Tyler and I are back at Taylor Ranch, after two weeks in Seattle and two weeks in Los Alamos. We flew in the day after Thanksgiving, and the managers left two days later, leaving us in charge of the place for a week and a half (while one of them got hip replacement surgery).
It's been a neat sensation, being in the middle of the wilderness and the only people for hundreds of miles around. We saw bighorn sheep rutting and bald eagles floating around. I ran into a couple of river otters one afternoon when checking out a potential kill site.
The sky is often clear and blue and the world is utterly quiet.
I had to take care of the puppy a lot, which made me reconsider ever possibly having children.
The managers are back now, along with a few guest who are here for the annual sheep count (it sounds weird, counting sheep in a non-metaphorical way). I've been staying warm in the house, taking care of the invalid (and one sick sheep counter) while everyone else (including Tyler) is up in the hills. In my spare time I walk the puppy three times a day, break ice holes at the stream crossing so the stock can drink, start fires in the cabins for the sheep counters (and so the pipes don't freeze), and clear the slush ice off our water intakes so we still have running water and electricity.
We bring the precip gauge in every morning to melt the ice before we call in the weather. I've been enjoying the chatter on the backcountry radio lately. It's like having an old-style party line.
It was 6 degrees this morning, and 14 degrees now. The river is iced over at the margins, and big rafts of slush ice float down in the middle where the water is still liquid. The air is so cold that the snow squeaks underfoot, and the creek is full of incredible ice sculptures from where the water spray has frozen up, making bulbous ice dams or coating overhanging limbs with thick lozenges of ice.
Weather permitting, we'll fly out this Friday, then fly home to Seattle for Christmas.