05 November 2010

Sheep Hill Lookout: Sunday 8/8-Saturday 8/14

I just experienced my first bout of deja vu since I've been at the lookout: Pappani [My boss, who'd been sent to AK my first week of work, and broke his leg badly immediately upon return, and I hadn't seen or talked to since those first early days] is flying with Nez Patrol [fire patrols from the air, flown once or twice a day in high fire danger], and he spotted a fire to the west of me. Its azimuth is at about 277 degrees. I went out on the catwalk with binoculars to see if I could find it (I couldn't). While I was squinting through the binocs, leaning on the north wall of the L.O., I realized that I had been right there, looking at exactly that, before.

I made really good bread today. I don't bake a lot of loaf-style sandwich bread, but this stuff is good. The original recipe is honey maple oat bread, but it became honey brown sugar rolled mixed grain bread instead.

The trail crew came through today, working to the south of the lookout. They brought up 4 cubies of water for me, on the mules. Hard to say how grateful I am for that. They're a pretty funny mix of guys. Young hippie, 30s-ish redneck, quieter hermit-y older guy, and skinny redneck hippie cross.

Elli and I walked down the trail to the south, and then out the hogback ridge that goes off to the west and overlooks Goat Lake. Beautiful. An old burn, all wildflowers and meadowy-open.

foggy stormy cold (48 degrees inside!) morning
with wood stove and lapsong souchong
am warm, and warmed

long slanting sunlight evening
hot light crashing through the west windows
gin and lemonade with ice(!)
am cool, and soothed

(took me awhile to realize what this reminded me of--Whalen:)

 ...I'm alone in a glass house on a ridge
Encircled by chiming mountains
With one sun roaring through the house all day
& the others crashing through the glass all night
-from Sourdough Mountain Lookout

(Philip says it a lot better than I.)

Mountain goat! Such a funny spot--while it is rocky and steep, this is still awfully gentle land for a goat. It was just standing out by the helipad, stock-still. I got a good look (but never long enough, are they?) and then it wheeled around and bounded off the east edge of the north ridge.

We hiked all the way over to the camp above Lake Creek Lakes this morning. At Dead Man's Saddle we turned and went a little way down toward Bargamin, and to use a cheesy-ass phrase, it was enchanted. Beautiful rock and wildflowers, twisting intriguing 'what's around the next bend?' trail, and silvery-bright light from the overcast sky. And, I noticed the grave at Dead Man's Saddle. Whoa. Nobody's ever mentioned there actually having been a dead man there, or his grave, or any other story. Most curious. [No one could ever tell me anything. Boo.]

"...and rare is a market for minor produce: a bucket of cream, a hen, a few dozen eggs. One cannot [legally] sell milk from a couple of  cows anymore; the law-required equipment is too expensive. Those markets were done away with in the name of sanitation, for which there is apparently no small or cheap technology. Future historians will no doubt remark on the inevitable association, with us, between sanitation and filthy lucre. And it is one of the miracles of science and hygiene that the germs that used to be in our food have been replaced by poisons."  -Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America.


This evening Elli started woofing under her breath at something while she was inside. So I let her out, and she immediately started barking, but I realized too late that it was the mountain goat. It was way down the ridge to the north, and just walked on out out of sight. After that, Elli really started going nuts, so I was worried that she saw or smelled something I didn't. It took me a while to realize that she was getting a complete echo of her own bark from way off in the distance, and so thought there was a dog somewhere going off at her. Now it's been 5 or more minutes since I got her inside, and she's still glaring out the windows and 'hwoofing' quietly. That other dog must have really talked some trash.

...It was one of those things. The crescent of the moon peaked between torn clouds, and then slipped below the horizon with no sign of its planetary companions. But then the darker it got, the clearer the sky became, and I knew that if I didn't do something  about it, it would be a waste of this life here on earth. So I took my pillow and sleeping bag to the roof, and watched and giggled and reminisced about Stargazings of My Life, as lightning flashed on the far northern horizon, and cold wind buffeted me, and shooting stars shot.

tonight I lie on the roof 
of my lookout watching
for shooting stars

ten years ago, we lay side-by-side
on blankets on a small ridge at
the foot of the tetons
and you asked if I ever saw the stars dance
and laughed when I couldn't
figure out your trick to see
but I could see magic + light 
in your perfect fingernails

tonight, I laugh
because the moment I thought
of that night stargazing 
with you
a bright star jumped + swirled 
and danced at last

Late yesterday afternoon I got a radio call from Sam, he's over on Boston Mountain for his days off. Today Jeff arrived. He took off from the compound last night after work and biked to Whitewater Ranch, about 25 miles up and down across drainages above Red River, before dropping all the way down to the Salmon River. He made it a few miles further, to Yellow Pine Bar, before camping. By nine this morning, he had already gone 6 or 7 miles from camp, when he called on the radio to tell me that he was heading up my trail from the river. He arrived here at noon, with another 9-12 miles under his belt. I made him a grilled cheese with that tasty bread, and gave him some chocolate chip cookies to go, as he headed on north, to Dead Man's Saddle, west to Bargamin Creek and back south to the Salmon, where he thinks he'll camp before riding back to the F.S. in the morning.

The sad news is that it's the last time I'll see him. He, and nearly the entirety of the Red River, Elk City and Dixie crews are done at the end of next week and are headed back to college. I thought that by being done on September 2nd, I'd be out of work before most of them and they'd still be around. So bummed.

Definitely getting autumn-y. The afternoon light just...is. It's the wind, too. So I popped open the 22 of Joshie Smithington's beer in honor of the beginning of my favorite season.

Nothing of terrific excitement today, though I did finish the puzzle that Steve and Leslee gave me. Making bread again. Have completed a set of 4 Fat Tire beer can 'glasses'. I'll go for a complete six-pack, to be my contribution to the lookout. There is one glass here, and about 20 mugs. Well, not anymore.

Honey Rolled Grain Bread
2 1/4 to 2 1/2 cups boiling water
1 cup thick rolled grain flakes (or just oats)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1 T honey
4 T butter
1 T salt
1 T yeast
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
4 cups white flour

-Combine water, grain, sugar, honey, butter and salt in mixing bowl . Let cool to lukewarm. 
-Add yeast and flours. Knead 10 minutes by hand, or 5-7 by machine. Rise 1 hour, or until doubled.
-Divide in to two pieces, and shape each into a loaf. Place into well-greased 8 /12" x 4 1/2" bread pans, rise another hour. 
-Bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes. Nice and golden brown.

I only made a half recipe at the lookout. Since I've been home, I've been rolling the loaves in a mixture of black and white sesame seeds and poppy seeds before final rise in the pans. I've also been trying out putting 1/4-1/3 cup of millet into the dough, but it needs to soak in water overnight, or extra-long in the boiling water mixture, or it's pretty crunchy. 


  1. sheep hill, shissler on world wide web...how do you copy? so i stumbled upon this and thought i'd say hello. did you make it to BC to canoe? i hope so. sounds like you had phone service (and did you have internet too) this summer? wonder what that was like, little shissler didnt even have propane. it was great to hear another female voice on the forest this summer and seems like you enjoyed yourself. think you'll come back 2011? hard to return to the rest of the workforce after life on a peak. are ya in idaho for the winter months or wachington or...? we're sticking around red river area to watch the snow fall. if you're around it'd be great to drink some tea and talk about many things. hope all is splendid where you are p.s. dont mean to be a butt-head but in the post on 8/8 a certain trail crew member is labeled a "hippie" thought it worth mentioning that so called "hippie" (and me) have spent a few consecutive days in the frank church wilderness cutting trail and building rock retaining walls (our longest stretch 119 days solid without coming out * trail season 2008) sorry but "hippie" came off as such a foul word. :)with so many more adjectives to choose from im sure there is a more accurate label out there. anyway, hope you're doing so well out there, where ever it may be. stay warm and embrace all that life has to offer. "when you get to the top of the mountain, keep climbing"- kerouac happy trails-shissler

  2. Loud and clear, Shissler!! Oh man, Laura, you just made my day! I didn't know Shissler didn't have propane! I knew that Gardiner had gotten it, and I thought you did, too. I was really fancy-pants--not even remotely roughing it. Oregon Butte and I both had phone service, and oddly enough, when there were low pressure systems, I sometimes had good enough cell service to get internets on my phone. Weird, truly.

    I'm back in WA. The trip to BC was lovely, although the weather was less than choice, it was an awesome trip.

    You are certainly not a butthead, and I certainly feel like one, because I definitely mean no harm with the term hippie. I paused over that, on typing it, because in my journal, I had tried to describe the crew a little more aptly, and it sounded clumsy. So I resorted back to the caricatures. I had just had a lovely talk that evening (that I wrote that) with Max about Kerouac and roll-yer-owns, amongst other things. Labeling Jeff with it too was a cheapening of the fondness for which I applied it to your trail fellow. How's about sweet awesome backcountry badass(es)? That's one hell of a trail season! I'm so stoked to hear from you. I have been daydreaming of ID, and am jealous you're there for the Red River Winter! Go into the office and get my phone number (or my brother's). I can't think of any other way to get a hold of you without putting my info here. (I am on the facebook crazy-land, too). Hope to hear from you soon. Cheers! Sheep Hill

  3. that was quick! instant communication after not having it for awhile is super fun isnt it? :) i think it's really great that you posted a journal of sheep hill up here. do you ever try to explain to folks what you did and you get the glazed over eye look and a lot of head nods? haha well this is an incredible presentation of your season. and lady, no matter what, living completely alone in the largest wilderness outside of alaska IS roughing it, for sure. no sally nancy pants about it- propane or no. there were many morning i wished i could've just boiled water for oats and coffee without the whole lookout heating up from the woodstove. shissler is so short that no phone picks up any tower at all. i had to stand on the heli-pad (with a tin foil hat) to call my boss on the satellite phone a few times. pain in the booty. i did wish badly to communicate to my friends at times though, but now im making up for it. that mountain goat picture is amazing! i remember you telling margret one morning for check in "i just got my first goat visitor" and it was so exciting to hear that. even more now that we can see photos! did you ever talk to janet on long tom on the SNF? she is my hero. :) she raised her kids on the lookout and getting to work nearby her last year on pinyon peak was challenging, she can see smoke like nobody's business :) glad to hear you made it to BC! where abouts did you canoe? that is something max and i aspire to do, he finally got his passport like a week ago so anything is possible.
    oh man, i will absolutely get your digits from the office, i dont have a facebook thingie, but my email is: itdoesntexist@gmail.com so drop me a line there if ya wanna. max and i might be around the WA area and it's be the coolest to drink a brew and laugh a bit. so good to see this journal again, betsy fine presentation. and no worries about the hippie shtuff, you know how it is around elk city & red river :) so good to hear from you again! hope to see ya around sometime these winter months, -shissler peak