Hitch #2: Tijuana Estuary

Second Hitch, Monday through Thursday, and a local commute so we aren’t camping. There’s a strictly enforced 6 AM departure time from the house (which sweet Liam learned the hard way). Then it’s a roughly 40 minute drive to Imperial Beach, the most southwestern city in the United States.

Particularly we are working in Border Field State Park, which is within the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve.  Border Field is exactly what it sounds like. A quick glance over the water and you can see large white homes along the cliffside of Tijuana, Mexico. A Naval Outlying Landing Field is also just next door so there were up to 4 helicopters in the air at any given moment. They weren’t too loud as the coastal winds definitely cut the sound, but thanks for the earplugs mom and dad 🙂

Views from the worksite. Helicopter en route. The mountain in the way back is Mexico!

The Border Field project has been going on since January with the aim to upgrade the major trails to current accessibility standards, particularly with the handicapped in mind. This generally meant building and restoring trail surfaces, bridges, and viewing platforms. For me and for the four days I was on this hitch, this meant BUILDING TURNPIKE BABY.

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But really. My form is just a lot better than Travis Scotts’…

*cue heavy metal*

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So this was essentially my life for four days. Swinging pick-mattocks, shoveling out trenches, and laying ~20ft beams on either side of the trail. We’d then jackhammer the beams into the ground using rebar for permanence. The work was starkly different than Irvine for several reasons;

  1. UPPER BODY. Irvine consisted of substantial hiking with the occasional use of shovels/rakes. At Border Field we stayed in the same work area everyday, using tools that required a lot of upper body strength. The pick-mattocks are pretty heavy and swinging them 360 degrees makes them a whole new kind of heavy. But, as you can see from the photos once you get the proper form down the picks’ momentum does the work for itself and the tool becomes very functional. Unfortunately for me I took a whole day and half to realize this so I was very sore after Day 1. But, when I figured out how to use proper body mechanics the work became easier and more enjoyable. Plus I think I look pretty cool so there’s that.
  2. TECHNICALITY. When the initial labor associated with digging the trench was over it became a matter of perfecting the level of the beam, batter of the surface, and width of the trail. More often than not we’d have to remove the beam, dig out the area it was catching, place it back in, test it, realize we’d overcompensated, dig it out again, repeat, etc, etc. Very technical and very tedious. Sometimes, an angle cut on the wood was required to achieve the same 5ft width from the beam on the other side of the trail. But of course, the closer to perfect the better as we wanted the trail to endure lots of foot traffic for a long period of time.
  3. PEOPLE. At Irvine we were covering polygons off trail and only encountered the public if we neared a trail where they were hiking/running/biking. At Border Field we were working on the trail itself and encountered many people that were visiting the estuary to birdwatch, bike with the dog, or stroll with friends. We had construction cones and caution tape up but to my amazement some people would just plough through our worksite?? I kid you not I am mid-swing and these two chatty Kathy’s power walk it right next to me, FROM BEHIND ME. Not cool. But more importantly, NOT safe. If you are having to tiptoe around saws and jackhammers on the ground maybe you shouldn’t be in that area?? Just a thought, actually no, just a fact. So please, if you come across a trail that is closed off just walk around it because it’s safer for you, it’s safer for us, and it’s safer for the environment (which is why we are all here right? RIGHT.)

Overall, once we got into the ‘swing’ 😉 of things the days went by quickly. I think my favorite part was the site itself. Part of the reason I applied to the Southern California location of ACE was to work around coastal environments so I enjoyed being by the water, marshes and dunes. The Tijuana Estuary is beautiful and provides habitat to several endangered bird species such as the Western Snowy Plover, the California Least Tern, and the Light-footed Ridgway’s Rail. It was good knowing the work we were doing will allow people to enjoy the delicate wildlife responsibly.

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The Baja Bush Snapdragon, a year round native to SoCal. Attracted many hummingbirds. 10/10

For those 4 days of hitch I now have 5 days off before an 8 day hitch. Lots of numbers.

I’ll see ya when I wake up



2 replies on “Hitch #2: Tijuana Estuary”

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