Fort Bragg and the North Coast

Michael Green stands by the rugged Russian Gulch State Park coast at dusk near Mendocino, CA.

NCCC Corps Members were given a splendid work location this third round of service. Team Blue Four will be spending the next eight weeks in Fort Bragg working with the California State Parks District Office in Russian Gulch and with the Noyo Food Forest

Trail Maintenance in the Valley of Fire

Nevada Conservation Corps Crew No. 3 finishes their trail work for the day at the Valley of Fire State Park in southern Nevada.

Jamie Sauer at the Petrified Logs area of Valley of Fire.

Me at White Domes, Valley of Fire.

Ben Nicklay pauses from creating a trail feature at White Domes, Valley of Fire.

Joel Ogulnick at White Domes, Valley of Fire.

(Click and drag to rotate.) The Elephant Rock area of the Valley of Fire.

(Click and drag to rotate 360 degrees.) Our campground at the Valley of Fire.

Southern Nevada

NCC crewmembers place rocks in front of unauthorized trails in the Sunrise Mountain area outside of Las Vegas to prevent off-roading.

I wasn't planning on setting up my tent on this hitch. I was just going to sleep in my sleeping bag on a tarp. This tarantula, which was just a few feet away from my spot, changed my mind. Gold Butte, NV.

Keyhole Canyon, NV.

Ray, Macki and Marisa install vertical mulch to decommission an unauthorized road. A lot of our work so far has been dealing with unauthorized roads that run through environmentally sensitive or historically significant areas. One method of decommissioning roads is to install vertical mulch. We cut branches off of native creosote bushes, dig holes in the road, and then "plant" the branches in the holes. Although dead, the green creosote leaves last up to a year and helps make roads less visible to those who are searching for them.

Hugo prior to removing this unauthorized road in the Sunrise Mountain area, just northeast of Las Vegas.

Macki and Jamie install vertical mulch. Sunrise Mountain area outside of Las Vegas.

All NCC crews worked on an eight-day hitch in Corona, California the week prior to Thanksgiving. All crews set up their tents in this area.

Keyhole Canyon, NV at dusk.

Hugo, overlooking Lake Maed in the Gold Butte area of Nevada.

Crewmembers of the NCC carry salvaged irrigation tubing to be used for future projects. This land outside of Corona, California was previously used as a citrus orchard and materials like this tubing were left on the land when the land managers left.

A waterway exiting Las Vegas, which is seen in the background.

(Click and drag to rotate 360 degrees.) At Ash Meadows, NV, NCC crewmembers installed native riparian plants alongside a man-made channel.

Moving in Las Vegas

On Friday the 13th of August I left Syracuse, NY to Las Vegas, NV to begin my year-long term as a Nevada Conservation Corps crewmember. It is unbelievably hot here.

Because we weren't able to sign the lease to our apartment and move in until the 14th, I stayed my first night in the Gold Spike Hotel and Casino. Immediately at the entrance of every building I walk into, including my hotel, are slot machines and seizure-inducing flashing lights.

This was my hotel room (click and drag to rotate 360 degrees):
Surely the bright light coming through that window is daylight.

Oh wait it's actually a spotlight aiming right at my window in the middle of the night.

After moving out of this hotel the day after, I took an expensive Taxi ride to our Oasis Meadows Apartments.

View from our doorstep (we do also have a patio on the other side of the apartment). Incidentally this is also our house number where all gifts and care packages can be sent (3150 S. Nellis Blvd. #2131 Las Vegas, NV 89121).

Some Oasis Meadows apartments.

The size of this living area really surprised us all. It's bizarre that a living community this large has virtually no information available online. In any case, it's a very surprisingly nice place, and our three bedroom apartment is equally delightful, albeit unfurnished.

We did manage to pick up our first items of furniture from a couple of the garbage dumpsters located in the community, including a 1.5x1.5 ft. end table and a huge (in size and weight) 36" CRT television that we all thoroughly struggled bringing from the dumpster to our 2nd floor apartment (no elevators!). Our furniture count is now two, unless you don't count TVs as furniture.

One quickly apparent plus about Las Vegas is how cheap food and alcohol are.

While the apartment is nice and we'd all like more time to get settled in, we begin our NCC orientation tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. and won't be returning to Vegas until later this Friday.

At this point, things aren't too clear on where we'll be going exactly during our orientation week, but we did get an orientation schedule that more or less outlined our activities. It seems that a lot of this week will be spent in "classroom" settings, where we'll be learning about controlling erosion, trail design, layout (brushing corridor, constructing tread, drainage features) and theory, tool maintenance, Leave No Trace, and hopefully how to survive in the scorching heat. It's hot enough wearing shorts, but we have to wear relatively heavy Carharrt pants during our shifts everyday.

Notably, we'll be camping out the entire time starting Monday night at a location called Spring Mountains, which I believe are west and a bit south of Vegas.

Ben, Rosie and Sarah immediately after carrying this remarkably heavy TV to our apartment from by a dumpster. We were so happy to see static, ensuring it was in fact a functioning TV.

Ben, Rosie and Sarah after recovering from carrying the TV to the apartment.

Ugh, our forecast:

It better thunder on Wednesday. Only 30 percent chance? Come on thunderstorm, you can do it!

Uh, je ne comprends pas?

Our weekend trip to France went a bit awry. Instead of Grenoble, we accidentally arrived in Rodez, which was not at all close to where we wanted to be. But that was okay. We hitchhiked to Séverac le Chateau, which was kind of in the middle of nowhere, and by the time we got there, and due to the lack of outward bound traffic (and therefore no more hitchhiking) we ended up having to stay the night there. We initially couldn't find a place to stay. But while searching, Andrew and Juliette walked into a hotel at about 11pm and found a key to a room just sitting on a desk by the door. It was pretty sketchy, but we were desperate and considered just taking the key and the corresponding room for the night for free. There was no reception to talk to of course at this hour, and the lobby and halls were completely dark.

Instead, we walked along a back road and found a hotel and bought a room for the night. Not nearly as cool as sneaking into a hotel room at night, but it was more legal.

The next morning when we left, a random donkey came up from a hill beneath to greet us.
We all harass the poor donkey with our cameras.
Our hotel, the donkey on the left, and Séverac le Chateau, which this town is named after, back in the distance.Nice was nice.

With a few hours to kill before taking us to Montpellier where we could catch the main railway, we went uphill and eventually to the castle. There was a splendid view.
Lost, France.

Atop Séverac le Chateau. Click and drag to rotate 360 degrees.

Another location from atop Séverac le Chateau. Click and drag to rotate 360 degrees.

St. Martin Vésubie in the French Alps. Click and drag to rotate 360 degrees.