Sunday, July 10, 2011

snapleaf and the whale

My eyes slowly open as the pattering of raindrops on the roof of the tent moves from a dream to a conscious reality. I lift up my left hand, look at my watch. It’s 7AM. I hear Lauren stir beside me and after one big sigh I know that she means business. It’s time to get up. We both sit up stretch for a moment ramble to each other “warm…slept so well….could sleep forever….rain…need coffee…” We soon hear the boys wake up in the tent beside us. I unzip the tent flap, my body tenses up as the cool moist air infiltrates our dry warm sleep nest. Before I change my mind I swiftly unfold my cold, damp rain pants and slide them over my long underwear one leg at a time quickly followed by foot after foot into two equally cold XTRA TUFFS. One layer, two layer, three layer, four and I’m standing outside the tent reaching for my bear spray with one hand, the other rubbing my eyes, clinging to the last bit of warmth evaporating from my face.

I head over to the other side of the cove where we have set up our food and kitchen, consisting of a tarp and some flat rocks that Odin found to cook on. I heat up some water, pour heaping mounds of coffee grounds into everyone’s cups and rummage through the bear box for the trash bag that holds our breakfast food. Granola, powdered milk and dates. One after one the others arrive. Odin comes first, a tall figure moving along the edge of the declining tide outfitted in a large orange rain jacket, a wool hat, a soaking wet backpack, and a rifle slung over his shoulder. Odin starts to get lunch packed as Paul arrives smiling and feeling good, thoughts of GPS points, maps, and tree coring running through his brain. Next comes Lauren, radio in hand doing our morning check-in with dispatch and relaying a weather report to those people not fortunate enough to be in Waterfall Cove. We all sit and sip our coffee, scarf down our granola a little too quickly and proceed to get the camp squared away before we begin packing our gear into the kayaks. DBH tapes…check, quadrat poles…check, compasses…check, yardsticks…check, prisms…check, tree corers…check, tree tags…check, and so on.

All of the gear is loaded into the kayaks and we are ready to make our morning commute (as Lauren calls it) to the location of our plot for the day. Lauren and I climb into “The Whale,” our beautiful blue steed of a kayak. The boys push us off because we always manage to get stuck and away we go, soaring through the glassy water. The wind is hardly blowing and the water acts as a mirror creating the illusion that we are smack dab in the middle of two worlds. The mountains, the sky, and even the eagles soaring above are reflected one atop another and we are no longer paddling in the ocean water as we dip our paddles into the clouds and watch as the image of the sky ripples behind us. We are speechless for a while and then I utter from the front of “The Whale,” a distinct and increasingly louder “wooaaAHHHH.” We soon reach our desired location on the coastline so we come onto shore, unload the kayaks, and drag them above the high tide line. Packs on, we venture into the woods to tackle our plot. The forest turns into a relentless and aggressive jungle-jim almost instantly and before we realize what we are getting ourselves into we are crawling on hands and knees underneath fallen trees. Lauren has a close call as she falls through a root hole, now endearingly referred to as “child-eaters.” Odin bounds over an embankment that’s taller than him, only to pop up and yell back to the rest of us “don’t come this way!” Paul, our navigator tells us how far we have gone and much to our dismay, after an hour of intense climbing, falling, and hardcore bush-whacking he informs us that we have gone a measly 30 meters. 30 meters…in one hour…30 meters! After a lot of perseverance we reach our plot center and begin to flag it out. Odin and Paul begin to flag and take control of counting and measuring all of the saplings while Lauren and I go to the South and to the North to take notes on the less intensive satellite plots. When we return we eat a meal consisting mostly of tortillas. I then set out to measure tree heights with a laser rangefinder (so cool) while Paul takes DBH’s and hugs a few trees, and Lauren records and makes important decisions. Meanwhile Odin is hunched over, intently studying the under story plants, kneeling down every so often to count out all of the tiny tree seedlings.

Hands are sore, cold and pruny, bellies are hungry, and legs are tired but we finally finish. We have conquered the plot and everyone feels good. Pack up and head down the mountain back to our kayaks calling out to bears as we move. The kayak home is more tiring after a day of hard work and when we pull up back at camp everyone is tired and hungry. Two people work on dinner and one cleans the guns. When dinner is ready everyone gathers around and swears that this dinner is the best meal yet. The truth is that as each day goes by the meals taste better and better regardless of what they are. We then divide up a bar of chocolate, read some Tlingit stories from Odin’s book and head off to bed. Wet, cold clothes off and warm, dry clothes on. I have never felt so comfortable. I lie in my sleeping bag and as my eyes close I enter into the double world I witnessed earlier in the kayaks and enjoy the warmth of the tent until 7AM strikes again.
- kate

1 comment:

  1. You guys are simply amazing. I love this blog. The way you write about daily life in the field is gripping and insightful. You are all such eloquent writers and working on such a unique project.

    Keep it coming!