One month to go! End of season fever has been sweeping through camp. We’ve begun counting down the days until breakdown. The seasonal crew members are looking and interviewing for their next jobs. And I’m trying to figure out how all my stuff is going to fit back in the car. But on top of it all, we’re still keeping really busy out here. The jets have slowed down slightly (only one this week) which is good because we’re all starting to slow down as well. The 4th of July party helped to boost the slightly sagging moral around here (which, compared to previous years, is hardly sagging at all). No pig roast this year, even though Robert – the great pig roast coordinator – has finally returned to camp (more on that in a bit).
The VIP visit was the middle of last month. It was definitely the best VIP tour we’ve had out here. We had people from GMI (the company running the project), Air National Guard and the German Air Force. We wined; we dined…well, not really…we beer-ed; we BBQ’d. We showed them cute and fluffy owl families. We made them go on long difficult hikes. :) It was a good visit, but almost as tiring as full days in the field. Being witty and charming is exhausting work.The beginning of last month was spent mostly getting ready for the VIPs, for me at least. Plus lots of field time, as is the norm this year. After the VIPs left, I had about a week and then I went of vacation! Clarke flew into Albuquerque and after taking a day to play around town (and see the new Harry Potter movie!), we headed to Moab, UT and Arches National Park and then on to Lake Powell where we met up with my dad, siblings, aunts, uncles and various cousins. Moab is an awesome place. We pulled into town about 6:30 pm on a Sunday…in Utah…fully expecting the town to be more or less shut down. Everything was open, and open late. We spent the evening wandering around town, browsing shops and eating dinner (I hardily recommend the Black and Blue Blueberry Stout at Eddie McStiff’s Brewery). We spent the next day driving and hiking around in Arches – a truly beautiful area. Mother Nature was on our side and we managed to have a nicely overcast day with some sprinkles and a good breeze. And they all said we were crazy to go to Arches in June. :) We got to see many of the amazing arches. Clarke explained to me (several times) the difference between an arch and a natural bridge. It has to do with the way they are formed, and I’ll just leave it at that since I’ll probably mess up the description. We hiked the “primitive trail” around Landscape Arch out to Double O Arch and Dark Angel (which we didn’t quite get to). Our last stop was Delicate Arch at sunset; or almost sunset since we were exhausted.
The next day was a long drive to Bullfrog Marina at Lake Powell. When we arrived, I was shocked to pull into the marina store parking lot and find it completely empty. I haven’t been to the lake in about five years and I figured the water level had dropped some, but WOW. We finally found the water and then finally found my family and were whisked away via Uncle Scott’s power boat to our campsite for the evening. Three days of sun, water, red rocks, sleeping under the stars, wake boarding (Clarke, not me), fireworks (shhhhh) and family. After soaking up plenty of sun, we headed back towards Albuquerque via Monument Valley, Kayenta (AZ), Bloomfield (NM), and finally Cortez (CO). Not exactly the most direct route; we managed to circle Four Corners without actually ever going through it. We got a bit of a surprise before entering Monument Valley when we came upon the Mokee Dugway – an 1100 foot drop in 3 miles! The view was stunning, but I’m glad Clarke was driving. Amazingly enough, there was a huge semi truck (Reddy Ice) that made it through the sharp switchbacks with considerable ease. We arrived in ABQ about thirty minutes before a major storm hit town. We watched the forces of nature rage from the security of our second story hotel room – wind, rain, thunder and lightning. We thought we saw smoke in the distance (Bernalillo County) but found out from the Weather Channel that it was a tornado! And it was headed our way. Suddenly our second story hotel room window wasn’t so safe anymore. We closed the curtains and sat by the TV until the power flickered out briefly. The storm passed by (no more tornado) and we ordered pizza (poor delivery boy). I ended up staying in ABQ an extra day to pick up some equipment for camp and then made the drive back up the mountain, stopping only for gas and view-obstructing sheets of rain.
I’ve spent the past week in the office here trying to whittle away at the mountains of datasheets that piled up in my absence. Jim, the on-site Project Manager, has left the project for various reasons. So all the supervisors are putting in a bit more effort and helping to pick up the slack. Thankfully, Robert, our equipment manager (but oh so much more), returned to camp yesterday with oxygen bottle and his wife Annette in tow. We are all so so so happy he’s back, though probably none more so than Robert himself.I did manage a brief escape on the 3rd to attend the Ye Olde Tavern’s 11th Annual Worm Races (sponsored by Budweiser). I was the only person to drive down from camp, but Lex and her husband Stephen met me there from Eagar (their new hometown, about a half hour from Alpine). Maggie the human, a friend of mine from college and also a friend of Lex’s from the Mexican Wolf Project, came out from Albuquerque for the races too. This is my third year racing worms at the Tavern and I finally managed to win! My worm, Snickerdoodle, won third place in the second heat (yes, there’s more than one heat). For the Fourth of July this year instead of a roasted pig we ended up roasting briskets and corn on the cob in our pit. There was so much food and drinks and oh the costumes! Even Maggie the dog and GusDog had costumes. It was a much needed and much deserved break for us all. El even managed to bring up some sparklers for us. We had a quick game of Capture the Flag after sunset and then hung out by the fire pit (being careful not to fall in the brisket pit behind it).
I’m starting to get the end of season feeling of ‘there’s so much to do in such a short amount of time’. But on the other hand, I’m anxious to go home. ETA for home should be sometime in early August and life can get back to normal.
Hope everyone is doing well and that you’re all enjoying your summers too.
Love and sunshine,