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…



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:


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.

2017 Klamath Backcountry Interviews

This week we hear from several members of the 2017 Klamath Backcountry trail crew.


All photos courtesy of the California Conservation Corps and the Backcountry Trails Program.

If you are a former Corpsmember and would like to share your story, contact us at . We would love to weave your story into the tapestry of the CCC experience, because every Corpsmember has a story worth telling. Former staff are welcome to share their stories as well!

Thank you.

2017 Kings Canyon Backcountry Interviews

This week we hear from several members of the 2017 Kings Canyon Backcountry trail crew.

All photos courtesy of the California Conservation Corps and the Backcountry Trails Program.

If you are a former Corpsmember and would like to share your story, contact us at . We would love to weave your story into the tapestry of the CCC experience, because every Corpsmember has a story worth telling. Former staff are welcome to share their stories as well!

Thank you.

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