Hitch #7: Last of the Desert Days

So stoked because we got to camp for my last hitch in the Mojave, YAY for desert skies! By this point, most of the incursions had been successfully covered so this hitch was primarily cross-checking previous work (read: chillin).

Day 1: Like most, we stopped by the Ridgecrest house to tool up and in this case fix the trailer hitch before heading out to site. We were at the usual campground and it honestly felt like home. I nostalgically chose to set up my tent in the area I did my first Ridgecrest hitch (clearly already emotional). We had plans to finish up one of the LAST incursions the following day and then meet up with Jordan, the BLM intern and project partner, to discuss hitch goals.

Day 2: After a quick morning wrapping up the LAST of the incursions (!!!) we headed out to Cuddeback Lake to meet up with Jordan, the man with the plan. He gave us a loose schedule for the rest of hitch that played out as follows;

  • Day 2/3/4 – Drive to EVERY SINGLE incursion in the binder, hop out to check for resilience of restoration work over time, touch up if needed, make notes if touched up, and finally ensure all the GIS data in both the iPad and binder are fluid and formatted properly.
  • Day 5 – Help facilitate Moose Anderson Day, a local volunteer event where community members participate in clean ups and restoration work in the area
  • Day 6/7 – Finish up whatever wasn’t finished during Moose Anderson day lol
  • Day 8 – Say your desert goodbyes, travel day, de-rig

After our powwow and lunch, we set out to tackle binder work. This hitch was different crew-wise in that my previous crew leader (CL) Lindsay had been pulled to begin work on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and so our assistant crew leader Caitlin had been promoted to CL for this hitch. Further, it was a weird transition time for ACE since a lot of members were either finishing up their term or being pulled for new seasonal projects such as the PCT. For these reasons I was the only crew member and Caitlin the only crew leader who had spent almost all of our recent time in Ridgecrest and were most familiar with the current state of the project. THAT BEING SAID IT WAS MY TIME TO SHINE BABY. She promptly assigned me to passenger seat GIS/binder duty and so this was my view for the following two days as we double and triple checked the binder.

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It was also pretty sweet that Caitlin was CL because I high key love her and we had gotten close on recent off days. Matt, Brianna, and Paige who made up the rest of our cute and fun crew were also all people I had really come to love so this hitch was looking IDEAL (spoiler: it was). We all had a blast cruising around the Mojave, jamming unapologetically, and patting ourselves on the back for how well the restoration work was holding up.

Day 3/4: A continuation of binder checks and jam sessions. We did meet up with Jordan in the afternoon on Friday before Moose Anderson Day to prep. He explained we would be constructing a hard barrier, essentially making a campground that then blocks access to areas that had been run over by OHVs. Caitlin would lead restoration work in the damaged spots while Matt, Brianna and I would assist Paige (chainsaw certified) in cutting the beams for the barrier.

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A pleased first time power drill-er 🙂

Day 5: Moose Anderson Day! We had to wake up fairly early as there was a bit of a drive to the location in El Paso (no not El Paso, TX). BUT they had coffee, breakfast, t-shirts, and raffle tickets waiting for us. We mingled for a bit as volunteers arrived and WOW was I impressed with how many people showed up! Jordan had prefaced that some years were better than others and last year they had a really small group. However, there were PLENTY of men, women, and kiddos up at 7AM with us ready to work.  The volunteer coordinator explained the different jobs to be done and we grouped off accordingly. We had what I would call an inefficient start to the day simply for communication reasons. WE (ACE) knew what needed to be done and how to do it. However the 50ish eager volunteers did not, so you could imagine the hiccups as we scrambled to get everyone on the same page BEFORE they started digging massive holes in the ground. Once we got into the groove we made some great headway and I enjoyed sitting back a little to let all these eager hands do some work 🙂 My favorite photo of the day has to be this one of Paige, our designated chainsaw babe, having at it while being spotted by a couple (much larger)n guys. Girl power, literally.

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We called it around noon for lunch, raffle drawings, and more mingling. It might not have been a very productive morning but it was definitely rewarding. The public outreach element of ACE was something that really drew me to the program and this was a grade A example of what can be done when a community comes together to work on a common projecy. Everyone was just so happy to be there, to be working alongside of us, and to be restoring the beautiful desert ecosystem they called home.

Jordan gave us the rest of the day to ourselves so we chose to poke around Randsburg, a “Living Ghost Town” in that is was an abandoned mining town but still lives through the biker communities that come through on the weekends/holidays. Here are my favorite shots from that afternoon.



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Day 6/7: For our final days of hitch we returned to the Moose Anderson Project site to finish up the job. We made AMAZING time and knocked out the rest of the barrier effectively and efficiently.

We may or may not have been gently urged by those looming clouds 

By the time we had finished cleaning up the site and loading the trucks it had begun to drizzle. Being the last Ridgecrest hitch for all of us but Caitlin, Jordan wanted to snap one last picture on Cuddeback lake before we said our desert goodbyes. His idea: re-creating the CLASSIC “Holes” movie cover photo. Behold.

This is what happens when a pro map-maker asks you for a recreation shot

 

and now,

my FAVORITE part of this hitch,

of ACE,

of EVER….

But first, let me set the scene.

After Jordan is pleased with one of the photos we got, we said our goodbyes and got back in the truck to head to camp for one last night in the Mojave. By now, it had been steadily drizzling and the shallow desert sand was fairly saturated. As we picked up speed on the one way road out, Caitlin asked me to keep an eye out for desert tortoises in the road ahead because they leave there burrows when it rains. YEAH. Keep an eye out for the highly endangered animal I have never seen in real life before (nor had anyone else in the truck) Keep an eye out for the literal REASON I have spent MONTHS restoring habitat in the middle of the desert. Just KEEP AN EYE OUT. And THEN, only mere moments after I had mentally processed her request of me, THERE IS A SMALL round object in the road.
“OMG”
“OMG THATS A TORTOISE”
“WAIT!”
“YES IT IS OMG OMG OMG STOP THE CAR”
*Tires peel to the left*
*We all bail out*
*I start crying*
It had curled into its shell so we all made ourselves comfortable and waited. Eventually it popped out and even walked towards us for a little (!!!) before making it safely back into the creosotes. WOW.
nervous
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not so nervous
A very emotional ending to my time in the Mojave but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I feel so fortunate to have seen this little fella, it felt like he was almost thanking us for all our hard work before we said goodbye. After wiping our tears away we headed back to camp for our final night. We all agreed to head out extra early at 6 AM so we could quickly derig at the Ridgecrest house and beat traffic back to Dulzura. This was easily my favorite hitch of my time with ACE, extra special shoutout to Brianna, Caitlin, Matt, and Paige for being the bees knees.
Jules

3 comments

  1. Julia, I can’t wait to begin reading of your adventures in the Philippines. Also, when I have problems with AT&T, I always end up talking to a guy or girl in the Philippines. If you find where they are hanging out, tell them their English is pretty good.
    Clarke Bird

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Today’s newspaper says Phillippine President Duterte has made it a crime to drink beer in public. I know how you Peace Core people like beer so take heed.

        Like

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