We got up around 5:00 AM last Sunday and made the drive from naturamother's house, in Lewiston, down to Cascade, which is about four hours. The car was drastically overloaded and I was worried we were going to blow a tire or drive off the road, but it all went fine. Pan had adjusted to travel pretty well at that point, but he got his happy pill in McCall just the same.
We arrived at Arnold Aviation and dropped our stuff on the tarmac, and my car breathed a huge sigh of relief. Then we had about an hour to go to the local grocery store, both to buy our perishables, and also so I could take a survey of their inventory so I had a better idea of my food ordering options for the summer (I didn't get to do this in 2002). The fact that they have our favorite chocolate soy milk, for example, is worth knowing.
The flight was thankfully uneventful. Arnolds is flying a lot of carpentry supplies into the station right now because the Lewis cabin is getting completely gutted and fixed up, so they had two planes going in today, and they were able to get all of our stuff between the two of them (along with the lumber and insulation sheets). Pan was very good for the flight...a few sad meows, but that was all.
The first few days here were shockingly balmy--about 75 degrees. The station is an oasis within a wilderness that's still largely under snow. Even so, almost nothing has broken bud here yet, and it snowed all day today. I've been very grateful for the wood stoves in my cabin and my office.
Our cabin (Arlow's) is very small, but it has the distinction of being all ours...the larger, more luxurious cabins will be shared among 4 to 8 people, and when there's only one refrigerator in each, that's a problem. The last cabin tenant didn't clean up before he left, so we've had to do a lot of dishes. Propane fuel leaves a bit of a sticky residue on things, and there's mouse droppings in places. Pan actually cornered a mouse in the bathroom our second night and had it trapped behind the litterbox for about an hour before Tyler trapped it under a coffee can. We heard more in the ceiling, so we're going to set traps tomorrow.
The first night was a bad one. Tyler's knee was feeling unusually loose and weird, and he was genuinely frightened that he had blown the graft. That terror really put a damper on our excitement about being at the station again. However, we had a LOT of stuff (mostly food) in a lot of heavy boxes, and I think his knee just got overworked. He had stopped doing his PT in order to give his knee a rest, but as soon as he started doing it the next day, it started feeling better. There's still a bit of inflammation, but otherwise, he's fine. My knee is a little sore and still gets a little red, but it's also fine.
It took us a day and a half to get all of our boxes and bins unpacked, and we're still in the process of getting everything put away. Although our cabin is small, it's actually got great storage space. We have a very small kitchen, a long double bed (with the wood stove at the foot), a small desk and bookshelves, and a large bathroom with cabinets, stall shower, trapdoor (for basement storage, which we need to clean out, being as how it's mildewed and full of old pain cans), and a door leading to a porch out back (where all our plastic bins are now residing.
We got some good-natured flack about all the food we brought, but it turns out that it was probably a good decision. Arnolds now charges a shopping fee and has doubled their transport fee for goods, so I suspect we'll be really glad we brought as much as we did...it'll save us even more money than we thought. I'll still spring for a few luxuries (milk, vegetables), but I won't have to waste money on canned goods and the like.
The wildlife here has already been great. The pasture's been full of mule deer and the airstrip has been full of elk. We've seen two bighorn sheep (the migration through the station is coming up soon), and on our second night, a grad student asked for our help handling his prairie rattlesnakes, which he was measuring and pit tagging. It was awesome.
Our jobs have also been pretty great. Tyler's job is mostly maintenance, so he's been moving materials for the carpenters, changing propane tanks, and learning all about the station plumbing and hydropower. I've been setting up the summer schedule for all our staff and visitors, figuring out who is sleeping where and when. I spent my first day making a poster for Jim and Holly to share at a wilderness symposium coming up next week (they liked it). I also did an assay of their plant collection and am working on plans to get it organized and fixed up, since it's a disaster at the moment (unlabeled, loose specimens everywhere). I feel really useful, and that's a good thing.
I'm surprised that I haven't felt that deep-down thrill of excitement that I felt when coming to the station before. Even though I was glad to be coming, I didn't feel excited in the weeks leading up to our flight, and while I expected to feel it once I got here, I don't. I just feel normal. Maybe it hasn't sunk in yet. Or maybe I need time to adjust. Maybe I've been living with a half-empty glass for a little too long. Either way, I'm really glad to be here. I just want to feel it in my gut, y'know?
I had forgotten how good the water tastes here. There are cups hanging from the creek bridges here, and it's so wonderful to be able to dip into it at any time and just drink it down without fear of bugs or disease or chemicals. There's not many streams out here that we know are giardia-free, but this is one. And the creek's running high and fast at the moment, so the water is cold and delicious.
Hello to everyone from the wilderness. Life is good out here.