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!


The 2017 Backcountry Trails Season

My intention at the start of the season was to post a few stories on Backcountry orientation, then post a few crew updates throughout the season.

It didn’t work out that way.

Other things got in the way,and I did not get any writing in over the entire summer. Not on any of my ongoing writing projects. Hopefully, I am back on my feet now and you can look forward to a steady supply of CCC stories.

We’ve been pretty Backcountry-centric this week, as well. Be sure, this blog is not just for the Backcountry Trials program, but for all aspects of the CCC. We will cover other stories as they come up, but I had a lot of material to get out on Orientation, and with Debriefing next week, I could not delay the Orientation material any longer without it becoming hopelessly outdated.

You will see two non-Backcountry stories next week, and the following week, I will post about Debriefing. Then we will move on to some other CCC stories.

Meanwhile, even though I did not cover the Backcountry program over the summer, there is still plenty of material out there. The CCC has graciously shared many of their pictures with us via Facebook, and they have allowed me to share some of their photos on this blog.

The following is a gallery of pics from the 2017 season, from all crews, in no particular order.

Enjoy, and we’ll see you after debriefing.

Coming Off Hiatus


Sorry I’ve been gone so long. Had some unavoidable issues pop up that prevented me from covering the CCC. I’m back now, and expect to stay.

Starting on Monday, I will start a short series on the 2017 Backcountry Trails Program Orientation, which took place back in April.

The following week is the Backcountry Trails Program Debriefing, which is the last day of the season. I plan to be there at Camp Mather. I would love to post live from there, but Camp Mather is kind of remote with spotty cell phone service, if any. I think I can get service if I hike up the hill to the Evergreen Lodge. I will keep you posted. I will definitely post stories and pictures as soon as I can afterward.

I also hope to finally get a story up about the Tehama Fire Center. Some of the people I interviewed for that keep asking when they will be able to see the story. They are asking “Didn’t you talk to me about this years ago?” Well, it wasn’t that long ago. It was only last year. However, even with as much material as I had, something about it didn’t seem finished. In the mean time, I found another TFC alum who had some pictures of the facility. These pictures will really help support the story. Next week, I hope to acquire a few more pictures, and then I feel my story will be complete enough to post. Thank you for your patience, TFC Veterans!

Meanwhile, if you were in the CCC and would like to tell your story, or about the center at which you served, or about a Corpsmember or staff member you served with, or about any bad ass projects you worked on, drop me a line. Let’s tell the world our stories!

Welcome to CCC: Hard Corps

Every Corpsmember has a story worth telling.

When I joined the California Conservation Corps in August, 1986, I was amazed by the diversity among my co-workers. I had been led to believe before I joined that the CCC was made up primarily of troubled youth. I found the reality to be much different. And in a good way!

Sure there were people one step ahead of trouble back home…and not always just with the law! But those people were in the minority. A lot of us were city, country, and suburban kids with no clear sense of direction. (And even at 21, I’d say I was still a kid in a lot of ways in 1986.)

My first boss at Del Norte Center was a woman from a middle class family in Marin County who had been a wildland fire fighter at Humboldt Center and a long time trail worker in Yosemite National Park. Michael Collins was on my crew. You might remember Michael’s brother, Kevin. Yeah…that Kevin Collins. Michael was one of the old timers on the crew who taught me what the CCC was all about.

The diversity never stopped. I met the first openly LGBT people that I had ever known were LGBT. Obviously, I really had met them before. I just hadn’t known it. Louis L’Amour once wrote that ‘trail dust is thicker than blood’, and in the forge of the daily grind of CCC work projects, ‘they’ quickly bonded into ‘we’ in the CCC family.

I lived and worked with people who came from all across the country; from the ranches of Healdsburg to the streets of New York City.

I watched a young lady with low self-esteem and no self-confidence blossom into an incredible human being. Qualifying to run chain saws on our crew was only her first step. She left our crew to take a CCC internship with CalTrans on a tree crew—running chain saws. She went on to a US Forest Service career as a Hot Shot fire fighter. Yeah…she gained confidence and self-esteem.

One guy who joined the CCC at the same time as I did and was on my crew at the training academy had hitchhiked from New York to California in four days, and was living in Golden Gate Park when he joined the CCC just to have a job.

Some people show up to the CCC with an already impressive resume. One of my best friends in the C’s already had a BA in English Lit. Another friend of mine came to the CCC with a bachelor’s degree in Sino-Soviet relations, and had been an English teacher in China for a year before deciding that teaching wasn’t her thing, and wanting to pursue third world reforestation. She came home from China, joined the CCC when she discovered that the CCC did tree planting and also offered a small scholarship upon completion of one year, and left the C’s after that year to pursue a second degree in forestry. (Scholarships today are much larger. You’ll learn about those sorts of things over time at CCC: Hard Corps.)

And there were people like my mentor, Terrance Johnson. T came from the streets of LA. When I showed up on the crew, he was working on his GED. He knew about human nature, and he knew how to lead people, and my friend T taught me that motivation counts for almost everything when you’re trying to accomplish something really, really hard. T taught me how to work; I helped T study for his GED. We learned that the best way to get through trying times is to have each other’s back.

I met people that were born in Hong Kong and Spain, Mexico and Ethiopia.

And these are just people that I knew. Multiply that number by thousands.

So, yeah, every Corpsmember has a story worth telling.

I kept waiting for somebody to write their story down. I kept looking for memoirs about working on a Backcountry trail crew, or firefighting in some of the worst fire seasons in the country. I waited and waited, and looked and looked. Nothing ever appeared.

Then I read that if you can’t find the book you want to read, maybe you should be the one to write it. I started working on my Backcountry trail crew memoir. I’m still working on that one. I also realized that the CCC story is so much bigger than just my story, and it has to be told, but it really isn’t. Not widely, anyway.

Then I learned about blogging, and it occurred to me that in addition to writing the book I’d like to read, maybe I can also be the one to collect all of the Corpsmember stories that I’d like to read, too.

Through the Internet, we can provide a place for those CCC stories to be told. We can provide a platform for Corpsmembers to share their incredible stories. And every Corpsmember has them.

If you are a former CCC member, we would love for you to share your story here. Follow the Contact Us information to the right side of this page. Send us your stories and your pics.

And we would like to welcome all of our visitors who were not CCC members. We hope you enjoy hearing our stories as much as we love telling them. Be sure to let others know we’re here, too!

Happy Trails!

George T. Parker

Hitting the Trail on Monday


We’ll be hitting the trail with this place on Monday, March 27.

We’re making final touches on CCC: Hard Corps this weekend. I think I have a look that will be pretty good. I hope I’ve organized the place so that people can actually find things they’re looking for.

Coming up next week:

  • A ‘Welcome to Our Place’
  • A Corpsmember Profile
  • A Word From an Ally: Women in the Wilderness

What is a ‘Word From an Ally’?

Good question. The CCC frequently works closely with other agencies and organizations. These will be stories from those partners. I’ll admit: sometimes the line can be fuzzy. Agnes Vianzon is the founder of the Eastern Sierra Conservation Corps and a collaborator with the Women in the Wilderness program. Agnes was a Backcountry Trails program Corpsmember a…few…years ago, and on the Backcountry Trails Program staff for a long time. That makes Agnes an alum, and family. The Women in the Wilderness program is not a CCC program, but was founded by the CCC Foundation and has related goals to the CCC, and works in partnership with the CCC in some places, so that makes it an ally.

See how they relate?

Have a great weekend, and we’ll see you on Monday!

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