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 grinningdwarf@gmail.com , or you can post a message at the CCC: Hard Corps Facebook page.

Enjoy, and stay tuned for more next week!


Corpsmember Profile: Bill George

Bill George sent us a CM Profile of his years at the Fricot City Academy and Yountville Center in the early ’80s.

After my graduation from high school in 6/82 I had no plans. I worked a few dead end jobs for the next year with no direction in life.

Finally in 9/83 my older brother told me about the CCC, and I had two choices. That or military.

I applied to join the CCC shortly after.

Within two weeks I received a letter from the CCC welcoming me and hoping I was ready for a year of HARD work LOW pay and MISERABLE CONDITIONS and it was written just like that!!

I had a report date of 10-1-83 to CCC headquarters in Sac. After my intake, I boarded an old grey bus to Calaveras County in the town of San Andreas to the Fricot Academy. I would spend my first three weeks here. Three weeks of sheer hell!!

I think we started with 20-30 (rough guess) on our crew and the same amount on the other ten crews as well (again rough guess). So out of 300 recruits there were available spots for maybe 75-100. It was the academy’s job to trim down to the proper amount in three weeks.

They ran us into the ground from the first moment we were there, and it continued until we were down to the proper amount of recruits. We ran, hiked, cut trails among other things constantly. Out of a 24 hour day we had 9 hours to ourselves, 8 of those hours we were sleeping.

Finally when we were down to the proper amount of recruits that they had available spots for all the torture ended!! We had succeeded!!

The next day our perspective centers arrived to pick us up.

I was on my way to Yountville center.

Yountville Sign Sherryl Jones

Yountville Bldg Sherryl Jones

I was prepared to pull in the center and get screamed at the moment I got out of the van, like we did at Fricot. Much to my surprise, they seemed happy to see the five of us. I was shown my sleeping area to put my bags away then given the opportunity to clean up before dinner. Dinner was amazing, you actually were fed enough to get full!!

Shortly after dinner they had a meeting of the center to welcome the newcomers.

The following day we were up at 6am roll call for PT instead of the 5am wake up at the academy.

PT was a fraction of what it was at the academy, with a fraction of the running and you didn’t have CLCs/ACLs every 10 feet screaming at you!!

After PT and breakfast we all prepared for the day and the crews we would be on at our daily am meeting.

My first month was spent in center on the maintenance crew basically janitorial work.

I then got on a crew led by C1 Jim Daniels working on the grade. I spent the next 10 months on that crew. We worked on many different projects with CalTrans, Department of Fish and Game, and Department of Water Resources, just name a few. We did stream clearance, levy erosion control, many, many hours of sandbagging during the floods, as well as trail construction. In September 1984 they created a crew on the grounds of the veteran’s home to help the tradesmen with different projects.

Having only another month left before the year was up it was my intention to become a specialist.

One of the many projects they had was building signs for all of the different buildings on the vet’s home. The project was supposed last for about a month.

Shortly before the project was over the cement mason of the vet’s home went to our center director, Ernie Thompson, and asked to keep me working with him. I was then promoted to green hat and given my second year in the Corp.

It was the best two years of my life, the conservation Corps help me tremendously.

After my days in the Corps I went into the auto repair trade. I worked for Ford Motor Company for 25 years, then went into business for myself. I opened a mobile auto business for my final 5 years in the trade, retiring two years ago.

The Corps taught me discipline and responsibility.

I enjoyed it so much that after 30 years of being out of the Corps, I have just submitted my application to come back as a C1.

Photos of Yountville Center courtesy of former Corpsmember Sherryl Jones.

Challenges and Pionjars

Today we hear a little more of Shawna Lemos’s story.

I’m a pretty competitive person. Naturally I had a lot of pride trying to hike in to our job site and be first! To challenge myself, I would offer to carry the heaviest tools. The most challenging tools to carry were a 65 pound Pionjar or the largest chainsaw. It wasn’t until I met our new Supervisor (Terrance Johnson) that I was given the biggest challenge! He discussed an opportunity to be a leader within our crew and I accepted the goal with open arms. At first, I was given organizational tasks. He allowed me to make a checklists and get us ready for Spikes! I enjoyed making sure equipment was ready and delegating. There were a few deeper lessons to be learned though. One day Terrance sent me out to hike into a worksite, but requested I be last. I pretty much complained and took it out on the guy that hiked the slowest. I think I prob did that for a week straight! (Poor guy!) Terrance checked in one day and held me waaaaay back from the crew. He asked me if my attitude was helping the slow guy in ANY way. You know what? It didn’t help him, or me, or the crew at all! So I started encouraging him instead. It didn’t make him faster, but it did change my outlook from selfish to being more team minded. I’ve used this lesson in many areas of my life including parenting! I’m so grateful for the many challenges the C’s have given me.

Shawna shows one of the best things that good C1s in  the CCC do: develop Corpsmembers and make them better people. Corpies learn these lessons and take them wherever else they go in life.

As you read Shawna’s piece, if you were not in the CCC, you might have asked “What’s a Pionjar?”

A Pionjar is a specific brand of gasoline-powered rock drill.

Pionjar Demonstration

If you click on the above link and watch the video, you will see a basic demonstration of how the Pionjar is used. An interesting note: the narrator in the video pronounces Pionjar as ‘PYON-yar.’ It is a Scandinavian company, so that pronunciation is probably correct, but that video is the first time I had ever heard it pronounced that way. Corpies and NPS trail workers in the United States in my experience have always pronounced it ‘POON-jar’. It’s fun to say! Try it: POON-jar. 🙂

Why would anybody need to drill into rock? There could be several reasons. We might need to drill holes to place explosives into to blow up big rocks. We do this for trails, and we also do this for salmon habitat restoration, if a huge boulder that has rolled down into a streambed is causing debris to back up against it in high water and cause flooding.

We drill into rock in order to quarry big rocks into little rocks, to use in trail construction and maintenance.

We might need to drill into rock to anchor posts for fences or any of other many uses. In the Cobra video below, it looks like the workers are going to be anchoring a post for some sort of construction.

Pionjar is not the only company that makes these types of rock drills. I have also used Cobra rock drills, and I’m sure there are others.

Shawna did not have any available photos of a Pionjar for this piece, so I asked around at several Facebook CCC groups, such as California Conservation Corps former Corpsmembers and CCC Backcountry Trails Alumni, to see if anybody did have pictures. Sure enough, several former Corpsmembers came through with pics.

Karen Kollar Nancy Martin Stan 91

This pic is from Nancy Martin, of Karen Kollar operating a Pionjar on the Stanislaus Backcountry crew in 1991.


E Moreira P Martinez Inyo Modoc Redw 89

This pic of Eddie Moreira and Peter Martinez on the Inyo-Modoc-Redwoods crew in 1989, shows how the Pionjar is used to quarry rock. (Eddie provided the pic.) Holes are drilled in a line across the rock, and then something called ‘pins and feathers’ are used to split the rock. If you look closely at the steel sticking out of the holes, you can see there are three parts there. The long middle part is the ‘pin’ The shorter curved pieces around it are called the ‘feathers’. The feather are inserted first. The pin is placed between them. They are placed in all of the holes in the line. Then a double jack (or sledge hammer) is used to hit the pins down into the holes. All of the pins are hit evenly. As the pin goes deeper, the feathers are forced apart, and eventually, the big rock will split into little rocks along that line. This way, trail crews can quarry whatever sized rocks they need for their construction projects out of materials that are close by.

Eric Vanderleest

This pic shows Eric Vanderleest in Yosemite National Park in 1982. (Eric’s brother, Wayne Vanderleest, provided the photo.) Backcountry trail crews get very creative in using Pionjars in all sorts of positions.

Like Shawna said in her piece, these large heavy pieces of equipment might get shipped into camp on a mule, but they are usually transported on the backs of the trail workers from camp to the work sites.

Just another day of Hard Work, Low Pay, Miserable Conditions…and More!


CM Profile: Shawna Lemos

Today’s CM Profile is from Shawna Lemos.

I worked for the Y.C.C. (Youth Conservation Corps) the summer after my 10th grade year. We did a lot of front country work, hiking and team building. I remember clearing a piece of trail with my crew when all of the sudden a rag tag group of young adults came hiking past us. They had on packs and were carrying equipment and hiking faster than any one I’d ever seen! I found out that they were a part of the C.C.C. That encounter lit a fire in me and drove me to graduate high school and try out for the C.C.C. program.
I graduated from Clovis, CA. My family moved to Kentucky a week later and my boyfriend at the time went off to college in Oregon. I met with a C-1 in Fresno and requested the furthest area with the most intense work they had. I was excited to learn of an opening in Klamath, California!
When I arrived, we were called Comets and had separate housing quarters from the residents. We endured training by hiking, p.t. sessions, running up mountains and team building exercises. My feet were raw from issued boots and my body aches, but I loved the comradery and encouragement. Graduating from being a Comet felt good.
I ended up on Crew 5 with Phil Lafollete. (Shout out… Crew Fiiiivvve!) He taught me to be a fighter and not give up on a task. (I learned to build the best firepits, lol!)
My last C-1 through Requa (the name of our post in Klamath) was Terrance Johnson. He taught me leading doesn’t mean being first. He toughened me and trusted me. He lead through valuing people and seeing what they could individually offer the team.
While working in the C’s I was sent to leadership training in San Luis Obispo, took forestry classes through College of Redwoods (rip Tom Hunnycut) and was taught how to respond to state emergencies. I attained a class B license, became chainsaw certified (Thx “Chunky!”) and fell in love with going on Spikes. It was during those Spikes that I learned of the Backcountry Program with Peter Lewis (rip <3)
Being chosen to go to Backcountry turned my soulfire into a blazing bonfire. I was thrilled! Not only did I get to join the legacy of my fellow corpies before me, but I got to go to Kings Canyon National Park!

The summer of 98. My gosh, did I find out I had a lot of maturing to do! Living with a Crew of 15-18 people for 5 months exposes a person’s strengths and weaknesses. I learned a lot about myself that summer. I was pushed physically, emotionally and spiritually beyond anything I could have imagined. I enjoyed nature from its ugliest to its fullness in what it could offer. Our C-1 was top notch along with the very seasoned crew from the national park service. It was a time that grew me.

I left the C’s shortly after my return from backcountry. I was engaged and missing my family in Kentucky. Some of the bonds I made with the people I lived with and worked with are eternal and I am so grateful for the time that was given to me during 1994-1998.

Shawna also shares a few entries from her journal written while with the Youth Conservation Corps, working in Yosemite National Park.


Yesterday was our first real work day. It was a welcome change from watching safety videos and learning all the rules. We installed 300lb bear boxes in Yosemite Valley! It was a team effort and we became acquainted with rock bars, shovels, wrenches and stencils. (The stencils were to spray paint numbers on) It made me feel like our work was important when campers and hikers would talk to us. Our group even encountered a bear! It was walking around a dumpster and totally tame. Although it was tempting to poke him with a stick, all of the safety talk came to mind and we refrained.

After dinner, me, Sondro and Star went sledding! It wasn’t hard to do because we were staying at a ski lodge. We had so much fun we decided to do it again tomorrow!



The 4.9 mile trail from Glacier Point to Nevada falls was pure joy! Every so often  (near the top of the falls trail) a breeze would carry with it fresh smells and a crisp whisp of water. I’m soaked from jumping into a small stream. It’s chilly, but Grande! I feel happy and vibrant! I’m ready to take on the next 4.3 miles to half dome!



We decided to sleep outside tonight! I had Star to my left and Sondro and Chelsea to my right. We were dead asleep when I felt something next to my head. I thought it was Star so I tried to push her off my pillow….but it was furry! I heard a crunching sound muffled with some sort of grumbly snorts. It’s a bear. It’s definatly a bear! I crouched low into my sleeping bag and kicked Sondro. I told him what was going on and we formed a very brave plan to scare the bear away. We counted down….3.2.1. Scream!! Our yells woke up the whole camp who then pounded on dishes and screamed with us. That bear took off screaming too, haha! I then realized what the crunchy sound was. I had taken my new retainers out and set them next to my pillow. My teeth better not get snaggly this summer because a bear ate them


kings canyon bear

Kings Canyon ’98 t-shirt and grinning Corpie photos courtesy of Shawna Lemos.

Mountains and bear photos courtesy of the CCC and the 2017 Kings Canyon Backcountry Trail Crew.


If you have a CCC story that you would like to share, or CCC pics, or both, send them to us at:


Learning More About Ourselves Through the CCC

 Today’s post is an alumni piece written by former Fortuna Corpsmember Steven Jeffares.


Conservation can mean more than the attempts to keep certain plant and animal species, as well as ecosystems, alive.  The subtle lesson often ignored which should be quite apparent points to conservation in helping us see if we really have the will to secure or change our environment, or even the world in general.  People often see this as an over-generalization, or even a false hope, so they can confine themselves to their own misguidedness, but the more that we treat the world better, the more we are comfortable with ourselves and are willing to accept ourselves as humans.

I was often pressured by an older sibling who had previous positive experiences within the California Conservation Corps to join the CCC even well before I was old enough to join.  I often thought of it as a social challenge to me, therefore was very against the idea.  I feel maybe some others have had this dilemma.  Other people might be on the fence in deciding whether to join the California Conservation Corps to pursue some kind of self-strengthening or whether to dismiss it entirely as “just another job”.

I was not someone who had an easy life with a vast fortune of wealth or happiness just given to me.  Like many of you, I’ve had many problems to deal with on my own. I’ve had to grapple with reality in terms of what I wanted to do in life and what others had wanted me to do.

Such concepts are very necessary to survival in this world, and it is a forgotten will to live that keeps us sane. Rather, I have never known such a drive to keep going existed.  I went in the CCC thinking of it as another job; you wake up, eat breakfast then make lunch and go to work.  Well, at least when I went in it seemed to be just another job.  Until…

Until I found myself doing things I have never even imagined of doing.  I am not going to lie—some of these things may have seemed mundane or tedious at the time, but what I know now has encouraged me as a human being and as one who cares about the world around me.  Again, not easy at times…

However, I ended up joining the California Conservation Corps not really knowing what was going to happen.  A week of classes passes by fast, and before you know it, you’re out on what is referred to as ‘the grade’. On the grade, you are asked to perform numerous tasks, including a lot of work with trails, invasive species, and within the region I was stationed also helped to restore salmon habitats through rebuilding log structures in creeks.  On the way, I made many friends and superiors that I deeply appreciated.  My C-1 (the BOSS) helped me through various emotional challenges that were presented throughout my job.  Sometimes I saw it as being pushed into a mentality, but then I’d soon learn after that these lessons were sometimes the best way to deal with certain events that would pop up through future jobs and experiences.

As for the actual work, as I have mentioned before, I performed various tasks.  I had to remove invasive species from the environment.  In my northern California area, this pertained to Ammophila Arenaria (A.K.A. European Dune Grass) and Hedera Helix (A.K.A. English Ivy) mostly, though I also was instructed to eradicate other plants such as Cortaderia Selloana, commonly known as Pampas Grass.  During the summer I was also asked to trade the comfort of my apartment for two weeks for Fire Camp Support in Anderson.  This began a very emotional high tide for me, and I swam back way stronger.  Nobody was fired from our crew, and we received a very positive review for our efforts while aiding California Department of Forestry and Fire.  Also, we were asked to thin out forests of certain tree species that would encroach on not-as-rapidly growing trees and performed “Fuel Reduction”, which assisted in preventing fires from spreading to areas where people worked or lived.

One of the more exciting duties I had performed in the CCC was Salmon Restoration.  I loved it.  Never had I actually felt like I was a part of a mechanism to help something other than myself or my friends.  I had truly enjoyed watching those baby salmon swim as hard as they could as I grinded away trying to move Redwood logs into the creeks to create shelter and to help “scour” dirt away; thus creating cooler water for the salmon.  This, and removing Ammophila for the Snowy Plovers, created a strong will in me to look past myself.  Even writing this, it’s hard not to cry.  I believe this had a huge impact on my life and how I began to view myself as a living thing, with factors as any other.

Another great aspect, and this is something I’ve heard is a common task within the distinct regions of the CCC, is trail work.  It’s the job that everyone always talks about.  Everything is involved with this: Grubbing, Hedging, Pruning, and Chainsaws.  It always seemed to me a lot of people wished for these jobs, and during my time I was very honored to get to be able to work with National Park Service, who encouraged me to further pursue a job working on trails.  Unfortunately in my case I have sustained various tears and fractures to my ankles and my feet and am unable to perform that work anymore, at least until this gets better. It should be noted that none of these were work related, and the C.C.C. was compliant with allowing time off for me to recover, and my C-1 was very understanding of these injuries and would not push me past my limits.  I would heavily encourage that work, because trust me, it is much, much better than a lot of jobs you could be working.

Keeping our local environment can mean more than attempting to keep certain species and ecosystems alive.  As we live, change, and grow, I suggest that we all keep this in mind.  I may have not been able to continue with this type of work due to injuries, but I always encourage others to do so.  If I didn’t have these, you bet I’d be working with trails or preserving the nature around us.  However, even if you are injured, there are other options.  I, for one, had volunteered for the wildlife center for Humboldt County and felt it just as rewarding as the Conservation Corps.  I was not asked to do much physical labor, though I did do some out of my own will.  You can always find something to help yourself and the people around you, let alone the world.  I think the main point is:  with programs like the CCC, we’re going beyond ourselves.


Steven Jeffares

Corpsmember of 2014-2015



Staff Profile: Penny Walker, Yountville Beginnings

It was 1979 and here I was driving into the Yountville Veterans Home in my 1968 Ford Pickup which weaved around these old, plain looking barrack-like buildings that were surrounded by beautiful mature trees and green grass.  Old guys hanging out in the doorways waving. The building I was looking for was the last one on the road and had a big wooden sign that said, “California Conservation Corps”.  I had never heard of this state agency before, since it was only a few years old.  I was there for an interview as a payroll clerk,  and it paid more than I was getting with Caltrans, where I was the secretary in a construction field office.  My finances were in ruin because I had left the State to work as a house manager with an non-profit agency who served intellectually disabled adults.  I absolutely loved that job but after a couple years of getting paid peanuts, I had to go into survival mode and procure a better paying job.  So back to the employment of the State of California and maybe this unknown agency called the CCC.

My Dad and my Uncle were both alumni from the original Civilian Conservation Corps. My Uncle was a bigwig with that agency as a Regional Director for several states.  I had seen a lot of their photos from that era and was enticed by the camps in the woods and the very healthy looking men who were working in the woods for $30.00 a month, 25 of that went to their homes, and they were given five bucks for spending money.

I didn’t know what to expect as I entered this large, plain looking building.  That all changed as I walked in and was met by a herd of young people dressed in brown and khaki uniforms.  Not all men, but women too!  “That’s cool!”, I thought.  They all ran out the door and headed towards a blue van and I made my way to the door that said “office”.   I had the interview, a tour of the program and the facility.  I saw a very healthy garden that the Corpsmembers’ tended and a huge chicken coop filled with fat looking hens.  Part of the curriculum program at that time focused on teaching sustained living.  I liked this CCC.  The whole idea went along with my thinking.    I liked the idea of working with a bunch of kids who worked out in the rural areas and raised chickens.  I was blessed to get that payroll job and ended up working for the CCC for twenty-two years.

And More

Today’s post was written by former Corpsmember Jonathan Kirchabel of Fortuna Center. Jonathan has written a more contemplative piece than a typical Corpsmember profile. Jonathan shows us what goes into the development of a Crewleader in the CCC. 



Jonathan, left. Ethan Smith, right

I don’t know how many times I sat and asked myself, “How much longer am I capable doing this?”

It didn’t happen a lot. It was most memorable during long conversations between the silence and myself. I would say absolutely nothing, and the nature would respond in the same manner. While working, spiking out on a project, and especially during my time in Yosemite, it didn’t matter where I went, this conversation would still follow.

When people ask me about my experience, I never know the right answer; only the wrong ones. As a leader in the program, I came to understand that you never want to discourage somebody from doing something just because it’s daunting or hard. You want to be real, honest, and tell people like it is, but you never want to discourage somebody. The program changed me, especially during those long conversations between nature and myself. I can remember finding joy after long tumultuous hikes during my backcountry season and while working to maintain trails around the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, and having conversations with the nearby birds as they sent calls between each other. You know, because I went crazy, and that’s a heavy burden to bear.

There’s a certain peace that happens after two years, after doing what I’ve done, and after seeing what I’ve seen. There were two nights in particular that truly resonated with what I intend on getting across: the night that I laid in water for hours, and the night that I didn’t sleep, while in Yosemite.



The night I laid in cold water for hours was a treacherous reminder of why you should not be lazy. On a clear evening, we went to sleep thinking that we did not need to set up any tarps for coverage during the night. We were awoken by steadily dropping rain that only increased into a small storm. Luckily, Jose had swung his tarp over us, and shielded us from most of the barrage. However, I had not cared to bring any extra possible defense against the conditions for the weekend, and as a result my sleeping bag, clothes, and body, were all drenched in water for hours and hours. Jose had been positioned as perfectly as possible, and despite needing to go to the bathroom for several hours, I resisted all urges and uncomfortability until the storm passed four hours later. I sat, shivering in my rain gear, my only dryish clothes, and attempted several times to light a fire with wet materials. Had I not temporarily stopped smoking cigarettes a month prior on my birthday, I would have found solace in those seconds of slowly decaying away with each puff while silently staring into the river beside our campsite. Yet, I only had the river as comfort, as I sat for hours more, waiting for my comrades to wake up. Cuts on my feet, still shivering, and sore from the compilation of all that had happened up until then, I still found more serenity with each step forward back to camp, weight on my shoulders and all.

Continue reading “And More”

Corpsmember Profile: Dyana McPherson

My name Dyana McPherson, I was born and raised in San Diego County. I have always been an avid camper and hiker since I was a child. I was dissatisfied with my occupation at the time and I had friends at the La Cima fire center. I was encouraged by then Corpsmember Development Coordinator Victor Avila to join the CCC and see if I liked the work. My love of Redwood country inspired me chose the Humboldt district when I enrolled in the CCC in 1993, I ended up at the Fortuna Center as a corpsmember. At the time I wanted to attend college to go into the natural resources field. Working for the Salmon Restoration Project seemed like just the ticket. My ultimate goal even at enrolling in the CCC was to become a C-I and start a meaningful career.

After COMET I was assigned to Crew 3, Tom Merrill’s crew. I was one of four females at the entire center and only two of us were on the grade. I loved it. I learned everything I could and Tom saw potential in me and sent me to leadership training right away. I was a red hat within three months of joining. I eventually transferred to the Leggett / Ukiah center there I Interned for California Department of Fish and Game and was on Gary Burica’s crew. A position for an orange hat in Fortuna opened up and I was asked to apply. I returned to Fortuna and worked with the Corpsmember Development program (CMD) under Bill Vogel and Terry Stevens until I left in 1995. Corpsmember Development provides educational activities and training for the corpsmembers during their time in the CCC. Corpsmembers are required to attend a two week new employee orientation program called COMET. There are several requirements for obtaining the CCC scholarship at the end of your term. CMD provides these classes at night for the corpsmembers and many other educational opportunities. I really enjoyed being an orange hat for the COMET program that I decided I wanted to be a teacher and work for Corpsmember Development.



Dyana and Bud Wilbur. Bud was in the original Civilian Conservation Corps.

I took the Conservationist-I (C-I) exam and headed back to San Diego hoping to pick up a C-I position. I ran crews for three years with the CCC, working on conservation projects, Floods, Fires, Special Programs (Weatherization Energy Efficiency Retrofit Program) and COMET.


I got married in 1999 and returned to Northern California to live and work for CA Parks and Recreation. For a few years then a family member needed our help so we moved to Arizona. For eight years I lived in Kingman AZ, where I stayed home with my young children and attended Northern Arizona University’s college of Education. I enjoyed being a mom and spending time with my family. I graduated with my Bachelors of Science from NAU in Elementary Education. I still stayed in touch with my CCC roots and began a CCC Alumni Face book page. I volunteered to be the Admin and let folks know about things that go on with the current CCC and provide a place to connect former corpsmembers with their friends.

I had an opportunity to apply for a Program Coordinator position with a sister corps in Flagstaff called Coconino Rural Environment Corps (CREC). The program was funded from the Recovery Act. I was the program coordinator Energy Conservation Corps program/ County Retrofit Program Coordinator. I had anywhere from 3-5 crews at a given time. We worked on a variety of energy efficiency projects in Northern Arizona, mostly on the Navajo Reservation. One of the more memorable projects was with the Grand Canyon National Park; it took the crew to the bottom of the Grand Canyon retrofitting a building built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, and restoring five structures at the North Rim. Visiting the crews working at these sites was a memorable experience.
I now live in San Diego and I work for the State of California again raising my girls. I am looking forward to visiting current CCC crews and writing about their projects and experiences.

Corpsmember Profile: Ian Dalziel

One common type of story you can expect to see in CCC:Hard Corps is the Corpsmember/Staff Profile. A former Corpsmember or staff will write a little sketch about how he or she came to be in the CCC, what they accomplished while there, and what they’ve been doing since they left. Our first CM Profile is from Ian Dalziel, a recently graduated Crew Leader II from the Redding Center in the Shasta Cascade Service District.

My name is Ian Dalziel. I joined the California Conservation Corps in Redding, during September, 2013. Before this, I spent the majority of my time getting as much experience as possible in the field of acting, both for in front of the camera, or on the stage. But a fun hobby that you dream of making into a career can only take you so far in the short term, so, it was off to the job fair with me.

The last booth I found belonged to something that said “CCC – Hard Work, Low Pay, Miserable Conditions, and more!” along with some pictures showing the sort of work and wilderness living conditions experienced by the Corps, past and present. The chance to have a full work week, get paid to camp, get in shape, and explore the great outdoors of this great state? Irresistible.

So I joined up, with my love of the Rams football team leading to me being placed on then Crew 29 under C1 Aaron Dunson, another Rams man, and last I checked, the Statewide Trail Coordinator for the Corps. My first foray into the program was a spike at Mt. Tamalpais overlooking the Bay Area, with an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) compliant dry stone masonry rock wall project near the peak parking lot. Before my COMET (Corpsmember Orientation, Motivation, Education, and Training) group had arrived, the crew had already partook in six spikes on this project already, with another five after we joined.

Not too long after the spikes at Mt. Tam ended, Aaron Dunson got his marching orders, and Crew 29 would be getting a new C1. Being new and getting used to the crew dynamic, and Aaron as a supervisor, I was hesitant at first, because the gentleman being assigned as C1 was not known to me. I hadn’t yet met him around the Center. His name is Terrance Johnson, the trail building, spam loving, Bronco footballing legend.

During one of our first encounters as Supervisor to Crewmember, he said I would be his red-hat, if I wanted to take on the challenge. Having been impressed by “T”, and wanting to learn more from this font of life experience and trail knowledge, I decided I would go all the way. Three months after T took over and rechristened us as Crew 25, I earned the official position of Crewleader I on the day we left for my longest project with the CCC, the Lassen Peak Trail Restoration.

I experienced twenty-three spikes, four fire camps for five fires, no floods, no stint in Backcountry, and a career-topping experience as part of the most recent Australian Exchange, thus ending my 37 months in the Corps, in October of 2016. Of that time, I was a boy in the blue hat for 8 months, rocked the red hat for 16 months, and finished out as an orange overseer for 13 months. Along the way I made some invaluable friends, while constantly gaining new experience with hand and power tools, trail building, brush cutting, roadside maintenance, tree planting, invasive species removal, safety practices, and so much more as anyone who experiences the CCC can relate to.

These days I look for my next job experience to enjoy, while being signed on as a volunteer for the CCC in Redding so I can still come in and bug the staff and possibly help out on a project or two with my old, now almost entirely different crew. I’m also sure to honk at Terrance Johnson’s house since we live in the same small town about twenty-miles out of Redding. Old habits, and worth it just to see that big grin of his. I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to take on the Corps, to do so in earnest.


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