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[Image Description: Four MCC members wade across a river. In the background, there are hillsides covered in gold from the quaking aspens, and deep green pine trees.]

Sun Down at Sand Draw

A crew stands watching a crew leader demonstrate sawing.

Tuesday the 21st of June, 2022 we skirted out of the MCC lot and headed south to Wyoming. We were tired but excited to see a new camp and worksite after spending the last two hitches at the infamous Enos Creek. The long journey to Sand Draw was fueled by Red Bulls, corn dogs, and sweet jams. Out the window of the truck, we saw rolling hills littered with sagebrush, the blue shadow of the mountains in the distance, and every so often a pronghorn bouncing through the grass. As we got closer to the site, the road became enclosed by large cliffs of beautiful red rocks and the promise of a lovely campsite grew. Although, we still had a few obstacles to get through before we finally landed at the site.

One of those obstacles was a large and boisterous bull protecting his heifers lurking around the work site. He kept our heads on a swivel for the rest of the hitch. After a whopping 6 and a half hours, we finally landed at the sand draw campsite. It felt like home from the second we stepped out of the truck. There were large flat sandstones, where we had set up the kitchen and used as a meeting space every breakfast, morning stretch, and supper. Also, the whole campsite was surrounded by large, beautiful ponderosa trees which provided some essential shade while we maintained saws during the hot 90-degree days. The worksite was just as gorgeous as camp, if not more so! It was a 5-minute drive down the road from camp, which required again passing by the guard bull. Chaungo bravely got out to open the cattle gate every morning and again in the afternoon to get through. Once we were through the gate, it was a short but gorgeous hike up to the work site through a sandstone draw. It was easy to get distracted by the lines in the rock that were formed eons ago when Wyoming was the bottom of the ocean. At the top of the steep and rocky hill, we were met with a vast and gorgeous view of the Wyoming landscape. We took a minute to breathe it all in and then it was time to get to work.

The objective of this project was to remove juniper from the understory of the ponderosa forest, and we did just that. In pairs of two, we cut the dense juniper, sawing all the way down to the stumps. We were sure to get every last bit of green we saw since those pesky buggers are resilient. Then we piled up all the bits to be torched in a prescribed burn later on. We managed to stack 67 total piles 6 feet wide and 6 feet high, a pretty impressive amount if you ask me! Most of which was done in 90-degree heat and on steeply sloping terrain. Despite the challenges we all chugged along like a well-oiled machine, knowing in our hearts and minds that we were doing what needed to be done. By removing this thirsty juniper, we gave the ponderosa more access to water and room to grow larger and stronger as they deserve. The work was hard, but satisfying to see what we had accomplished at the end of each day.

It was not all work this hitch though, there was plenty of fun had as well! Some other memorable moments include many gorgeous Wyoming summer sunsets. The constant chirping and clicking of thousands of cicadas. A visit from Kate and her friend Alex who surprised us with popsicles. A rancher rode up to us on a beautiful steed and thanked us for our hard work, then rode off to check on his cattle. Our project partners stopped by to check up on our progress and praised us for our awesome piles. Halfway through we took a trip into town to get more water, where got the chance to stop at the Washakie Museum and learned a whole lot about the history of the land we were working on and its people. At one point, an unexpected storm rolled into camp causing all of us to sit in the truck together watching the lighting flash above. But we were too busy cracking jokes and sharing laughter to be fearful. We learned how to handle an emergency situation when one member, unfortunately, began experiencing symptoms of heat exhaustion, and everyone worked together to make the best out of a bad situation. Everyone was safe in the end. Finally our wonderful leads Ash and Mallard brought us to a beautiful forested area next to a babbling brook just beyond camp, where they surprised us with a tasty treat and we had a lovely debrief conversation reflecting on the hitch. Each hitch we get stronger as individuals and as a team. These are the moments we will all cherish forever and what MCC is all about, serving our community as well as becoming leaders in our own life paths.