Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hitch #2

September 12th

Today it took all of my strength to get back into “neckbeard” (our van name) and go back out on hitch. I was debating even coming back, but thought that I should give it another shot. Plus, once I try something, its usually the most difficult time at the beginning, then it gets easier…

So we loaded up all our dried foods, packed our tents, grabbed our tools, and headed out. Overall, today, I am glad I came back. My crew members and crew leaders are just super, and I enjoy the idea of living in nature.

As soon as we got to Piedro Lisa Trailhead, my crew leader, Ross, said “home sweet home”, and at that moment I got really cranky. This part of the job of living outside is an emotional roller coaster, but overall, it is a very positive experience.

Tomorrow morning it is back to the grind at 5:45am. Jumping back into hiking, push-ups, and plants, and trail restoration. WOOT WOOT!

September 13th

Today we hiked up to where we left off, its really cool to hike past parts we have already restored. Today I can proudly say that I was not out of breath within the first 5 minutes. THANK GOD!

We made more check steps, water bars, rock walls, and drainages. I really enjoy re-vegetation where people make social trails and “spider off” the normal trail, its cool to patch those places off so that people stay on the normal trail and don’t contribute to erosion or damaging natural restoration areas.

While I was picking away at the granite today to widen parts of the trail, I realize that I have so much time to think! Its really a different mind-set to have 9 hours a day just to think.

YES, it sounds weird, I know, but there a really not many distractions on the trail while I am working (except for the flies circling around me). I think it is really great to be alone with all my thoughts, but also very intimidating. Whenever I get an idea in my head of what I aspire to do, or what I dream of, my “rationalism” always talks me down… of ‘oh I can’t do it”. My goal for this hitch is to believe in myself, and not let my doubts interfere with my potential. Every day that goes by, I feel as though I am learning so much just by listening to my thoughts.

September 14th

Last night I slept outside, with no tent. Just my sleeping bag on a tarp. This is the first time I have every “cowboy camped” and I was really scared. We all layed out our sleeping bags under the stars and told stories and jokes and went to bed way after our ‘bed time’ (aka when the sun sets).

I was 99% sure that I was going to wake up with a bear licking the chap stick off my face, but luckily, I woke up in 1 piece with no animals eating my flesh. To wake up and make breakfast with the stars still above me was pretty cool!

Just being in civilization for 2 days between hitches gave me a great appreciation for the things we have, but also it reminds me of how much I enjoy simplicity.

Today when we were on trail, we met some business men who were taking the day off. They told US that they were jealous of OUR view from the office. Pretty cool! Just another reminder to keep things in perspective!

September 15th

Last night we cowboy camped again, it was so wonderful! This morning I got a bloody nose on the way to work and we were already really far up the trail so I could not turn around and go get some tissues I had, so I had to rummage through the first aide kit, and the only thing I could use to stop the blood was a tampon up my nose!

Today we worked a 10 hour day and then hiked up to Ponderosa Point, it was a MARVELOUS view, but I am really sore and tired now. Looking forward to cowboy camping night #3…

September 16th

3 things made my day:

1) we cowboy camped again for the 3rd night in a row
2) this morning we did a toast (with our water bottles) at safety circle and physical training. Every time a person did a stretch or an activity, they toasted to something they were thankful for. Some people toasted top sunsets, hiking, night starts, a simple lifestyle etc. I toasted to a healthy and able body, because too many times I take for granted the ability to hike up a mountain with my own two feet.
3) this morning I was the 3rd person to get to work – meaning I was not the last person hike up and arrive at our trail destination! YAY!

Tonight I am on dinner and our food cash is really low, so I will be making powdered potatoes and mac and cheese… YAY CARBS!

September 17th

Today was a lot of hard work on the trail. My crew member, David, and I, had to make a water bar on the side of a switchback, and it took us 5 hours to place a 350lb. rock.

We made it down from the mountain in less than 1 hour, so that was sweet, I am really tired. Tonight we are having our 1st ever campfire, and we are making s’mores. Tonight is night #5 of cowboy camping!

Quote of the day: “The things you own will end up owning you”.

September 18th

Today was our 2nd rec day and we went to Santa Fe for our day and met up with 2 other crews! We walked around art galleries and ate delicious food, and went swimming at a recreational center. I also went jewelry shopping and got some sweet turquoise earrings!

Tomorrow I am on breakfast and we are heading up closer and closer to Ponderosa Point!

Quote of the day “A little less talk, a little more action!”

September 19th

Today David and I finished up our 3 day long project of placing a water bar at the side of the switchbacks. The view today from work was the best EVER! The higher we get, the more I love it!

We got back from work and Theron’s family brought us chili dogs after work, the were amazing and the greatest surprise ever! We then took a hike after dinner (crazy I KNOW, I never thought I would do more hiking after work hours), and watched the sunset, I got some great photos of las lunas (the moons) from the top! Hahahahaha

September 20th

Today the trail was pretty calm, we are still working on the last switchback before Ponderosa Point, and we are hiking approximately 5 – 6 miles a day.

Today we met Dave, the 83 year old man that I wrote about in my last blog, who has hiked the trail over 1,000 times and is a legend on the Sandia Mountains! He just got back from a 8 day hiking trip in the Sierra Mountains, can I say badass? What an inspirational man!

I am at the grossest and stinky-est and dirtiest phase I have ever been, and it is starting to really make me sick. I love nature and all, but I also do love running water and showers.

Quote of the day “I promise to never take my body for granted. It is the best gift I have”.

September 21st

Today was our last full day of our 2nd hitch! YAY! The thunderstorm last night made everyone get poor sleep, since we were all 100% sure we were going to be struck by lightning. Today it was humid because of the storm, I felt like I was in Flordia!

We “cashed” our tools at the top of the mountain, so that we don’t have to carry them up next hitch, which I am SO thankful for! Tonight we had our 2nd campfire, and we made banana boats: which consist of a banana split in half, with marshmellows and chocolate pieces on the inside. Next time I am going to step it up and put graham cracker pieces on the inside too!

September 22nd

BACK TO THE FARM! We packed up all our things and headed back to Durango, Colorado. We had to do an AmeriCorps service project that consisted of shoveling cow shit into a huge pile (and I mean HUGE) for compost reasons to make the farm a sustainable agriculture location.

I never thought I would be shoveling shit with a Bachelor of Science in Psychobiology. It was a humbling day.

September 23rd

Weekend synopsis: I had no place to stay or shower when I arrived, so Blake and I went to the local soup kitchen to shower and eat. We then met Tyler, a fantastic guy who let us Couchsurf at his place. Today I went to “Mutts on the Mountain” and we took all the dogs for a nice long hike along the Lightner Creek Trail to get the dogs out of their cages. I WANT ALL OF THEM!!!!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Southwest Conservation Corps

August 29th

Today was somewhat indescribable. I showed up at 8:30 am to see 60 young individuals who are all here to make a difference. They are all granola eating, bike riding, dread-wearing, nature loving hippies. I was looking around an saw that I had better hygiene than 90% of the people. Moral of the story: I am not in Orange County anymore. We got crew orientation and AmeriCorps briefing, and did a lot of paperwork. We then loaded up all our dried foods, got assigned our gloves, hard hats, safety goggles, and shirts and packed into a van. We then went to a grocery store to buy fresh produce for the 12 day hitch.

We are all now staying at a farm tonight to get up at 5:45am to drive to the Sandia trail that leads to New Mexico. My crew mate, Blake, and I made hamburgers and pasta with BBQ sauce for dinner, and we did a dish was that made me want to vomit. There are 4 disgusting bins that we put our dishes into, and then rinsed them with water. Its disturbing. We did a few ice breakers, like saying our favorite vegetable with our tounges out, and the last person to laugh wins the game. I was dying laughing.

I am nervous tomorrow because:
a) I am not a morning person
b) It hailed today, and it was freezing!
c) I forgot I signed paperwork that said something to the effect that I can walk 15 miles with a 50 pound backpack on
Day 1 was a success

Quote of the day: “How many people does it take to flip burgers?”

August 30th

This morning we woke up at 5:45am to pack up tents and get going on the road. On the way we got all our tools to work on the trails, and I can honestly say I have never seen half of them. We met with a forest service ranger and did a 5 hour hike with him to discuss what needs to be done to the trails.My body is already sore from carrying the tools and hiking, we are at a base elevation of 7,000 feet, and I was sucking wind after 10 minutes of hiking. My crew is super funny and entertaining, and I am really happy to be working with them.

The mountain here is beautiful. When I am tired and sweaty, all I have to do is look up and be reminded of why I am here.Today we are told by the forest service that there is an 83 year old man who hikes the trail every week, and has done it over 1,000 times. His name is Dave, and I am really excited to meet him. What a cool person!

The camping aspect of this is really cool, but also intimidating. I am already sweaty and have multiple coats of bug spray + sunscreen + dirt on me. Yum. Overall, the serenity here is awesome. I would write more, but have to wake up at 5:30am to make breakfast for the crew. We have a strict chore list.

August 31st

Today was our first real 9 hour day of work and I almost died. I had to cook breakfast with David and we made eggs. We had to do dishes and be in Safety Circle/Physical Training at 6:30am. We start with push-ups, sit-ups, jumping jacks etc to get our heart rate up before starting the climb. I wanted to die. After safety circle, we collected all our tools and headed up. Our crew is only 7 people, since a couple of people already dropped. We carried up 22 tools and they were shovels, pick mattocks, sledge hammers, rock bars etc.

I had to carry 2 picks and 1 hoe (ahahhahaha) along with my gallon of water, hardhat, and lunch. No joke, when I got to the spot where we were supposed to work, I wanted to vomit. We began work and made water bars, drainages, and rock walls. After 4 hours of swinging a pick, I could NOT move my back. The trail we are working on is beautiful, so that keeps me going.

To be honest, I hate nature today. And I hate camping today.

September 1st

Today was the 2nd day of work, and I got up at 5:45 and could hardly roll out of my tent. I feel as though I have endured a lot of pain by training for a marathon, but have never felt this type of pain before. It is a whole new feeling. It was like I had metal rods in my back. Yesterday we “Cashed” the tools so luckly we did not have to carry them up today. However, my crew are part billy-goat, and RUN up the mountain. Not cool.

After using the double-jack for the first time and also using a saw, I was able to mix up my muscle usage, and began to get feeling in my back again. I drank 5 liters of water today and didn’t pee once. Sweaty much? The flies are already following me.

I am scared and nervous because I don’t like to quit things, but I am tempted to hitch-hike back to AZ right now. This is my first really physically demanding manual labor job, and I am not liking it. Today I also got really offended, because a few hikers thought we are part of a chain gang. I was legit PISSED.

Quote of the day “Its not the destination, it’s the journey”

September 2nd-
After just 27 hours of intense manual labor and hiking, I have bloody ankles. I am covered in a stinky paste. When we had to do our safety circle and physical training today, I almost barfed during push ups. They do this thing called “super happy fun times”. Its pushups, plank, push ups, side plank, push ups, other side plank, pushups, plank. All for 30 seconds each.

Positive note: my stubbornness is paying off. I am not quitting this shit. I like the people, and the view, and that is enough to keep me going. I was looking for a new perspective, and I am getting it. When I was complaining about pooping in the forest, Blake positively said “its beautiful, you get a new view every time!!! Bathrooms are so boring”. I love it.

I get to see the sun rise every morning, and the sun set every evening. I really shouldn’t complain.

September 3rd-

We are working on retaining walls today, and its to help erosion from happening on the trails. We widen the trails, called “benching”. We also work on dry masonry, which is pretty sweet. You build a wall with rocks and dirt. No cement. No nails. No wood. We have to ensure that every rock on the rock wall has 3 points of contact, and its kind of like a puzzle piece. Its cool to see hikers pass us by and tell us that they appreciate the work we are doing to restore the trails, and its nice to see people out and enjoying nature.

I am happy to be here because I am finally matching my actions with my words. I preach and preach about conversation efforts and being involved with nature, so I am doing it. That, in and of itself, makes me happy.

September 4th

Today was our first recreational day and we went to the aquarium and botanical gardens, compliments of SCC. It was pretty sweet to hang out with my crew members and have a nice day off.

September 5th-

Today we talked about goals after work:

Personal goal: to finish

Professional goal: to carry my weight of the group, and be supportive

Educational goal (AmeriCorps): get a job for early November, or make sure I have a place to travel to.

Today at work we make a check step and did more trail widening. Kaylee and Blake made some delicious Thai pasta and Theron busted out his ukulele and Blake started playing a harmonica. It was great!

I wish (CRAZY) that I had my phone to call people, I love being part of the wilderness, but also miss keeping in touch with people. I want to start looking into graduate schools when I return, as well as picking a new place to visit.

Also today I realized that my biggest weakness is being vounerable. I hate asking for help, I am stubborn, and I have a hard time trusting people…..

My goal for the next 2 months is to work on that. Being out here in nature, meeting nice people on the trail, working with people who are dedicated to the greater good, thinking of friends back home who are loyal and kind, and missing my supportive and loving family, these are all GREAT reminders that I should have MUCH MORE in people, including myself.

Quote of the day “ This large boulder in our trail can be used as a metaphor in life, when a large rock gets in your life path – jackhammer the shit out of it”

September 6th-

Today was labor day, and we were definitely laboring over the trails. WE are building our second retaining wall to prevent erosion down the mountain side. I really like my crew and their free spirited nature, I have so much to learn from them

Quote of the day “ Life begins where your comfort zone ends”

September 7th-
Today is our last full day of work! Horray! This is just giving me a little life lesson to slow down. As I realize we are going back into town, my mind starts racing of all the things I have”to do” when I get back, then I realize I am NUTS and just need to relax.

September 8th-

Today we packed up camp and headed back to the farm to clean our tools and tents, there was a huge thunderstorm, (I mean crazy storm), and we re-joined with the other 13 crews and shared stories.

I am really excited to get back and shower, as well as catch up with family and friends!