23 October 2010

Sheep Hill Lookout: 7/29 (cuz I missed it) and 8/1-8/7

Week 4 on Sheep Hill Lookout. Plus the 29th of July, because I forgot it last time. And it was an interesting day, as far as I'm concerned. I'm still not editing, outside of really minor things, so it's good the writing got better after that first week, eh?

I am more susceptible to the beauty of things. Just this moment: "turn, turn, to the rain and the wind / turn, turn, turn again." Thanks, Bob. And Timothy Egan's words sculpting the Northwest in the mythological real heartbreaking way. And Captain John Meares, 1778: "If that not be the home wherein dwell the Gods, it is beautiful enough to be, and therefore I call it Mount Olympus."

I talked to Jodie for around an hour, about God and faith, etc. Not a small bit strange how much of my reading has to do with the arena--some of it was intentionally chosen--but there's more than I thought, popping up in surprising places, and even old magazines here in the lookout come around to it again and again. And I read Dharma Punx again just before I came up here. Just letting things continue to stew/percolate/steep for awhile.

Having a phone and music makes such a huge difference in the ease to deal with the solitude (and distract from it, ech). In this way, I am a million miles from Snyder Kerouac Whalen, alone on their rock heaps in sunlight above Ross Lake. I may be in an area as remote, in its way, as they were then, but I can create company for myself at will.

I've never been so aware of the moon's position in the sky as I am here. It started as a thin crescent in the western sky, visible only before dark, and has swung all the way across the south windows, getting fatter all the time. Now it is heaving into sight, fat and orange, above the east horizon at 9:45 pm. [This here photo is yet another sunset, however. I didn't take a single moonrise photo.]
Winthrop, again: Mountains should be our noblest friends, our most exalting and inspiring comrades, 
our grandest emblems of divine power and divine peace."

A fairly plain day. Made Twin Mountain Muffins, and ate them with Ma's raspberry jam. Delicious. The dry eggs, once reconstituted, work amazingly well in recipes that call for creaming the sugar/butter/eggs. Will make some more chocolate chip cookies this afternoon, too.

The Three Prong Fire spotted hugely and went a little nuts this afternoon. About the same time, the Copper Fire on the Payette, and something over on, or beyond, the Bitterroot went off.
A hummingbird sat on my finger. It only lasted a few seconds--long enough for disbelief to flash into amazement, and for the hummingbird to bend over and stick its beak between my finger and the National Geographic I was holding--and then it was gone again.

Woke up this morning to a haze so thick that I couldn't see beyond about 8 miles. Now, at noon, I can just make out about 50-60% of my farthest skyline, but everything between 10 miles and that skyline is just a flat wash of different shades of blue. No smoke smell, though.

Got news that a former lookout, who was here in the 80s, will be up sometime this week. She brought her kids with her for the 9 years she was here. Just this morning I was thinking about how that sort of thing would work. Sleeping quarters, food, dishes, bathing, laundry, etc--for 4 people, instead of one.

Pizza for dinner! With beer! Sourdough crust, landjager, onion, soaked dried mushrooms, artichoke hearts. I screwed up the sauce a little--burned the garlic when I was sauteeing it--but didn't exactly slow me down. Literally giddy, I took about 20 photos. Every step of the way necessitated documentation. Here's just one.

Made chocolate cherry almond cookies, to share with visitors. The trail crew will be working along the ridge this week, and will bring me Josh's gin!

I did another 'load' of laundry, with Dr Bronner's only. Took just 5 gallons of water, and went really easily: just the way I thought it would go, last time. Even kinda fun.

This morning Elli and I went down to the upper Rattlesnake Lake. I was hoping to catch a trout with the lure and line here at the lookout, since my dumb ass didn't pack a fishing pole. Lots of columbine, elephant's head, scorpion weed/sky pilot, valerian, paintbrush, hellebore, etc blooming.

the lookout is visible, as the lump on the ridge, just about center.
The crawl down there was really kind of a pain in the ass, and so I was really hoping it would pay off in fish. Sadly, my setup was enormously ineffective, and the mosquitoes too obnoxious to allow me to tinker and brainstorm new solutions on the fly. Saw plenty of fish, scared a few, came nowhere near catching one. Around the lake was wet meadow, and wandering "ditches" of lake, about 1 1/2' across and 2-4' deep. A good mess from avalanches in places, too.  
And then came the hike back up. Holy kee-riste. Without breakfast, it kicked my ass. But it was really gorgeous down there.
Brown rice and lentils for dinner. Tastes like the North Cascades Institute, when I'd cook barley or brown rice with lentils and herbs as a side dish, but would eat just a big pile of it with yogurt for my own dinner. I wish that job could have been a little less heartbreaking. Goes back to eating "plain foods" at the Omega Institute, too--rice and beans and greens, and so happy, with a little nutritional yeast and Bragg's Aminos. Ditto, on the heartbreak, too.

YAHOO! My first fire! All my own! I no longer suck at my job. It is down on the Salmon, to the southwest of me, near Allison Bar. I couldn't see the base, it was tucked behind a little ridge, but apparently my coordinates were right on! Woo!

Jeff, from the trail crew, came up this evening to bring gin and a new door latch. He's the one who cheered me up and encouraged me on during the last half of the pack test. While I was horfing along in last place, I managed to trot to catch up to Jeff, and he kept me going with him--until we got to the last quarter mile, and he lit out--freaking took off. While he came in third to last, I know for a fact he didn't give a shit, and could have gone faster the whole damn time. Plus, it had to have felt good to smoke the living hell out of two people 10-30 years younger than himself. We shot the shit for a little while. He told me they should have named my fire the "Betsy Fire", in my honor (it's named the Big Eddy, 'cuz it's near the Big Eddy in the river). Then he and his horse went back down to camp. With brownies for the crew.

Last night I could see the glowing orange light from their campfire, away on a saddle in the dark. It was nice to feel like I had company, and it was comforting to be able to just lean forward on my glass-insulated chair and see the fire there in the night, while storm cell after storm cell moved by.
My "Two-In-One" washboard. My nearest guess to what purpose number two is? Musical instrument. Plus a photo from Ross Lake '06.

Last night was another big light show--had to give up and get out of bed around midnight to watch strikes, got back in around 2--sleep has been a little rare lately. Daylight breaks around 4:30 or so, remarkably early when you've slept for crap and are in and out of consciousness all night, keeping a few brains cells aware of the proximity of lightning. I can doze, waiting for stuff to move in from the west or south, until it gets close enough.

Sheep Hill Chocolate Chip Cookies
post-lookout-ily named, since I developed the recipe there. a little extra salty, since chocolate and salt are so durn tasty together. You'll probably want to double the recipe, since there may be more than one of you, or you may have more to do than make cookies twice a week, or because it's good to have lots of cookies around...or because the recipe calls for a half an egg.

1 stick (1/4#) Butter
1/2 cup Dark Brown Sugar
1/4 cup Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
1/2 egg (1T powder, 2T water)
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp Baking Soda (1/4 tsp at 8400' above sea level)
1 cup Flour (1 1/4 cup at 8400')
1/2 cup Walnuts, small pieces (or Almonds, and 1/2 cup dry Montmorency Cherries)
1 cup Chocolate (chunked dark Trader Joe's Pound Plus, if you're being authentic)
*Cream Butter and Sugar. Cream in Vanilla and Egg.
*Stir in dry ingredients. 
*Bake at 375 degrees F until done. Makes about a dozen big (4") cookies.  

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