petroglyphs were located. Immediately upon entering the canyon, we were surrounded by petroglyphs. Every rock face seemed to have something chiseled into it. Our guides offered many explanations as to what the images were. These ranged from aliens to shamans to rams to medicine bags. Many were definitely aliens. Our final foray was to the Maturango Museum for the annual wildflower festival. Docents of the museum had travelled all over nearby canyons to gather specimens of everything in bloom. We had seen many of them during work, but now we could put a name and family to the flowers; definitely the most helpful way to learn plants. We were also told by the docents that flowers this year are even worse than last year. The desert seems to be getting drier and drier. The rest of our days on hitch were spent attending to the usual tasks of restoration and effectiveness monitoring. However, after closing an incursion that was already half finished, we reached our goal outlined in the grant. One of the trucks also had an exhilarating ride while monitoring. While marveling at the rampant destruction caused by OHV use in the Dove Springs Area, Andy began to tell us a tale of his 4×4 training. Pointing out the steep hill climbs, he told us of his instructor who tried to drive up a similarly steep hill and failed. Not even halfway up, his jeep began to slide down. Later on, Matt was descending a hill that at first seemed very manageable and nothing to worry about. Luckily, Andy suggested putting the truck in 4 low. A very wise call since the road seemed to drop off the side of cliff. As the wheels dropped, everything in the truck slid down with gravity. It felt as though the truck would flip over if the road became any steeper. This did not happen though and we survived only losing control of the truck and sliding off the road for a moment. Turns out, this was same hill that the 4×4 instructor failed to climb. Earlier in the hitch, we had another terrifying and exciting encounter with a Mojave Green Rattlesnake. Matt nearly ran it over, but Corinne spotted it basking in the road just in time. Hitch was a success; we all survived and are ready for the final All-Corps that is on the way.
April 14, 2013 •