Thursday, March 20, 2014

Who knew volunteering would pay back? part 1

Part 1: Settling in.

Crew setting up a solar shower
When you think about volunteering, you usually think you are "giving back" to some cause or another, but in reality, you are likely to also "get back." It's like a circle wherever massages the back of the person in front of them--it feels good to everyone.

Last week Ralph and I went to the Mojave National Preserve in southern California to work on a Wilderness Volunteers project--which turned out to be searching for and pulling an invasive plant--the Sahara Mustard. I had been somewhat apprehensive about signing up for a work project from the start--both because I had never done this sort of thing before and because I am not exactly used to doing manual labor for eight hours a day. 

I jokingly told my friends that it would be okay, however, because the worst thing that could happen to me would be that I got fired (and lose the money that I had paid for this privilege.)  

My apprehension increased as the day for departure to the desert neared and my back "went out" (painful spasms). Six days before we were due to make the drive I called my chiropractor (Dr. Richard Teel with offices in San Rafael and Novato). He came to the rescue--once again his "adjustments" worked. 

On Saturday March 8, we threw everything including our folding plastic basin (sink) into the car and took off. (Car camping has its advantages: you can throw in everything you own, and its disadvantages: you can't find anything you need in a hurry because it's buried in the mound of junk.) 

The drive could have been done in one long day, but we elected to break it into two so we stopped in Tehachapi overnight. I counted myself lucky that we were traveling when we were--a month earlier the trees along Hwy, 5 would have been bare and the hillsides would have been dry and brown. A recent rain had turned everything green and many of the fruit trees were blossoming. 

The old Kelso Depot in Mojave Ntl. Preserve 
Our crew met at the old Kelso Depot within the reserve and then we drove out to our camping area, which was off Kelbaker Road, near Baker, and near an extensive lava tube. Once there, we set up our tents and established the camp kitchen. We were in a lovely site--surrounded by mesquite and other scrub and with a reddish-colored cinder cone as a backdrop. 

As evening approached, we enjoyed the first of many tasty meals (mostly vegetarian), started learning each others names and getting acquainted, and signed up for kitchen duties for the week. I had yet to do any work and I was being rewarded with a delicious hot meal prepared by our leaders.

As soon as the sun dropped behind the cinder cone, the temperature dropped too and the breeze picked up. We ran for our layers of fleece and down so that we could continue sitting out while we shared tea, coffee, dessert and more stories. 

Daylight savings time had just begun and we were all loath to go to bed at what had been 7 P.M., but we knew that Monday, our first workday, would start early. I grumbled, to myself, about the fact that we would be expected to be ready for breakfast at 7 A.M, the old 6 A.M. My sleep was restless; I was still unsure if I could pull my weight and I hadn't worked enough during the day to be very tired. I lay in the tent enjoying the moon and the stars that I could see through the translucent fabric. 

Co-leader Patricia in the kitchen
I awoke to the sound of coyotes and then forced myself out of bed when the shuffling of pots and pans in the kitchen signaled that I had to rise and shine if I wanted to eat before our day began. 

In part 2, you'll experience the desert--including the flora and fauna that make this part of the world so "otherworldly" and intriguing. 

Note: Many people, it appears, still do not appreciate the uniqueness and beauty of much of our arid lands and continue to see them as wasteland unworthy of protecting, and a dumping ground for any project that they don't want to encounter on a daily basis. I was surprised to read today that the BLM is supporting the establishment of a 6.5 square-mile solar development within a half mile of the Mojave Preserve.

1 comment:

tomcoroneos said...

Thanks, Susan, and thanks to