Along about the time I was finishing up that post about my experience fishing on the Nerka, I was simultaneously beginning to prepare for another summer on a lookout, back in Idaho, this time on the Payette National Forest on the Krassel Ranger District. Williams Peak is a relatively short knob above the confluence of the South Fork Salmon, East Fork of the South Fork Salmon, and Secesh Rivers. I had a handful of smokes, and fell in love hard with the South Fork country.
Following my season at Williams, my friend Krisi convinced me to go to Nepal with her, to do a trek in the Annapurna region. So I did.
After I returned, I went back to work at the North Cascades Institute (where I worked from 2007-2009), to fill in until a new sous chef could be hired. I had an excellent time.
Back in the saddle.
It snowed a ton in March, and a small avalanche in the gorge closed the highway for a few days. It was like being on lookout time--nowhere to go and nothing to do but Be Here Now.
I made a scat-shaped cookie for my beloved roommate-coworker and left it on her desk.
The sense of community I was surrounded by during those 3 1/2 months surpassed any I had had in my original 3 years. So very lucky and blessed!
I finally invested in my interest in plant medicine during the spring, and spent time in an herbal apprenticeship in the Skagit Valley and also in one in McCall. Plant medicine isn't something I talk about a lot, but hopefully I will begin to figure out how, as it has been an increasingly large part of my existence for years now.
In May I left for Idaho again, back to McCall and the beloved South Fork for the pre-lookout season, and then on up to yet another lookout, Sheepeater.
Williams Peak was staffed this summer by a most excellent fellow, Logan, and his sister's dog, Milo. Logan just happens to be from Packwood WA too. I got to go up and help open the LO with him, on an absolute beauty of a day.
So Sheepeater LO is out in the Frank Church Wilderness, the same wilderness as Sheep Hill. Just like Sheep Hill, it's good and remote. Elli and I (and all my gear) were flown to Chamberlain Guard station in the heart of the wilderness, and then hiked the 12 miles in to the LO, all the gear being brought later by the packmules. The beargrass was erupting for the first few weeks, absolutely everywhere.
Elli got to hide from a good number of thunderstorms
And gaze thoughtfully into the distance above the lakes
For the first time in four LO years, I had pints and pints of huckleberries, instead of tablespoons and tablespoons.
There were marvelous options for long hikes: down to Chamberlain to see the trail crew and drink their beer, adjoining ridges and bushwhacking unmaintained trails, and old lookouts like Chicken Peak, above.
Sometimes those hikes freaking whupped me by the time I got back.
More than once Elli and I found ourselves hiking in a storm. Missing strikes while on a day off is always a bummer.
Robin the (Awesomest) Packer (Ever).
One of the fancy meals, with venison provided by my good friend Chris, whom I worked with at Red River.
The neighbors: the Chamberlain trail crew, who visited me and hosted me when I visited. An excellent, intelligent and HARDworking group of folks. (Photo credit: Gabe Goff)
I spent the fall and early winter living in a sweet little mother-in-law shack in Sedro-Woolley, working at the Woolley Market, a new community market with all sorts of aspirations of goodness.
And then I came back to NCI. Again. It's great to be here, and I'll be here until early June, when it's back to Idaho and Sheepeater again.
The family was reunited.
Daily dog walks again feature Pyramid Peak from the town of Diablo.
My trusty commuter steed, Bikey, upon whom I partially separated my shoulder while commuting in 2008, is back in action.
My Ma turned 70. I made her a cake.
The beloved coworker-roommate-friend-little sister I never had left to work for an NPR station. I made her more scat. See how diverse my culinary skills are?
We tried to keep her from leaving by throwing ourselves on the hood of her car. It worked, for about 30 minutes.
And Spring has come to Diablo.
(Almost) the whole NCI family.