08 October 2010

Sheep Hill Lookout: Sunday 7/18-Saturday 7/24

Week Two, at Sheep Hill.
Sourdough Pita, started yesterday, is sadly only so-so. I let it over-proof, I think. Extra-sour, texture off, didn't puff open, and I burned most of them in the cast-iron skillet. I'm still learning the heat settings on the stove. Seems like there's high, med-high, and low.
Had snack of Chicken Salad, on american flag placemat, and popped a popper to celebrate: all gifts from the Smithingtons.
Read all day, outside of washing part of the windows, cooking, and doing check looks. Finished Extremely Loud And Incredibly Close, am reading Merle's Door. Tonight some loneliness is creeping in--a little off balance, altogether. Don't know how to alleviate the pressure of worry that I won't do well at my job when lightning and fires start. Am mildly concerned, despite my belief otherwise, that I'll go fucking nuts before this is over, but am simultaneously very sad that I have less than two months up here. Am missing Devon like hell, of course. It's nice hearing everybody on the radio, knowing the faces and characters behind the voices of our crews. 

Arnica starting to bloom, or yellow aster (is arnica a yellow aster? seems extremely likely, will look it up). The Space Station is visible in the East late at night; it is brighter, and creepier, than any star or planet.

Black bear at 0615! Headed down east side of ridge, toward Rattlesnake Lakes, a hundred yards or so from lookout. Elli saw it first, growled and stood up and stared out the window at it. Nice cinnamon-y color. 

1100- First visitor, a guy from Fish & Game, who's been making terrible check-ins with Grangeville all week. I had no idea he was out here. He and his coworker didn't know the lookout was staffed, either. They've been getting eaten alive by mosquitoes down at Lake Creek Lakes camp. They're doing non/native trout and frog counts in the alpine lakes. I gave them some DEET. 

Windows nearly done, aside from inside corner above bed, where Elli always lies. And smears her nose, when checking out what's going on outside. Hauled water.
On our morning walk, I counted the rings on this log. About 280 years old, with a 32" diameter. Impressive for 8400'! It was also my first experience cross-cutting--Tim, Luke and I cut it out before they left.

Finished windows! Decided sourdough pitas are better than first thought, and will be even better with a shorter, colder rise and being rolled instead of stretched. Plus some more salt. 

Saw a yellow-bellied marmot on rocks south of L.O. While I sat outside in the sun, on the west side of the catwalk, smoking my first roll-yr-own cigarette of my stay, a hummingbird flew up. At first I was astonished how close it was--just a few feet away. Then it flew up to about 6-8 inches away from my face, and hovered there. I was half nervous that any move I made would scare it off, and half scared that it would decide to stab me in the eyeball with its sharp little beak. 

The map on the firefinder is at least as old as I am. The Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness wasn't dedicated until 1980. Previously (and as the map displays), the area where I am, where Sheep Hill is, was the Salmon River Breaks Primitive Area, and across the Salmon to the south was just the Idaho Primitive Area. It isn't as old as I thought it might be, though. 

Another yellow-bellied marmot lumbering around to the south today. Glad I saw them at Palouse Falls--I don't think I've ever seen anything besides a Hoary before.

Flashes of dry lightning
Away in the dark
Clouds that built + shifted all day
Amounted to nothing here--
Shissler + Gardiner are having
A more animated night than I

The lookout's moonshadow
Stretches to the north
My mind bright to match the night, from reading
Rexroth McNulty Green + Snyder. I
Try to sleep on Sheep Hill Lookout

Day off. Hauled 20-plus gallons of snow melt-water. Strung clothesline on west side of catwalk. Rearranged the shower set-up, and took one hurriedly as the clouds moved in on a previously warm day--I had done all my chores in a bikini top and skirt, and finished the day in pants and fleece.Washed dishes, aired bedding and brushed Elli--holy shit, what a mess of fur. 
Started drinking Pendleton whiskey in the afternoon, wrote a postcard or two. Paraphrase of one: "A good day off, mildly toastered on whiskey, elevation + hard work at 2 in the afternoon--perhaps join with classic lookout behavior and roll a smoke for the afternoon sun-soak. A tad windy, tho--an inexperienced smoker such as myself will have to watch out."

Clouds really piled up in the afternoon, but didn't build to storms. They moved in from N-NW instead of S-SW as its been up to now. 

Hiked down to Sheep Spring Lake (S of L.O., on other side of saddle from spring where I get water) with Elli before work--25 minutes down, 25 minutes up! 520' feet elevation, 1/2 mile on trail, 1/4 mile off. On the way down, Elli chased the first deer I've seen, though the tracks are on the trails every morning. Down at the lake, Elli stared hard across the water, then barked, put her ruff up, and then wheeled and ran off a few yards before turning and barking again. I tried hard to see what she saw, particularly since it might be something above us on the food chain, but never saw anything. She carried a huge stick nearly to the lookout from the saddle, until she flushed a grouse, and forgot all about the stick.

Sweet jeebus, laundry sucked, if only because my dumb ass used the Tide in the drawer, instead of the Dr. Bronners I packed. Hours. Hours of work, mostly trying to rinse the damn soap out, and then refilling all the snow water I had used. Setting up the wringer was a pain in the ass, too. Think I'll start going naked more often.

Josh (my neighbor and friend from Blaine) and the rest of the Gentlemen's Outdoor Society Of Moscow will be here sometime today. After drinking beers last night in Moscow, they didn't leave as early as they'd planned. I figure I'll see them around 1700. It is a reunion tour for GOSOM, a group formed while the 3 of them were in graduate school.

Arrived! They brought Elli drugs, and me colored pencils, a shit-ton of produce and fruit! Wahoo!! Forgot the gin and Riesen candies, though. Sad, sad. Josh did bring Moose Drool in cans, a 22 of his beer, and a bag of wine. Forgiven.

GOSOM is Awesome!
Josh also brought me my copy of The Dharma Bums:
"let the mind beware, that though the flesh be bugged, 
the circumstances of life are pretty glorious."
Pretty apt, and also impressively optimistic for ol' Jack. 

When the boys left, I missed Devon so much I cried. 

Oh, big thing I forgot about yesterday: my brother, Tim, got engaged! He drove his girlfriend (who had flown out from Michigan for a visit) to the top of Burnt Knob and popped the question. They called on the radio to tell me that he'd gotten an "Affirmative", and then flashed me with the signal mirror. 

Just spotted first wildfire: shat pants. Turns out it's the Copper Fire, and started yesterday. It is more than 20 miles south, behind two ridges, on the Payette Forest, so out of my jurisdiction. I wonder if I should have been able to see it before now. Jim on Sheepeater says it wasn't super-active yesterday, so hopefully I really don't suck at my job. 

Butterflies, flies, mosquitoes, gnats, ladybugs, etc all over the place today. Marmots. Deer down where the packer slept and fed his horses. Stir fry with kale, corn, carrot, onion and bell pepper, over rice. Thanks, GOSOM.

{As my friend, KAP, observed, there were a shit-ton of people around in these first 13 days. When GOSOM left, the last of my friends who were planning to visit for the summer were gone. No more visits to look forward to, but plenty of quiet time!)

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