Septoberfest, aka Corps Member Training


The elegant cliffs of The Great Falls Basin towered over us as all week as we took part in our 17 day training known as Septoberfest. We set up camp by erecting giant canvas tents and forming a circle of large storage trailers. The landscape surrounding our encampment was otherworldly – filled with abstractly cut stone and mountains that looked like heaps of gravel. With the dramatic jutting cliffs surrounding our mural-coated trailers, the encampment at Septoberfest looked something like a hippy tailgaiting party set on the opening scene of The Lion King. We awoke every morning to the gradual illumination of the eastern skyline as the sun peered up over gravely-mountains. We were all roused from our early morning grog as the heat rolled in around morning circle-up. Through sweat-glazed eyes we spent the first days admiring the desert in all its arid glory. We saw jack-rabbits hop fearfully from bush to bush, all manner of lizards crawling on vertical rocks, small side-winders in the day, large ones at night, and flocks of thrumming quail flying in formation. Every night we saw a luminescent scattershot of stars, some still and some blazing briefly across the periphery of the sky. Near the end of our training we saw rain clouds lumber in and felt much-need water fall timidly down. We smelled the rain – wet sand mixed with the scent of cheese bush, it was as if the desert was lifting its arms to embrace the rain and thereby exposing its earthly armpits. But I guess we did other things besides just look at cliffs and smell stuff. Initially, we spent a lot of time talking about how to create an intentional, functioning community. We had group discussions in a shaded cove about everything from sexual harassment to how to poop in the desert. We played lots of games, all of which were essentially designed to make us look as foolish as possible. We mingled with other crews, ate delicious meals, went on day hikes, learned about leave no trace principles and how to confront someone about eating your precious Chinese food. We also did some restoration work in the area that we stayed in. We covered-up two areas that were torn up by OHVs. We learned about all the tools and put those skills into use by swinging them into the sand. Personally I enjoyed the clearheadedness that came with wandering the flatland in search of dead branches. I was surprised to find there’s a bit of an art to creating fake desert bushes from scratch. Ultimately it was encouraging that after 2 days of working we were able to make a seemingly noticeable change on the landscape. Our final 9 days were spent doing a Wilderness First Responder course taught by two savvy ski-patrolmen. We spent a lot of time in the cove and learned the ideal chair-placement to avoid being burned by the sun during a long lecture. We spent a lot of time doing scenarios on how to aid people who’ve experienced medical issues or physical trauma. Basically we blindly groped at each other in search of hidden wounds and squirted fake blood at each other’s faces. Honestly though we learned a lot, and I feel confident that any DRC member could help me out if I got injured. All in all it was a wonderful time that felt far too enjoyable to actually be considered work. I think the connections we made with other crews will make our social lives off-hitch much more interesting and the work-related skills we gained will make our time on-hitch more intentional. Now I suppose its time to actually do some of that work. Tryin’ to get to youuuu and that desert. -Golden Valley Crew