Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Wildcorps Training

October 9th my crew started training. It took place in the wilderness of the Mojave National Preserve. Our camp was very remote. The closest hospital was a two hour drive away. The picture below gives you an idea of the remoteness.

Camp from afar looking southwest


The facilities consisted of a covered picnic area, a water well and two pit toilets. Because water is scarce in the desert, there was no water for bathing. I washed my face once but that was it for 10 days.

Looking east


Being so far from civilization had its advantages too. I've never seen so many stars at night as I did there. An advantage of little rainfall is being able to sleep out under the stars nine nights in a row without much worry. To be safe we had tents to store our gear and hide in if rain did fall.

No rain didn't mean no clouds though and camping in a valley meant sunrise came late and sunset came early. Consequently we never missed one.

Sunrise looking southeast


Sunset looking west.


Our training consisted of community building, Leave No Trace ethics, tool safety/sharpening, desert restoration and a four day Wilderness Advanced First Aid (WAFA) course. Desert restoration in a broad sense is camouflaging illegal roads created by OHVers (Off Highway Vehicles) so that nature has a chance to be restored over time.

There are many techniques used and it is as much an art form as it is manual labor. One of the major limitations is not being able to plant live vegetation. The chance of survival of a transplanted piece of vegetation in the desert ecosystem is slim.

Some areas are easier to disguise than others. The pictures below show what one of our groups did during training. Obviously it still looks like a road, but hopefully it looks less obvious and appealing. Rocks and vegetation provide shade that promote growth of new plants.

Restoration Before Pic


Restoration After Pic


I should mention that my crew of five differs from the other four crews that were at training. They will specialize in desert restoration for the duration of the eight months. My crew will be performing desert restoration on one or maybe two hitches. The rest of the time we will be doing a grab bag of projects which you can read about in the future.

The WAFA course was pretty cool. The course was a mix between lecture and scenarios. The scenarios were exciting because they used Halloween make up to make it more realist. My favorite was dealing with a patient with a spurting artery in the lower arm. The person had a pump and sprayed out fake blood until we applied pressure and wrapped it.

We also had a night scenario where a camp stove blew up. One person had inhalation burns and died despite our best efforts. The other person didn't speak English and had boiling water burn the top layer of skin off her hands. It was pretty realist.

Meeting the rest of the interns and leaders was cool. Everyone got along great. Besides training we often played hacky sack, speedball (sorta like ultimate frisbee) and frisbee. At nights there was usually music playing going on. Unfortunately we didn't have a fire to huddle around. The mornings and nights were cold and windy; the days warm, but never hot.

After training, we had four days off. Everyone got along so well that close to all the interns came to Yucca Valley and partied at the other crew house in town. My crew mate and I made the long walk home that night and on the way took some pictures of which I made a collage. Oh yeah, I almost forgot. I shaved my beard into a handle bar mustache for fun and to go along with my redneck look. I've since shaved it off.

Horsin' around after our crew party (Text in bottom right picture says, "Warning! Do not lean, sit, crawl, or stand on, or deface horse.)


The two days following the party was the Joshua Tree Roots Music Festival which most attended. Many of us got in free for volunteering which was nice since the cost was $40 for one day. My shift was from 10:30am - 1:30am Saturday night, but a wicked sandstorm blew around 8pm so I didn't man my post. It worked out great because the show went on anyway. Despite not being "all about" that kind of music I really enjoyed the free concert. I also received a free t-shirt for volunteering.

Tomorrow we head north for our first real project. I'll tell more about it when I get back.

3 comments:

ap said...

get to fight any fires or kill any injuns yet?

The Suburban Bushwacker said...

what a great job!

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