Marked by the Mojave

SCA Desert Restoration Corps member Jonathan "Jay" Fennell checks out the view during an off day hike with his crew.

A Life-Changing Summer Living & Working in a Desert Wilderness

ABOVE: Jay Fennell checks out the view on an off-day hike during his summer living and working in the Mojave with SCA’s Desert Restoration Corps.

by Desert Restoration Corps Member Jay Fennell

I spent the summer of 2015 living and working in the heart of the Mojave, tackling critical conservation projects with the Student Conservation Association’s Desert Restoration Corps (DRC). I’d never really been to a desert before, let alone lived in one. In doing so I developed an intimate understanding of this harsh, vibrant ecosystem that can only come from  living within it, existing according to its vicissitudes.

To those who haven’t experienced it, it’s hard to communicate how truly epic a summer with the DRC can be. Suffice it to say, my mettle has been tested. I now know I’m capable of working harder and longer than I ever thought possible, and in tougher conditions than I even knew existed. I was already an outdoor person, but now I’m more in awe of nature than ever before, and hungrier to spend time in those vast swaths of the Earth where human influence is barely detectable.

Hopefully these photos and captions will give you some idea of what I mean…

 The air may be dry, but the Mojave’s cultural history is anything but as petroglyphs and other remnants of the past can be found throughout the region.

 Desert Restoration Corps members and staff contribute to huge projects across the Mojave Desert.

 The bonds formed throughout the program, with fellow crew members and the land itself, have the potential to last a lifetime. [Ed.’s note: That’s Jay on the left.]

 There’s never a dull moment as the DRC’s location grants access to the West’s most scenic and untrammeled lands. With five days off work between hitches, there are few places you can’t go.

 Some days we helped protect the desert by simply exploring it! Summit logs kept in weatherproof boxes on popular peaks provide land management agencies with valuable data on visitor activity throughout the years. So take the day to hike up a volcano and leave your name in the register!

  DRC members venture off to prepare for the final day of training at Great Falls Basin.

 Fence building gives corps members a change of pace from restoration and the chance to practice a more technical skill set to help protect particularly vulnerable areas in the wilderness.

 Twilight washes over the Jawbone Open Area, both a popular recreation area and training site for 4x4 truck driving.

 What better place to rest than next to boulders and shrubs? Restoration is hard work and the desert is unforgiving so breaks throughout the day to rest and recover are highly encouraged.

 To escape the infernal summer heat of the Mojave, corps members have the chance to join projects at other public lands, such as the esteemed Rocky Mountain National Park.

 Heat isn’t the only danger in these arid lands. Watch your step and be respectful!

 The Rockies provide multiple avenues for both team building and personal growth as corps members summit Rocky Mountain National Park’s Mt. Ida on a beautiful (and windy) summer afternoon.

The wilderness is a place to find solitude, explore nature, and, of course, get silly when the mood strikes you.

BELOW: Going beyond your comfort zone is seldom an easy task; however with the support of your crew and an environment that encourages self-discovery, you will be well equipped to meet and exceed any challenge that will arise.