Woke up this morning in a sleeping bag in a tent. I could hear varied thrushes trying out rusty whistles, and the thump of Douglas-fir cones hitting the ground. Squirrels were high in the branches cutting the cones as industriously as possible. Later they would scamper down and carry them off one by one to secret hiding places. They will peel the cones apart and eat seeds all winter.
I had gotten up a couple times in the night. I always reach for my glasses when I go out, so I can see the stars. Seeing the night sky in the mountains is an experience to be treasured. Stand there and stare at the multitude of lights, feel a touch of the coldness of space, hear the echo of silence. Feel boggled, then go back to bed.
What got me up in the morning was the sound of Jon’s radio being turned on. That means the trail crew is back in touch with the world. Better get moving. We congregated at Rick’s place on the rock. A good place to gather, boil water for coffee and oatmeal. Plans for the day are tossed about, as well as random thoughts and accounts of the night. Did you hear the barred owls? They sound like they’re laughing, giggling, purring, trilling. They sound crazy. Did you see a headlamp wandering around? What was that guy doing?
When the sun slides over Polallie Ridge, the chill goes off the morning. Time to move out of camp. When the trail crew stays in the backcountry, there is an almost seamless transition from camp to work. The commute couldn’t be easier. Put on your pack, pick up your tools, put boots on the trail. We spend all day working together, then camp together. It’s an intimate sort of life–each year the group is different. We have to decide how much to know about each other, and how much to ignore. It usually works out OK, and we end up laughing a lot. It’s sort of like belonging to a pack, flock, or small tribe.
Now I’m home, having carried out backpack and tools, made the transition from foot travel to driving. Sometimes it’s a shock to come back. I have cleaned up, eaten, and am ready for sleep again. Tomorrow: vanquish the toxic sweaty laundry; shake the dirt and fir needles out of the sleeping bag; clean out the food bag.
P.S. The fire is still smoking in places. Smoke settles in the valleys after sunset, drains down the river bottom.