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!


  1. Hey there champ! I am so proud of you :) This reminded me of how I felt going down the river and hiking the jungle. Right when I was ready to catch a helicopter straight out of the jungle and up into a 5 star resort I then only thought to myself- ...get a grip on life little lady! And I am so glad I stayed. You will always look back on this experience. I now look back and only laugh at those experiences and think of them as positive. I am so happy you completed this because I know you and I know this was a challenge! Lord never thought he would catch us pooping in the outdoors and not showering for days on end now did he? You did such an amazing thing not only for people, but more importantly yourself! I am sad we keep missing each other over the phone and hope now that we can chat. Every day out here is a challenge at work. My client keeps beating me up, and Friday he slapped me in the face in front of 60 people. I know that we are such good friends because we are so similar in our stubbornness. When I read your blog and your part that said " I am not quitting this shit" it became my quote for the week :) Your blog made me smile today. Thanks for that. Miss you love you and Oahu should be your next place to visit !

  2. Sisser So:
    You made me laugh...Your photo looks good, no dreads, smiling, and your face is clean...let's talk tomorrow...end of the tunnel is Nov will all be behind you...lots to share with friends...

  3. OMG I'm so glad you're alive you have no idea! You are a Badass MC


    your wolf

  4. LOU!

    You are amazing! I'm so proud of you for sticking with this ADVENTURE! Your photos look fantastic and that mountain is beautiful. Thank you for caring for our environment! I love the pooping in the woods perspective, very a natural :) Good luck on your next week out and have such a great time! Much much love, Ash

  5. Chrissy!

    I am still missing you so much (we all are) that I am jealous of your crew because they get to move large boulders in low oxygen environments with you! Thank you so much for putting this blog together, it's inspiring.

    Of course I have been making more plans for your future while you are up there, so I can't wait to talk to you once you come back to civilization.

    Wish on some shooting stars for me, they are so amazing in the mountains.

    Lots and lots of love,

    Glory (& Filip and the crew)

  6. Dear Chrissy
    you are gold like the sun
    sweet like a pea
    kind like my mum
    and excellent like me!
    you do sports like my sis
    you are tuff like my dad
    you are funny like my brother
    and you are just totally rad
    I miss you, it makes me sad!