Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Starvation avoided!

Once we learned that our stay would be a fair bit longer than earlier expected, food rationing became a reality.  Every noodle, egg, banana, granola bar, and piece of meat was counted and compared to the number of days we had left.  It was going to be close, if not a bit on the hungry side.

Then it snowed!  Up north, we got the snow before the southern parts of the province by a couple of days, but we made sure to leave lots in those clouds for the good folks in Calgary.


The garden was covered, the sunflowers were toppled over, the flowers shrivelled, and the lawn turned white.

For three days the sun never made an appearance, but at least no new fires were spotted.


Finally, the call came that the tower would be closed down ahead of schedule.  It seems they wanted me back to do some work and take a course in Rocky Mountain House.

So the food rationing was put on hold and time was spent thawing out and draining the rain barrels outside, taking down the pine beetle traps, and generally getting the place ready to shut down for the winter.

The evening before the departure date, the sun finally came out with some heat and managed to melt much of the snow in the yard.  The next morning, after fighting a strong north wind to get to me, my ride settled into the yard and pulled right up to the front door.


This time, they even took my push mower, the big generator and anything else that wasn’t tied down.IMG_1376

Hailey got into her travel case and found her place in the back seat.  Once again, she was as calm as could be.


A few minutes later we were up in the air waving so long to our home for the last several weeks.



In less than an hour we were back at the airport and transferring all the gear into the truck for the long drive home.


Although she was calm in the helicopter, I think she relaxed just a bit more when back in the truck!


“Hey, bring that arm back.  I was using it for a pillow”IMG_1418

Eventually, we made it back to our ‘now abandoned’ fire camp, and found that it had snowed a bit here as well.


In the morning we hooked up the fifth wheel for the first time in a while and dragged it in to the air tanker base where we will be hanging out for the next little while.  My work schedule ended a week ago, but I’ll be back at the camp for a day to tie up loose ends and lock up, and then I’ll be on a rescue course for three days.

After that, I may be asked to help out at the tanker base – so THAT’s why they sent me on the course in the spring – or I could be set free to plan the southern migration and take up full time residency in the trailer once again.  I’m trying to convince the Bayfield Bunch to come this far west if they do their western Canadian leg before heading south to Utah and eventually to their Arizona place.

Hailey and I haven’t come up with a route plan yet, but I sure liked the scenery on the route we took last year down through Idaho, but I haven’t been on the coast since around Christmas, so we may consider going down that way and see if Paul & Nina  (Wheeling It) are still minding the lighthouse!  I sure enjoyed the natural hotsprings in NE California where we were two years ago …

I might be working only three more days, or three more weeks, – only time will tell!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Great Job–If you don’t starve.

Things in the fire camp were still moving along according to schedule, but perhaps it was beginning to drag on a bit as the plentiful rains had made the likelihood of new fires a rather distant chance.  Lookouts are still spotting smokes and crews are responding, but more often than not it turns out to be a vehicle on fire or a house being torched.

Lookouts still have to be serviced however, so off we go into the wild blue yonder yet again with our load of valuable water, supplies, and food.


A couple of the lookouts are sitting on mountain tops at around 8000’. 

That’s one just left of centre – below.IMG_5632IMG_5637IMG_5633

Others are much lower, and well below tree line in the timber.


In this case we slung in a full propane bottle to replace the empty one at the tower.


Just as my days off were approaching, I got a call offering me an all expenses paid trip to north western Alberta!   (For the second time this summer)  They needed someone to fill in at a remote fire lookout for a ‘few days’.  So I said ‘Ok’ and started to throw Hailey and all of our things in the truck, including a new toaster; everything but the kitchen sink!  Then I got another phone call – advising that it was in fact a 30 minute helicopter flight north of Peace River.  Well, Hailey has never been in a helicopter before – though she is now quite used to them flying all around and landing at our camp for the last two summers.  I had picked up a small carrier for her last year for just this situation, and this would be the big test.  But, I had to unpack the toaster, the satellite dish, and quite a few other necessities.

In Peace River, I was advised that my stay would be ‘a week or two’, so I bought groceries and cat food accordingly.  You can see where this is going …!

After a luxurious night at a brand new fire camp at the Peace River Airport …


We found our ride, and Hailey got into her travel crate.


We headed northward, at first over wheat fields, then soon over nothing but forest. Hailey did not seem concerned in the least, and took her first ride like the veteran traveler she is.


After circling our destination, we landed and moved into our new cabin in the woods.


And, had a look around from – upstairs.IMG_1264

A day or two later, word came down that we were expected to be here for almost three weeks!  Hmm, I think things are going to be a bit tight in the food supply department.  At least I had purchased an extra bag of cat food – I wonder what that tastes like anyway?  The cabin was well stocked with food – an empty salt shaker and some relish and ketchup!  The previous occupant had left a bit of a garden, but a few dry beans and two carrots would not last long.

Then one day a relief flight came in!  Unfortunately no food was delivered, and they ended up flying off with my lawn mower.


I guess only time will tell if we survive on meagre rations, or if I have to find out what cat food tastes like!