Saturday, July 23, 2011

in the rhythm of measuring

we’ve made some serious improvements to the system. butter served by the spoonful into morning oats, cheese consumed in bread like slices. neoprene arm cuffs keep cold water from penetrating wool within seconds every morning. and then the big “I” for improvement is the groove we have found together. we have a rhythm to our days now, to the tasks ahead, to the decisions and unknowns we face along the way. we often load the kayaks in silence, knowing intuitively where each item goes and how it’s secured. we accept a plot to measure, and we know who does what. I have started to love the moment when odin leaps in front as we approach the last 25 meters before a possible plot center. we pull the tape together, and with this excitement in his eyes, he asks “can I run it?!” he bushwacks his way up the last stretch, pushing aside the thick understory and crushing the downfall on his way to our spot. I come trailing behind, scrambling my way up and over, never able to see him just 25 meters away until I’m there at his feet, reaching for a log or limb to get back to my own feet. then there I am, sizing up the trees again and our day’s dance amidst trunks and ferns begins.

we are two out of four trips down, and I am starting to think it is going to fly by too fast. 17 plots down, 23 to go. we actually have to buy return tickets to the “lower 48” this weekend. I’m not sure when I’ll go for a lot of reasons. somehow three days of work and life seems to pack into one for us out there and yet the clock still races. it takes so much energy to do what we do all day, I can’t let myself think too much of another world until I crawl in the nest at night. I’m sure that soon we’ll have 40 sites, I’ll be sleeping in a bed, and the thick clouds of mysterious history in slocum arm will feel like a distant memory I will also miss. so I am making sure to savor these moments. oddly sometimes that competes with the only way to survive the really cold ones - thinking of the warmth of a home, food, missed friends on the other end. it is a strange irony.

everyone rallied for a 15 hour day, nailing two sites, two lunches (could have used a third), proving to ourselves that we could do it. our big "two" day took three valiant attempts, stymied by big waves, poor sites, or climbs too demanding to make it a “double.” we are going to have a lot of those on tap for this next trip. paul, odin, kate, chant “TWO TWO TWO” to get us in the mindset. our hands keep taking their abuse. I went on antibiotics for an infection in one from a series of splinters. paul might be up for a dose (see his frightening crack lower left, below).

the sun came through for our day off in the wilderness before flying back to Sitka. kate and I paddled the whale together to this site from old homesteaders and spent the day basking in the sun, photographing, walking amidst human history with the dead cedars lining the backdrop. i heard about the broken down cabin from an ecologist in the area and came across a tattered copy of a book written there in the 50’s when I was in California. for the past 6 months I have been waiting for the day, curious what it would be like to stand there. I felt a similar sense of wonder to what I feel amidst the cedar forests. There was a life there we could only imagine. I ran my fingers over a pair of old leather boots, soles worn out and peeling back. i thought of what paths they might have carved, what challenges and beauties they once encountered on the outer coast.

other highlights – humpbacks coming into the arm for refuge from the outer coast storms, partnered sand hill cranes flirting amidst cedars, sitka spruce some 7 feet in diameter, bear’s den, and salmon returning with the tide. some lows – we are now making a list of all the things that were supposed to be bomber but failed us. the list gets longer every day. Brunton compass can’t declinate anymore (too much condensation). The toughest rubber fisherman pants we could find are tattered and torn. Sharpee pens ain’t that sharp anymore and duct tape really has met its limits. though we’d like to thank Ibex for the prodeal, we should also tell them their longunderwear woolies were the first to tear. the list of things we can’t live without has Arc Teryx at the top of it along with neoprene and chocolate, chased by the thoughtful notes of support and love from friends and family when we dry out in Sitka.

we leave again monday for our biggest trip yet. i’ll be celebrating my “dirty 30” birthday in the woods -- surely being the dirtiest I have ever been. -lauren

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