An Alum’s View of Backcountry Debriefing, and Dallion Gayner (Kings, 2018)

On today’s episode of CCC: Hard Corps, I talk (starting at 1:30) about debriefing from an alum’s perspective thirty years after debriefing for my own Backcountry season, and the ghosts that I still find at Camp Mather.

We also hear from Dallion Gayner, of the 2018 Kings Canyon crew. (Starting at 19:30)

I also start a new segment (at 32:00) for CCC: Hard Corps, in which I tell you about items I think will be of interest to you. In this episode, I tell you about Cascade Hiker Podcast. Host Rudy Giecek’s goal is to inspire you to get on the trail. Sounds like a familiar goal to Corpsmembers, huh? Check out Rudy’s podcast. The focus of Cascade Hiker Podcast tends to be the Pacific Northwest, because that’s where Rudy is, but his topics and guests on the show are usually of interest to anybody who loves the outdoors. For a story focused a little closer to home for folks in California, check out his interview with Bobbi Walters, about hiking the Tahoe Rim Trail. I know Corpsmembers have been involved in construction and maintenance of that trail! (And a shout out to Mark Hanson, and the Corpsmembers and staff of Tahoe center.) Other recent Cascade Hiker podcasts have been with Tough Girl podcaster Sarah Williams, and on Ticks and Lyme Solution with Dr. Darin Engels.

To start things off…

Going to the Backcountry Trails debriefing as alumni can be kind of weird. After my own debriefing in 1987, it never occurred to me to go back to one. Why would I? Seemed like a thing for this year’s CMs and sponsors. I knew that I would feel weird going to one.

Twenty-nine years later, I finally made it back to one. And I had been right. It was weird. But it was cool!

There is a lot of reminiscing involved when an alum goes back to debriefing, as memories come back about your own season and your own debriefing.

The first one I made it back for was in 2016, and so this year’s was my fourth debriefing since my own. Normally, I take I5 south to Manteca and cut over to Yosemite on Hwy 120. This year I had some business in Stockton on the way down. When I finished my business, I headed east out of Stockton on Hwy 4. I couldn’t remember the last time I had taken this route—at least 25 years. As I went through the little hamlet of Farmington, I saw an old general store-type building on the corner at the one stop sign in town.

And I suddenly remembered stopping at this general store in 1987. Orientation then had been at the old Delta center in downtown Stockton. Hwy 4 to 120 was the quickest route to Yosemite then. We had been picked up by our new NPS sponsors. Kim Orr drove the van. Erin Anders drove the six-pack pickup truck. Our C1, Diane Brown, drove her personal Toyota pickup with the MOOSEX4 license plate. We hadn’t been on the road very long when we stopped here for drinks and snacks.

All of that memory came back at the stop sign.

I had been listening to podcasts all the way down from Redding to Stockton. I turned them off and drove up Hwy 4, with only my thoughts and the road noise.

New Priest Grade. Over one hundred curves and hairpin turns as it climbs over 1700 feet in less than eight miles. Old Priest Grade is worse. Kim told us a few stories as we made the climb.

Groveland. 1987 was a bad fire year. There were a lot of lightning-caused fires in Yosemite National Park and Stanislaus National Forest. The town of Groveland could have burned down, but firefighters were able to stop the fires on the edge of town.

Right before the official Yosemite National Park entrance, I turned north onto Evergreen Road. I passed the cattle guard with the sign that says ‘OPEN RANGE; WATCH FOR LIVESTOCK.’ It was right on this stretch of Evergreen Road, on the van radio, that I heard the Grateful Dead song ‘Touch of Grey’ for the first time.

A little farther north, I looked to my right and could see Bald Mountain. 1987 was such a bad fire year that Yosemite had asked the CCC if they could use our trail crew for fire duty. We had spent a few days on Bald Mountain, mopping up a fire that regular Yosemite fire crews had gotten a line around. We had relieved the Yosemite crews so they could go attack another fire. The best part: we were transported to that fire on a Huey helicopter out of Crane Flat Fire Lookout.

Evergreen Lodge. My crew had eaten dinner there once while working the fires. The Evergreen had been off limits to Corpsmembers at debriefing, because of the bar.

Lots of memories. And I hadn’t even arrived at Camp Mather yet.

For a further walk down memory lane, including my own Ghosts of Mather, continue with the podcast…



Tehama Fire Center, and More 2018 Backcountry Debriefing

Today on CCC: Hard Corps, we get to see a little more of the vision that I have for the blog and podcast. I intend to explore all aspects of the CCC program, throughout its 40+ year history. I want to cover every center and every program that I can find Corpsmembers from.

Today’s focus will be on the Tehama Fire Center. I spoke with three former Corpsmembers who had been assigned to Tehama about what their time there was like. I also received helpful input from other former Corpsmembers at a couple of CCC alumni Facebook pages, CCC Alumni and California Conservation Corps former Corpsmembers .

Also included in today’s podcast are interviews with two Backcountry corpsmembers at last year’s debriefing at Camp Mather, California. Today we will be hearing from

  • Christian Martinez, from the Trinity crew.  Christian was a CCC Crewleader at Pomona Center before the Backcountry, and completed his second year with the Cs while in the Backcountry. Before the C’s, Christian had worked for the San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corps .
  • Sam Fish, from Yosemite 2. Sam came to the Backcountry through AmeriCorps. He had been an Animated Illustration major at San Jose State University, and tried something different with the Backcountry.

This is how we can get your story told on CCC: Hard Corps. Just talk to me! Because every Corpsmember has a story that deserves to be told.

You can email me at ,

You can call me at (530)410-4683,

Or you can send me a Facebook message through CCC: Hard Corps .

Meanwhile…on with the show!

Tehama Fire Center

The California Conservation Corps started in 1976 with a lot of enthusiasm and high ideals, but nobody really knew how long it would be around. It was not even a permanent program in 1976. Funding had to be renewed every year by the California legislature. It was started on a shoestring budget. Equipment was transferred from the Ecology Corps, which the CCC had replaced. The CCC lived in borrowed facilities.  Centers that were residential programs moved into underutilized state buildings that could accommodate the housing, kitchen, workshop, and administrative program needs. Several of them set up on State Hospital grounds in places such as Stockton, Camarillo, and Santa Clara. Some of them set up in unused Army personnel housing on obsolete Nike missile bases, such as Bollinger Canyon (outside of San Ramon) and Oat Mountain (outside of Chatsworth).

The CCC also formed a partnership with the California Department of Forestry, commonly known as CDF (now called CalFire in 2019). Several centers were set up that were known as Fire Centers. The crews from these centers were all Corpsmembers of the CCC, the centers were administered by the CCC, but the crews were led by CDF Captains instead of CCC Conservationist 1s, or crew supervisors. For the most part, these centers moved onto already existing CDF facilities that had already been operating Department of Corrections inmate fire crews. The inmates moved out, and the CCC moved in. Some of the Fire Centers were outside of Magalia (Butte), Angels Camp (Calaveras), Klamath (Del Norte), and Weott (Humboldt).

Today we are talking about the Tehama Fire Center.

Tehama Fire Center
Tehama Fire Center

I had a chance to speak with three former Corpsmembers who were gracious enough to share their CCC memories of Tehama: Karen Brown Wilson, Penelope Johnstone, and John Leonard. Karen, Penelope, and John were all at Tehama around the same time, about the time it closed in 1981.

Tehama Fire Center was located outside of the tiny town of Paynes Creek, about twenty-five miles east of Red Bluff. It was adjacent to the Tehama Wildlife Area, a wide open space in the rolling foothills of Lassen Peak. The area has cool, wet winters, and notoriously hot, dry summers. Summer temperatures can typically top 110°F.

A person could have found their way into the CCC and Tehama Fire Center by all sorts of routes.

Continue reading “Tehama Fire Center, and More 2018 Backcountry Debriefing”

Backcountry Debriefing: George Godfrey, Adam Garcia, and Eric Rasmussen


Today’s podcast has three interviews from the 2018 Backcountry Trails Program debriefing. They were recorded on location in September, 2018 at Camp Mather, just outside of Yosemite National Park.

The Corpsmembers interviewed are:

  • George Godfrey: Inyo crew. Interview starts at the 4:00-minute mark. George managed a Humboldt County bagel shop before she joined the Backcountry program through AmeriCorps. George’s crew got involved in some serious mountain trail work in Inyo National Forest. Listen to George describe the fall protection…like ropes…the crew needed to use to safely work on some of their switchbacks.
  • Adam Garcia: Klamath/Stanislaus crew. Interview starts at the 11:00-minute mark. Adam came to the Backcountry Program after working trails for the Conservation Corps New Mexico. The Backcountry was a little different experience, and Adam tells us the hazards that the lack of indoor plumbing can bring.
  •  Eric Rasmussen: Shasta-Trinity crew. Interview starts at the 18:25-minute mark. A CCC Corpsmember at the Fortuna Center before the Backcountry, Eric got to see some high mountain lakes and climb Thompson Peak and Caesar Cap Peak–the two highest peaks in the Trinity Alps. (Note: the link goes to somebody else’s story of Thompson Peak and Caesar Cap, but it includes some great photos of things that Eric would have seen on that trip.)

Between-the-interview topics in this podcast are: Continue reading “Backcountry Debriefing: George Godfrey, Adam Garcia, and Eric Rasmussen”

2018 Backcountry Trail Debriefing Part 1


Welcome to the first podcast interviews from the 2018 Backcountry Trails debriefing.

New this season:

  • Music from debriefing! Hear some of the acoustic jams from Camp Mather.
  • Hear from former Backcountry Corpsmembers, including one you heard interviewed right here last year!

Listen here:

If you would like to share your trails stories, either as a podcast we could record together, or as an article with photos, contact me at either:

  • Email at:
  • On Facebook at CCC: Hard Corps
  • Leave a message at this blog!
  • Leave a voice mail at 530-410-4683. I am pretty rural, and the call will almost definitely go to voice mail. Leave a message,and I will get back to you.


Hurricane Relief, Flood Fighting Center, and Backcountry Debriefing Preview

Today’s post is a podcast episode,

and in Episode #8, we hear about:

Two CCC crews dispatched to Florida to help with hurricane recovery. Click on these links to see further video on:

Fortuna Crew

San Pedro Crew


We also hear about the new Delta Center, the flood fighting center in Stockton, CA. Click on this link to see the CCC photo gallery on Facebook:

New Delta Center


Click on this link to find the full version of our show music by The Tall Pines, available as a single:

Boogie Pt. 1

And a few sample pics from debriefing:


Podcast 07: Upcoming Stories, and Bob Cox

Hey! a new podcast episode!

Come and hear about new stories to be coming up in the next few weeks.

Meet one of my CCC mentors, Bob Cox.

I also make a call for former Corpsmembers to contribute stories from their time in the CCC. If you are a former Corpsmember or staff with the California Conservation Corps and would like to share your story on CCC: Hard Corps, contact me at or on our CCC: Hard Corps Facebook page. You can post a message there.

Remember…every Corpsmember has a story worth sharing.

For the podcast:



Somewhere Over the Fogbow

A view from the trenches. Or rather, the beaches of Humboldt County. Join C1 John Griffith on a day on the grade with his crew eradicating an exotic invasive grass. Now that’s Hard Corps!

Backcountry Trails are Underway

The 2018 Backcountry Trails season got underway in April. All 97 Corpsmembers from around the country assembled at Placer Center near Auburn for a week of orientation. Orientation includes the processing of people into the CCC and AmeriCorps programs and the issuing of gear such as tents necessary to get through the season. Corpsmembers also receive basic training in some necessary skill sets they will need to successfully complete the season.

Some of the crewmembers are already in the CCC before the Backcountry program started. Many others were hired through the AmeriCorps program. The AmeriCorps hires need to be issued uniforms and boots that the CCC members already brought with them from their centers. All of the Corpsmembers, however, get busy as soon as they arrive with sewing new Backcountry Trails Program patches onto their uniforms. The first step for some of them in melding into a new crew is teaching one another how to sew patches onto a uniform.

The Backcountry crews start the season in real Backcountry fashion–by sleeping out in their tents on the Placer Center ballfield. Sometimes it rains during orientation, and the Corpsmembers then find out whether they have chosen a good raised spot, or a low spot in the field that holds water. This moment can sometimes be a Corpsmember’s introduction to field craft.

At the end of the week, the six crews split up to begin their summer on the trail. They went to Yosemite and Kings Canyon National Parks, Shasta and Klamath National Forests, and Big Basin State Park. Two crews actually work in Yosemite. The crew that started in the Klamath NF will also spend part of their summer in the Stanislaus NF. The crew that stated in Big Basin will move on to the Inyo NF.

We wish all of the Corpsmembers and supervisors a great summer, and look forward to seeing them all at the end of the season debriefing in September.

Our Mission and My Story


I know it’s been quiet around here for too long. Let’s break that silence with a podcast explaining the mission of CCC: Hard corps.

I also realized that I’ve been asking Corpsmembers to share their CCC stories, but I have never told you mine. Part 2 of today’s podcast is my own Corpsmember Profile.

The featured image above is from my 1987 Backcountry season. Yosemite 1 and Yosemite 2 got together for a weekend in Tuolumne Meadows. We took the Yosemite Mountaineering Institute’s basic ropes course, and visited the ghost town of Bodie.

Click on this link for the podcast:

If you are a former Corpsmember or staff member of the California Conservation Corps and would like to share your CCC story on CCC: Hard Corps, you can send me an e-mail to , or you can post a message at the CCC: Hard Corps Facebook page.

Enjoy, and stay tuned for more next week!


Flood Fighters are Born

One of the primary purposes of the California Conservation Corps is to have hand crews available for rapid response to emergencies throughout the state. As the fall rains come, signaling the end of the disastrous 2017 fire season, we are reminded that natural disasters can occur at any time of the year in California. With the rains come the threat of flooding.

California Conservation Corps crews around the north state have begun flood response training. Seven crews involving about 100 Corpsmembers from Redding, Chico, and Yreka assembled at a Redding CalTrans maintenance yard on November 16 to learn the essentials of filling, moving, and laying sandbags. The crews rotated around five different work stations to lean each of five essential skills to flood fighting.

There is more to sandbagging than you might think. The sandbags must not be filled too much, or they will not fit together snugly to build waterproofs walls. It might look easy to carry one of these properly filled sandbags a few yards, but when the demand is for thousands of sandbags to be moved as quickly as possible, and over a twelve-hour shift in the rain and wind, there are proper techniques to learn which will prevent injuries and keep Corpsmembers going through those long hours.
































Continue reading “Flood Fighters are Born”

Blog at

Up ↑