Well, our ten day winter break has come and gone, and Grass is back in the desert. The beginning of hitch number five began with all of Grass Valley making it back to Ridgecrest, except our non-trusty Vin Diesel. On pre-hitch day Vin Diesel was still sitting pretty in the shop after the saga of it’s apocalypse breakdown. Luckily mid day we got the call, nothing is wrong with Vin Diesel. (I suppose sometimes it’s just a little finicky?). It would be back in action the next day. Which meant hitch five began without our hitch leader. She was given the duty of driving to Barstow once again to get our Vin Diesel and bring him out to us.
While Cat was waiting on Vin Diesel, the rest of us piled our six butts into Gassy and set out for the south side of Golden. I think the best way to describe us at that point was a mix of cheery and hesitant in leaving our cushy houses behind and once again going to sleep with the dirt beneath us and circa 1950s army surplus tents over us. Getting out to our campsite right at dusk was a nice uplift. As always the sunsets in the desert are amazing, always offering a slew of fiery colors which sprawl out behind the mountains. On our way out one of crew members checked the weather and said it was going to be a warm hitch with the lows in 30s. Since we got out late, most of us decided to go without a tent. Sleeping under the stars is probably what I will miss most after the DRC ends. Unfortunately, it may not have been the night to do it (we still haven’t learned from the last hitch). Although we have been told many times by our BLM contact, Golden and Grass have their own micro climate. Since the elevation is lower than surrounding areas, the cold air sinks. Meaning, it was not a 30 degree night, it was a single digit night. The morning was interesting….a lot of jumping and dancing, with all of us ending up taking refuge in Gassy.
Fortunately, the middle of this hitch was cold, but not that cold. We got a few good restoration days in. Monitored some fence lines and previous restoration sites. And we did a lot of hiking. I think at this point we can all get around the Golden wilderness area better than we can Ridgecrest. We hiked the boundary and wash after wash; finding points where OHVs are entering the wilderness areas and trying to find where they were going. We also found some cool things. There was a trash pile containing the frame of a 1940s car, all riddled with bullets. We found four mines, three of which were holes heading straight down with no fence around them. And we found lots of PVC pipes. Lots and lots of them. The PVC pipes were used to mark mine claims some years ago. The problem is that they are open on the top, so if a bird goes down into them, it has some trouble getting back out, and usually doesn’t make it. So we hiked around capping the pipes with rocks. As soon as we would finish one line of PVC pipes, usually 100 yards apart from each other, we would find another line of them. If we tried to hike a wash, there was always a line that we (mainly Teddy) would spot and our nice breezy hike would turn into a long over the mountains hike, placing rocks in these pipes. We got some good views of Golden thanks to those pipes. And hopefully saved some birds as well.
During this hitch, for our environmental education project, we had the opportunity to visit Soledad Farm. Soledad is a goat farm located in Mojave, Ca. Their main income is goat cheese, though they produce yogurt as well. As soon as we arrived we were greeted by the owners Julian and Carol. Carol had just helped a mother goat give birth to two kids. Seeing the kids 10 minutes after birth was a great experience as we watched them tumble and fall, and almost stand up so quickly after birth. We also met all of their dogs, many rescues from the desert. Aside from the animal affection we received from the dogs, goats & kids (over 500), cows, cat and a pig named Lucy; we were also shown the cheese making process. Julian showed us the steps he goes through to make the cheese, letting us sample at each step. Julian also finally ended our cheese famine by sending us off with a few different cheeses just for coming for a tour.
Hitch five was also the hitch of BLM visitors. The girls of Grass Valley met with Marty our contact, and Danny the archaeologist. We reflagged part of the fence line we will be building. Someone moved a previous survey stake years ago, throwing off where the township lines should exist. Meaning our fence line has shifted. We flagged and Danny scouted, making sure we won’t be building the fence in an archaeological site. His scouting found a non-viable burrowing owl egg, which will soon be on display at Jawbone station. Part of our fence may be built in an inactive Navy gunnery range. Hiking that part we found old military targets and bullet slugs.
And finally during this hitch all of Grass Valley made it to Grass Valley!!!! Marty came out a second day with the acting wilderness director, Steve. She showed us all around Grass, the perimeter and the corridor. We saw sites we will be monitoring, restoring, and sites where we will be building our fence.
Keeping to the theme of us spreading out over many areas. We made it back to Rands this hitch. We got a nice treat when Carrie, one of the BLM biologists, came out with some tortoise information kiosks that needed installing. We happily installed the kiosks in Grass, Golden and Rands. We also saw the touristy mining town of Randsburg. Which is awesome. Mainly because of the flushing toilets and the hot lunch we had. We are very easy to please by day 10.
As hopefully the final update to Vin Diesel, he didn’t make it through our hitch. Zoe won the bet of when he would break down (it only took a few days). A couple days into hitch Cat and Lizzie went scouting in Grass, and that ominous light came on. Which meant if they turned Vin Diesel off, he will not turn back on. They kept him on all day and then drove back to Ridgecrest. With our crew leader a little exhausted, Gassy got turned off without Cat having a ride home or Vin Diesel in the right place for towing. Luckily our neighbors Jawbone were having a house hitch. They helped give Vin Diesel a push and Cat a ride home. Once again Vin Diesel is in Barstow. What’s wrong with that truck is too boring for the blog, but we’re hoping that trip three to the shop is our lucky number and next time he’ll be coming back for a full hitch.