Welcome to the Southside


“It’s the Joshua tree’s struggle that gives it its beauty” ~Jeannette Walls

As we came around the bend, gazing upon for the first time the southern face of the Rands Mountains we were greeted with a new sight: Joshua trees. Their tall anthropomorphic limbs topped by sharp radial leaves seemed to wave and welcome us to our new home on the southside. Several bumped heads and scratched shoulders later, we discovered they were prickly friends at best. If it is the Joshua tree’s struggle that gives it beauty, as Jeannette Walls describes, then it is our struggling together as a crew that gives us our camaraderie and beauty. Lugging a giant, dead Joshua tree upon all seven of our shoulders across many yards of desert in order to mask and incursion is no small feat. This was the first of many challenges and new adventures we faced on the south side. Several monstrous incursions awaited our restoration, plus numerous smaller routes in need of disguise and rehabilitation. But we pushed through and completed almost 3000 square meters of restoration this hitch. Wahoo! Way to go Randalls!

Aside from the newness of the terrain and challenging restoration work, camp life was also filled with surprises. Kangaroo rats and pack rats are not uncommon on the north side, though they are shy. On the south side, however, these creatures may be described with one word: fearless. These trespassers and thefts invaded our camp with unabashed abandon, infiltrating our tents, stealing watches, stealing cayenne pepper jars, and refusing to leave our kitchen tent though ushered out the door many times. Aye!

Nonetheless we spent many a peaceful afternoon enjoying warm sunshine, exciting novels, bluesy guitar music, and Frisbee-throwing. The tranquility of a full moon, including a few richly orange harvest moons, and cozy sleeping bags called a close to each day.

The Navajo believe that when a coyote crosses your path, unexpected things are headed your way in the near future. This could not have been more true for the Rands crew, as the day after a coyote crossed in front of our truck while driving to work, the winds came raging in. Those who’ve lived in the desert know the desert silence, and the desert winds that obliterate this silence. Cold and battered, when we thought we could handle no more, the winds subsided. As the weather improved, so did our spirits as we excitedly prepared for our sleepover with the Jawbone crew.

Once more, we set out on a new adventure to new territory: Jawbone-Butterbredt ACEC. We spent a wonderful evening joking around over dinner in the Jawboners’ tent, packed like sardines but content. And how great it was the following day as Steve and Ashley from the BLM gave us an informal lecture on Kawaiisu Native American culture, allowing us to explore a Kawaiisu archaeological site filled with pottery shards, bedrock grinding mills, and rock art.

Back at the Rands, we wrapped up the hitch with a new twist… “And the winner is, drum roll please…Yucca Taste My Orange;” congratulations Ju and Abby, our Rands Top Chefs! The last three nights of our time in the field everyone paired off into teams and competed for the title of Rands Top Chef (as well as for an assortment of silly prizes). Each evening a new secret ingredient, an edible plant from the desert, was revealed. Each team did their best to create tasty, unique dishes using the ingredient plus produce from our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) box. Ju and Abby’s dish of sautéed veggies over quinoa with an orange sauce and fried yucca swept away the competition. Alex and Louis’ Choice and Freedom Soup was not far behind. And Jamie and Jon’s Nopalitos Tacos, though taking the bronze, were quite tasty. The competition provided a fun means of incorporating edible desert plants and locally grown produce into our hitch diet. Yum!

If communal struggling builds camaraderie, then campfires allow us to relax and enjoy that communal bond. Winding down after the competition on day 9 we cozied up to a warm campfire, comfortable and content in each others’ company.

It was an exciting hitch with a beautiful end. Though we’ve bid the south side adieu for a few days, much more is left to be explored. Stay tuned for more adventures in the Rands!


Rands Crew 2011-2012