Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hitch #1: Surprise Canyon Monitoring and Chris Wicht Camp Cleanup

Sunday we returned from our first hitch. We were located in Panamint Valley with the lower half of Death Valley National Park to the north and east and China Lake Naval Weapons Center to the south and west. I actually got a picture of some kind of fighter jet flying by very low to the ground.

We camped in the valley and the weather was amazing. While sunny during the day, we spent most of our day time at higher elevation in Surprise Canyon where it was cooler. At night it was warm enough to sleep with my bag unzipped. Two out of four nights I awoke to sounds of a wild burro. One was grunting pretty loudly close to my tent. I looked at the tracks and it looked like the burro had laid down for awhile. Unfortunately I didn't feel like getting up to take a picture of it that night and none returned the following nights.

Our second day we hiked from the Chris Wicht camp nearly five miles up the canyon and back. We gained about 4000 feet in elevation. The hike was pretty strenuous because the trail isn't maintained. On our way up we often had to bushwhack our way through brush and often came to dead ends from which we had to backtrack. We even ended up high on the mountain a couple of times. It made for a very adventurous hike.

The coolest thing about the hike was that almost the whole time we were following a stream. There were at least two springs that fed it. It was refreshing to have flowing water in the middle of the desert. It was also nice to see familiar flora like cottonwoods, willows and cattails.

Here you can see the band of lush vegetation encompassing the stream.

I guess the coolest part really is that we were paid to go on a beautiful day hike. Our job was to identify and GPS map invasive tamarisk, flora and fauna, splits in the trail, cut vegetation and large debris (trash). It was a fun task because it forced me to be aware of my surroundings. I spotted tamarisk three times.

The remaining days were focused on cleaning up the Chris Wicht camp. The area was used for mining in the past. Then in the early 1900's, a dutch man named Chris Wicht made a pretty nice home in the canyon. He entertained many and had a pool for swimming which was a pretty big deal in the desert. The land was passed down through family. Last year an accidental fire burned up the camp and all the junk there.

This gives you an idea of what the camp looks like. There were eight or more busted up vehicles on the property.

Our job was to lead a group of volunteers in a one day cleanup. There was an interesting mix of OHV users who want the canyon open for OHV use and more environmentally minded people who want to keep it closed to vehicles. Everyone got along well and lots was accomplished. We filled two giant dumpsters with metal and had lots of metal and trash remaining.

Before and after pics of one of the many junk laden areas

Tomorrow we start preparations for our next hitch. I believe we'll be doing trail work southwest of our location for hitch 1.


Melissa Jo said...

i just spent forever looking through your blog! I really enjoyed it! you all are doing amazing things! Thank you!
I came to your blog to tag you. you have to go to my blog tosee what that is exactly. Of course i understand if you don't do it. It's not the type of post you usually do :) Miss you! can't wait to see you soon! WE ALL MISS YOU! love ya!

Sassmouth said...

Thanks for checking it out. I've looked at your blog a couple times. The pouty pictures of Alex are very cute. I read your 8 things list and was happy that I knew what a lot of your answers would be ahead of time. I won't be doing it on this blog but can send you mine in an email if you like. Looking forward to seeing you and the fam in December.