Daily life at Open Sky. I think we'll start with a base camp Monday schedule.
Monday morning, my alarm goes off at 6:50. I struggle with the zipper of my -20 degree sleeping bag, open it up, and then lay back down for 10 minutes. At 7:00, I shimmy out of my bag, take my puffy jacket that I have wrapped around my feet, pull it on, and am fully dressed. I slide my feet into my liners and overboots, grab the med bag, food bag, camp chair, and paperwork, and head outside the teepee to the camp center fire. The sun is just rising and the tops of the junipers are silhouetted with a line of pink and orange. It is going to be a beautiful day. I drop my stuff by the firepit and walk down the bust trail out of site to pee. I wash my hands with a few drops of Dr. Bronner's rose soap and several handfuls of cold, cold snow. Next step is getting the fire going. Sometimes there are banked embers that I can coax back into flame, sometimes my co-guide will bust a coal with his bow drill set. Sometimes I soften up some juniper nesting and pull out my lighter. We build the fire high, warm our hands, and set our metal Klean Kanteen water bottles in the fire to boil for tea. We talk about the coming day, disscuss students, answer questions like "Why are wilderness metaphors important in the field?" We drink tea, eat oats, rice crispie treats, cheesy torts. We do call in on the radio, letting the field manager know that we are doing just fine. Then it is time to wake up the ladies.
We walk back to the teepee. Sometimes they will already be awake, tending thier own fire, writing letters home. Sometimes they will be soundly asleep, buried as deeply as possible inside their sleeping bags. We tease, sing, cajole them to get up! Put on your pants! They are wearing baggy fleece pants, but it is the rule that they must wear hiking pants over these. They slowly rise, go out to pee one at a time, and then we all walk out to the kitchen to get their food bags. I dole out soap, eucalyptus this time, for another snow handwash, and we duck back inside the warm teepee. Breakfast is cold oats or warm oats, granola, cheese, trail mix, spoonfuls of peanut butter--whatever they have left at the end of the week. Food resupply is tomorrow. After they eat, they must show me their clean cup, and then it is in to hygiene time. Witch hazel and pads are passed around, the witch hazel bottle starts to melt from the heat of the fire and is rescued, toothpaste is passed, and sunscreen after. Floss and foot powder are optional. I unlock the med bag, find my black pen, and administer morning medications. Then comes the challenging moment where they have to put on their boots and overboots, crusty with mud. The ladies know what is coming next and they move slowly, joking around, asking me lots of diverting questions, stopping to brush hair. We've got to do wood and water runs today.
Our Cleo camp is about a quarter mile from the Open Sky parking lot, where the cistern and five gallon cubes are stored. We have sleds and wheelbarrows, but even with those, it isn't easy to get back and forth on our trail, which at the moment is snowy, icy, and very muddy. We decide that four 5s will be enough for showers and hairwash, cooking and drinking. There is lots of stopping, things fall off the sled, lines bite in to hands and waists, frustration, anger, temper tantrums come to the surface. We give them a little time, and then keep going. Each lady will fall at least once during this run, one of them headfirst into the frozen mud. We drop the water, encourage everyone to drink from their Nalgene bottles and turn around for wood. There is a good wood pile in camp, but the wood is still green, and smokes terribly in the teepee. There is a larger, drier pile down at the road, halfway between camp and the parking lot, so we set out again, at the same slow pace. One of the guides will get the axe from the field manager's cabin so that we can split these big chunks into small pieces that will burn faster, hottest, and with less smoke. Smokey teepees are killer. Chopping wood is one of my favorite guide chores.
To be continued...