Monthly Archives: April 2015

April 24, 1987: First Work Day

Today was our first real work day here. It was great! We spent the day hiking up Alder Creek Trail putting in drainage swills. I caught on pretty quick, but then I was doing something real similar on Salt Creek a couple of weeks ago (when we got a two day break from the deMartin house). Kristin gave me the low down then on the theories of drainage.

I felt pretty good about the hiking, too. When we were hiking back I kept pace real well with Erin. We all did well, for that matter. We didn’t get all strung out all over the place.

Categories: Backcountry, CCC, Yosemite | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

April 23, 1987: Yosemite Orientation

Most of today was orientation. Most people complained that it was pretty boring, but I enjoyed it. I’m really going to enjoy working with Tim. Kris and Mira told me a lot about him—how much he enjoys working with Corpsmembers, how much he knows, and how much he is willing to teach about trails.

Right now I’m sitting on the bank of the South Fork of the Merced River. The sun is going down. It just dropped behind the trees, but the light is still shining on the bare cliffs of Turner Ridge, just north of here. Tim said earlier that there is a magnetism about rocks and high places that just draws people to try and scale them. He’s right. I don’t know what it is but there’s just something about them that makes me want to see what they’re like up close.

Categories: Backcountry, CCC, Yosemite | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

April 22, 1987: First View

We finally made it. We were kinda doubting it this morning, though. We were supposed to be picked up at 9:00, and the vans didn’t make it ‘til almost noon.

Any irritation caused by the inconvenience was totally dispelled when the van rounded a bend and El Capitan and Half Dome came into view.

I’ve seen countless pictures of those two, from all angles, and I’ve read a bit about them (the whole valley, for that matter) including by John Muir, but it ain’t the same as being there. I’m afraid that the same thing will happen when I write the people I know back in Illinois. They might think “Oh, wow!” That’s neat!”, but they just won’t have the awesome feel of it all.

Categories: Backcountry, CCC, Yosemite | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

April 21, 1987: Orientation

Tomorrow we hit the trail. Finally. I’ve been looking forward to this day since I heard about the Backcountry at the Academy. I’ve come a long way since the Academy, and I’ve still got a long way to go.

Heck, I’ve come a long way in the last nine months. This time last year I was living on the Lindstaedt’s ranch in Illinois, working in the machine shop. I was still a talker and not much of a doer. The first big step I’ve ever really taken on my own was to head out to California, and it’s turning out to be the best decision I’ve ever made. I came out here with the vague idea of working in the wilderness. Less than a month after I got here I was in the Corps planning on Backcountry.

And if my mind wasn’t settled on it then, I got sent to Del Norte Center and put on the crew with more Backcountry vets than all the others combined. Kristen, Brian, Anne, Mira, Kathy Wood, Eric, and Bob Brandreth all added to my desire to come back here. Backcountry was a typical everyday topic of discussion. It’s no wonder that more people are here from Crew 3 than any other at Del Norte.

Being here at Delta has made me really appreciate being at Del Norte a whole lot more. It’s almost like being in the Army here—or a minimum security prison.

I’m really looking forward to spending the summer with this crew. It really looks good. I’ve really been blessed with good crews in the Corps—and good crewleaders and C-1s. One of my crewleaders here, Glen, resembles my set-up man from the machine shop. I wouldn’t have been surprised if his last name had been Valenziano. Bob was a really good guy, and it looks like Glen is, too.

Almost a third of my crew is from Del Norte, myself, Anne, Gary, Robert, and Diane. Anne was wondering if that would intimidate any of the other crewmembers, but it doesn’t seem to be.

Categories: Backcountry, CCC | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Arrival at Delta for Orientation

My parents drove me from Antioch to Delta Center in Stockton. Delta Center had been a state mental hospital. The California Conservation Corps had moved into a section of the grounds, including what had been the main admin building. As we entered the grounds on North American Street, the perfectly manicured grounds still looked like a state hospital facility. Not only were the lawns mowed, but all of the shrubbery was perfectly groomed as well. The grass along the sidewalks was perfectly edged. Beautiful. We pulled up in front of the main building and found a parking spot.

I was wearing my civilian clothes, but I did wear my Red Wing Irish Setter hiking boots…my badge of honor as a Backcountry corpsmember. All of my gear was either inside of or strapped to the outside of my huge blue backpack in the cargo space of my parents’ Chevy Blazer. I hauled my backpack out and slung it over my shoulders. Dad shook my hand. Mom hugged me and said, “Do good.” I strode up the sidewalk through the carefully manicured lawn and through the front doors of Delta Center.

I stopped at the receptionist’s window inside the front door. The receptionist looked up and I said, “Reporting for Backcountry.”

“Welcome to Delta! Go through these doors and go right. It’s not a straight shot, you’ll have a few turns, but just keep going back as far as you can and you’ll get to the dorm where the Backcountry crews are staying.”


After I went through the door and turned right, the corridors were rather maze-like as I found my way back to the dorm. The dorm was a long cot-lined bay, similar to the dorms at the old Fricot City Training Academy. A few Corpsmembers were already there. “Just grab a cot,” I was told, so I dumped my backpack on a cot and went off to fond other Backcountry corpies.

I didn’t get very far before I was stopped by a Delta staff member.

Where are you going in those boots?!”

I was confused. Why wouldn’t I be wearing my CCC-issued boots?

“Boots are not allowed to be worn inside the facility. It takes a lot of work to keep these floors polished. Now, who told you that you could wear boots in here?”

“It never occurred to me that I couldn’t wear CCC-issued boots. At Del Norte…”

“This is not Del Norte! This is Delta! Get those boots off!”

“Yes, sir. Should I remove then now and return to the dorm in my socks?”

“Don’t be a smart ass! Just go back and wear soft soled shoes on when you are in this facility.”

“Yes, sir.”

As I retreated back to the dorm, I heard the staff member bust another Backcountry corpie.

What are you doing in those boots?!”

Categories: Backcountry, CCC | Tags: , | Leave a comment

The Feral Animal

Annie Dillard, author of Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, wrote an accurate description of what it is like for an author to get back to a writing that has been paused.

A work in progress quickly becomes feral. It reverts to a wild stage overnight. It is barely domesticated, a mustang on which you one day fastened a halter, but which now you cannot catch. It is a lion you cage in your study. As the work grows, it gets harder to control; it is a lion growing in strength. You must visit it every day and reassert your mastery over it. If you skip a day, you are, quite rightly, afraid to open the door to its room. You enter its room with bravura, holding a chair at the thing and shouting, “Simba!

Annie Dillard
The Writing Life

Yeah! That’s exactly what it’s like!

Categories: Annie Dillard, Writing | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Blog at