Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Our suburban is bad karma on wheels apparently. Last week, we got a flat tire ten minutes into our weekly commute. We pulled the suburban and the trailer off to the side of the highway, and it took us an hour to get the spare on. One of the other crews rode by and stopped, but they couldn't do much as there were already six of us there. Luckily, the spare lasted the entire week, even over the bumpy, pothole-plagued logging roads.

Our streak of bad luck was still going this week. We leave base camp at seven on Saturday mornings, and by this Saturday, it'd been raining for at least 24 hours. The team vehicles are also parked in a lawn area. So when we tried to pull out of the yard, with the trailer attached, we pretty much just sunk into the mud. We tried putting boards under the rear tires (rear-wheel drive), rocking the car, and just pushing, and we eventually got it out. Maybe our car troubles are retribution for not having to live in tents for three weeks . . .

There's not much else to say about this past week. We're still at Flagstaff. The weather's still gloomy. We're still sidehilling. One day, though, we got to load lumber into a boat, so it could be transported across the river to the bridge site. It was cold, wet day, and the lumber was delivered late. The good part was that we got a boat ride afterwards, instead of having to hike in. I got soaked, though, because the boat was tiny! Also, the lake is man-made, and it flooded three towns, so I spent the boat ride trying to look under the water to see if I could see any church steeples or roofs of houses . . . no luck. The water was too dark and churny. Other than that, though, it's been business as usual.

As for my reading list: I finished Soul of the Fire (SoT, book 5). Not my favorite in the series, but I'm looking forward to book six. My cousins sent me Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, which I'm super stoked to read. And a few of us made a trip into Bangor today, where we visited three used book stores. I bought a few things - a book of Edith Wharton short stories, a book of poetry by Sara Teasdale, Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, and The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. So I should have enough books to keep me occupied for a while. :)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Our living accomodations for this project are posh. We're staying in a ski lodge! It was built in the seventies, but some trail groups and hikers objected to the idea of this mountain becoming a ski/resort area, so the plan was basically abandoned but the lodge was never torn down. So now it's used for groups like us, who come through every once in a while.

As cool as living in a tent is, there have been no complaints about the lodge. There are enough rooms that we each get our own, we get to eat at an actual table, and there's a decent-sized fireplace in the living area. Our evenings are usually spent sipping hot chocolate, reading, and chatting around the fire. Also, it rained the first three days we were there. We got so much pleasure out of just sitting inside and basking in the fact that we weren't out in the rain, or out sleeping in tents. Like I said: nothing to complain about!

Our project is at Flagstaff Lake. We're working on a relocation, in order to get the AT away from the snow mobile trails and to get the new section closer to the lake. It's a lot of sidehilling, which is basically cutting into a hill to make a flat trail. We also got to bring out the grip hoist to pull out tree stumps. You hook two ends up to tree trunks and use a pulley system to crank the stump right out of the ground. It's a little less cool than it sounds (because it can get anticlimactic), but it's still pretty cool.

So, what have I been reading? I finished Stardust (Neil Gaiman) and Sunfall (Aiden Bell), both fantasy books. My sister sent me the next two Sword of Truth books for my birthday, and I'm already about 60 pages into book five. I've also started another Neil Gaiman book called Neverwhere, and I've recently read some short stories by Arthur C. Clarke and Edith Wharton. Aaaand I also picked up a nonfiction book called Battlestar Galactica and Philosophy (because I'm really that dorky!). So I'm pretty much living the good life when it comes to reading. I just need to remember to bring more than one book next week, in case I finish the first too early!

This morning, we all decided to wake up at four o'clock to walk down to the lake to see the sunrise. No one really knew what time the sun rose, so we ended up waiting for almost an hour, but it was definitely an experience. I got some pictures, which I hope turn out well. After about ten minutes of staring at a slowly-lightening skyline, we all kind of shifted on the uncomfortable rocks we were sitting on and went, "Uh . . . I don't think we needed to wake up this early." But when the sun finally rose, it was definitely worth it. I think I'm hitting the sack early tonight though!

That's really all I can think of right now. I'm sure I'll remember what else I meant to say as I soon as I leave. Hopefully I'll update again soon. Take care!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I've seen a moose, and my life is complete.

This week was fairly similar to last week - setting stepping stones, living in a tent, etc - but there were definitely some highlights. Since it was our last week at Rainbow Lake, we had to pack out our tools and all our kitchen gear, which means a two-hour hike to the suburban with lots of weight in our packs. We lost a few team members to WFA training, plus our team leader to a site visit. Because of low numbers, we decided to carry out the tools the night before. It took us approximately four hours round-trip, but there are some experiences that definitely make things like that worthwhile.

And seeing a female moose and her calf about twenty feet away is one of those. The assistant team leader and I were hiking back to camp after dropping off the tools when he noticed some movement off the trail near the lake. Sure enough, two enormous, magnificent moose came traipsing out of the trees, right onto the path. Our reactions were basically: "Do you see that?" It was pretty amazing - very quick and hard to take in at the moment, but definitely amazing to see a creature that big and that fantastic up close.

Of course, I couldn't get my camera out in time and no one believes us! But anyways, the rest of the week was regular work. We've got a few days off, so we'll probably go into Acadia tomorrow and maybe Bangor on Friday. Then we head to Flagstaff Lake next week. We apparently get to stay in a never-used ski lodge. I won't freeze at night, we have electricity to cook, and we can get away from the bugs! Sounds perfect!

Until next time!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

I'm clean!

Today was our weekly shower, and it was heavenly. We trekked back from our camp site to our car, which took us about two hours (my feet were dying in my water-logged steel-toed boots), and then drove about three hours back to base camp. It took us so long because half of the way back we were driving on logging roads, which are filled with pot holes and ruts. Very bumpy. Also, we have to get out of the way when a logging truck comes by. We only met one, but it was flying. Luckily, we were yielding and not already on the road, because we might have been toast if he hadn't seen our relatively tiny suburban because of the dust or if he just hadn't stopped in time.

Anyways, our work week started on Saturday. We were the first team out, pulling out of base camp just around 7 A.M. After the five-hour commute (car and hike), we finally arrived at our campsite. Our tools got flown in, which was fantastic (but we have to carry them back out next week . . .). Apparently Rainbow Lake is a very popular fishing spot, but it's remote, so a lot of fishermen get flown out in tiny planes. After setting up camp and eating lunch, we hiked another mile along the AT to our work site, checked it out, and learned what our job was from our supervisor (who is just . . . beyond words. A description will have to wait for a later time, lol).

Sunday was the start of actual work. Up at 6, starting at 7. My sleep schedule has completely turned around. We go to sleep around nine. One night we actually turned in around 7 PM because it was raining and we didn't really have anything else to do (I got a lot of reading done that night!). So we dug a ditch and drain the first day. It's basically a really long hole that builds the trail a little to the side and allows the water to drain better. Then we rip-rapped it, which is placing rocks along the side.

This section of the AT is pretty mucky, so our big job is to set a lot of step stones. That's basically what we did Monday and Tuesday. We quarried huge rocks in the area, which is a long process because they're deep in the ground and it takes a few of us to move them (with rock bars, webbing, and sometimes pure physical strength or frustration). And digging the holes for them is sometimes tough because the path is either covered with roots or it's buried in the mud, so you can't see what you're doing. Either way, it takes a while. We ended up setting about 13 stones altogether. We're supposed to do about 40 in all, I think, so we have next week to reach that goal.

The bugs were pretty horrendous. No wonder God sent flies to Egypt. Crikey. We were lured into a false sense of security at base camp, because it's such a nice atmosphere. But then we landed at our campsite for work, and they just swarmed on us within a minute. I don't think our bug nets came off for more than a few minutes at a time (they're nets they you wear on your head - very attractive - very tricky to eat under - and they don't completely keep the bugs out). We were forced to eat dinner while walking in a circle some nights, because if we sat still, they'd attack us. Our only respites were when it rained (like on Sunday and Monday) or when the weather was cooler. Hopefully we'll be a bit more prepared next week, but today, I think I have at least a hundred bites on various parts of my body. Fun!

I should go. The library closes in 45 minutes and I want to see if they've got some good books. I finished the first section of Little Dorrit this week, so I want to take a break from Dickens for a while, give something else a shot. Maybe I'll finish the fourth SoT book! :) I have off until Friday evening, so hopefully I'll get a chance to update again in more detail! Until then, live long and prosper!