by Antonia Daly
As an East Coast member of Great Old Broads, I have high expectations of a trip west. I want big sky, magnificent rock formations, environments that remind me of life before modernity, and the smell of sage. The Mojave Desert has been on my list for decades. When I finally got to visit, my expectations were realized, and more, in the best possible company.
Thirty women, equipped with camping gear, passionate connections to nature, and wildly open spirits gathered at Tecopa Hot Springs Campground and Resort. With a vista of palm trees, rocks, and a sky with a waxing moon, we commenced on a five-day immersion in the human and environmental ecology of desert life.
On Friday, stewardship projects included learning the art of “vertical mulching” to erase remnants of roads, mining, and fencing activities, as well as trail repair and clarification. We were inspired by a new generation of young women from the Student Conservation Association (SCA) who worked beside us on these projects and then later joined us at our evening programs.
On other days, we hiked for pure joy through areas with evocative names: Amethyst Canyon, Dumont Dunes, Tecopa Peak, along the Amargosa River and the Old Spanish Trail. We encountered rattlesnakes and chuckwallas, held conversations about climate change, enjoyed the super bloom explosion of flowers, visited the opulent oasis of China Date Ranch (home of the famed date milkshake), and soaked in the amazing Tecopa Hot Springs each day.
Every night under the stars, we were treated to interesting speakers, beginning with Susan Sorrels, fourth-generation Mojave Desert dweller, owner of Shoshone Village, and conservationist, who shared her amazing history. We heard about the adaptation plight of the endangered Amargosa vole, the region’s unique water situation, and the effects of climate change on desert lands. We learned of BLM’s management challenges and the tremendous progress made by the small, but mighty Amargosa Conservancy.
We discussed the complexities of balancing land preservation with multiple use activities: off-highway vehicles, renewable energy projects, ranching, hunting, grazing, and other development that often competes with conservation ideals.
Linda Castro, from the California Wilderness Coalition and Broad Vicky Hoover (Sierra Club CA/NV Wilderness Committee professional volunteer) shared Senator Feinstein’s past and current efforts to protect the Mojave. And of course, we celebrated our three new monuments: Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains.
Our troupe’s camaraderie developed through the shared experiences of camping in a site that was not much more than a gravel parking lot, overcoming toilet and potable water challenges, gathering our camp chairs for lively happy hours, and enjoying delicious meals at The Bistro each day, thanks to Ryan and crew.
The shared memories of our days on this diverse landscape are not likely to be forgotten by the hardy Broads and Bros that made the trek to discover this arid corner of California.