06 October 2010

First week on Sheep Hill: Sunday 7/11-Saturday 7/17

Well, here we go at last! I'll make entries from time to time, excerpting from the summer's log. If you're bored to hell, let me know. I don't know that it will make for interesting reading.

Waiting to light at the prescribed burn. James, the Oregon Butte Lookout, is to left of me.
Tim, Jeff, Morgan, Luke and I camped at Dry Saddle. Mosquitoes out of control--distracting completely from a gorgeous evening and sunset. After so long, back and forth, going? not going? yes? no? We are up here extremely suddenly. Today we attempted a prescribed burn at American River Stewardship. It exploded on test lighting, and that was the end of that, other than several hours of mop up. We then headed back to Red River, slammed everything into our packs, and headed out. 

Hiked in, only 9.5 miles, took about 5 hours, going pokily. Opened the L.O.--window shutters off, plastic off everything inside, hook up propane, voltage regulator not working on solar, by-pass, electricity(!) to power F.S. radio, iPod and phone: on. 

Smoke from American Stew units that we burned last week took off. The smoke looked so much closer to L.O. than it is--we all misjudged the distance. However, now I have some idea of where Elk City is from here. Looked as though this was just behind ridge of Boston Mountain, just a few miles away.

We all hauled water up from Sheep Spring, about a 1/2 mile down to S-SW saddle. Packboard killed me, and my lower back. Hauling water just might not be very fun. Kicked my ass, for only being around 40# of weight. Tarred roof, caulked S and W windows. Struggled to orient firefinder, which was at least a couple of degrees off. Stressful, as I already feel like I have huge potential to suck at my job, and being a whole or half section (1 or 1/2 mile) off when I call in a fire is one sure way.

Adam and Biggs arrived around 2 PM, with a 4-hour hike time. They rode their dual sports over from WA. Brought 5 liters wine (Kevin: "What's the deal with Merlot? What does 'Merlot' mean?" Me: "Merlot is like the Chardonnay of the red wine world." Kevin "What the fuck does that mean?"), kale, carrots, onion. And their wonderful selves.

What seven people in one 16'x16' house looks like
Biggs and Adam rose to challenge set by Tim's assistant crew leader, and haul 3 Cubies (~130lbs of water) apiece up from the spring. Cole said it couldn't be done, and Cole is always right. Couple that with the fact that Adam and Biggs will rise to any challenge, and voila. While that was going on, Tim's crew re-roofed the pooper. Beauty.
Packer was  scheduled to arrive today, didn't make it. MREs are getting old. So, the boys all scrambled down to Rattlesnake Lakes (E-SE of lookout) and caught 14 cutthroat with fly rod, spinner rod, corn, flannel shirt and with spear made from pocket knife tied to a stick. Baked with Montreal Steak Seasoning, found in cupboard, and served with ramen noodles with kale, onion, carrot and parmesan; meal highly appreciated by all!

Biggs, Adam, Jeff and Morgan left in AM. Packer finally arrived around 6 PM. Yahoo for real food! Well, sort of. We had Annie's Mac and Cheese with chili, and Newman-Os for dessert.
Quert the Packer finally arrives with all my summer goods

After rationing coffee up to now, I made a huge, strong pot, and it tasted frigging excellent. Tim, Luke and packer all left around 7 AM. Finally alone! I cleaned, sorted, put away all day.

Jim at Sheepeater Lookout (nearly 20 miles SW of me) called asking for help with a smoke he couldn't see well from his location. It was weird, dusty looking stuff, and all spread along a pocket of land, with no distinct base or column. Dutch, over at Pilot Knob, suggested that it was pine pollen. Whatever it was, it subsided by afternoon. Good practice, trying to figure out its location! And nice meeting the neighbors. 

I can see Sheepeater, Oregon Butte, Pilot Knob and Salmon Mountain, which are all staffed, without getting out the binoculars. I can also see Arctic Point, Burnt Knob, Green Mountain, Elk Summit and Spot Mountain,  which are not staffed any longer. I'm not sure just how many other lookouts I can hear on the radio--on our forest, probably around 10. Add in the Payette, the Salmon, the Bitterroot, the Clearwater, and the Challis, and holy crap. That's a lot of lookouts. One in particular stands out. She calls herself "Smokey's Girl," and apparently "Smokey" is her sweetie, another lookout, who is too far away to come in on my radio. So I only get her side of the conversation, which is hollered, obnoxious, nauseating. "Smokey, this is Smokey's Girl!" (Two seconds later, before Smokey has a chance to walk the 8 feet to where his radio is probably resting on the firefinder stand:) "SMOKEY! You got your ears on?!" (Smokey presumably gets a chance to respond, then:) "Hey! Me and "Mad Dog" (apparently, her dog at the lookout with her) are going for a walk!"...."Yeah! She really likes the snow fields!"...."Oh, she just rolls around and then takes a poop!" (Carried on for a while, and always one of a variety of conversations that occur the same way every day, during work hours, and apparently oblivious to the fact that the entire Forest-worth of lookouts can freaking hear her every hollered word)...."Okay! I love you, baby! Smokey's Girl out!" Dee-lightful. Tim was ready to choke her after about two hours the very first day. {I had no idea, for about 3 weeks, who she was, because she never talked 'properly' on the radio, never said her actual station name or call letters. As the summer went on, she must have had a progressively stronger set of talkings-to, because she became tolerably professional by the time September rolled around.}

Glacier Lilies and those tiny-ass huckleberries (grouse berries?) the main greenery so far. 2 large snow patches around lookout. Ladybug hatch yesterday and today.

Hauled water with a different packboard today: holy shit, comfort. Relatively speaking, anyway. Compared to the last two times I hauled water, I practically ran up the mountain today. 

Started sprouts, fed sourdough, soaked beans. Nido (whole powdered milk) is good. Took shower, using Solar Shower to heat the water: two black bags, with a total of 5 gallons water placed in sun for 3+ hours equals a decent shower! If I could turn the wind off, I'd really be in heaven. 

Penstemon blooming on S-SE ridge. Lilies getting tired. Phlox, shooting stars, heather starting up. Golden-mantled ground squirrels, chipmunks, pikas. Birds of prey on thermals, don't know which yet. Hummingbirds buzzing at north and west windows. Wish I had a feeder. 

NOTE: If'n you feel like it, you can check out Biggs' blog about his and Adam's adventure to visit me.
Thanks, Tim, Jeff and Morgan--I borrowed a picture from each of you.


  1. well, tenses and such are all jacked up...maybe I'll pay more attention to editing, next time.

  2. Pah: it reads like a story-to-self, log, Dick Proenneke goodness. Mas, por favor.

    It sounds like you were seeing far, far too many people. WTF?