Volunteering deepens a connection to the land

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As a volunteer land steward, Wendy Hadley is responsible for MDLT’s 470-acre spectacular Flat Top Mesa property.

Being a land steward gives you an excuse to visit this kind of beauty! Photo: Wendy Hadley

By Wendy Hadley, Mojave Desert Land Trust Volunteer

I have lived in Pioneertown in the Mojave Desert for eight years. Recently, I realized that in spite of a good and busy life, I was longing to connect more with my community and dedicate some time to volunteer work. I am passionate about our beautiful desert landscape, so I decided to check out the Mojave Desert Land Trust’s volunteer opportunities.

I was excited to discover their volunteer land steward program. Land steward volunteers are trained and help monitor MDLT protected land by visiting assigned areas periodically, conducting visual site inspections, and collecting simple data to keep a record of land changes or problems (primarily human disturbances such as trash dumping, fire setting and vehicle damage).

Start of a site visit. Photo: Wendy Hadley

I took on responsibility for Flat Top Mesa, a 470-acre property in Pipes Canyon near my home. Committing to monitor this land finally got me motivated to get out and explore a place I had always wanted to check out.

Along the trail to the top of Flat Top Mesa

I started visiting the land earlier this year. It has been fun to get to know the area, learn the land, and track the data and photo points. It is a large area to cover, with quite a rugged hike to access most of the land, so I take several hour hikes over a couple of days to complete the site visit. This area has limited cell service and is pretty remote, so, I do the monitoring with a partner.

Land Steward partners on the Job (author on the left with Reva Bush).

I last visited my MDLT land in July, on a wonderfully cool early morning before the sun rose above Flat Top Mesa. Sometimes life gets busy and I forget to make time to get out in nature and hike, and I hadn’t been out hiking for some time until that morning. The land was so beautiful, quiet, and undisturbed, and the morning so comfortably cool (a rarity in the hot desert summers), that at one point I just stopped in my tracks and had a good cry.

Hiking in nature can have that effect on me. I asked myself “what took you so long to get back out onto this beautiful land?” It was a release, and a reminder that no matter the difficult things going on in my life or our world, this natural environment is here to admire and escape to.

View from the trail hiking up to the top of the MDLT land — with my favorite desert plant (desert trumpet). Photo: Wendy Hadley

Our amazing Mojave Desert lands have been here for such a long time and will hopefully still be here long after we are gone, as long as we have communities, people, volunteers, and organizations like MDLT to care to protect it. I can’t wait to get back out there!

Here’s why you should become a volunteer ranger