Sunday, March 25, 2018

end o season

Well folks, I’m closing in on another winter season of cooking at a wilderness lodge in Maine. Different setting/ organization, same state. In the interest of throwing it back to my old blog stand-by, here’s a quantitative list of my end-o-season thoughts/ accomplishments:

-largest number of people served at one meal: 60
-number of cookbooks I brought and worship: 3
-compliments I’ve gotten on my salads: at least 10
-containers of sesame seeds ordered: 5 
-miles cross country skied: woulda been cool if I had kept track
-pizzas I’ve eaten from Jamos: 6
-number of days before the end of the season before I discovered making pizza brings me great joy: 9
-seasonal positions I now have had: 7
-days skied in shorts: 4
-fires I have lit: 0
-times I’ve gotten my car stuck in the snow: 2
-number of (2 minute) snowmobile rides: 7
number of star wars movies watched: 3
-moose seen: 0 (what the heck???)
-times I’ve gone snowboarding: 2
-most times I’ve checked the mailbox in one day: 3
-number of visits to the Kokadjo snowmobile bar: 6
-loaves of multigrain bread baked: ~25

-knowledge that I never want another professional cooking job: priceless

Scallion Pancake Challah thanks to my fave food blogger/ cookbook lady!


Sunday, February 25, 2018

A day in the life: Northern Maine edition

I’ve been crafting blog posts in my head every day since I’ve gotten here, and I just haven’t had the time to write. Mostly because it’s just SO busy when I’m on my shift and then the second I get off the clock I drive to go visit friends for the weekend. This winter is flying by! But in this here post I’m going to hit two birds with one stone and describe how a work day here goes and also talk about life in Northern Maine, mostly focusing on this last Friday.


























I cook breakfast Wednesday through Saturday, so I like to get to the kitchen by 6 am or earlier if it’s a huge group. That way I have about an hour to myself to listen to music and get myself all set up for the breakfast cooking rush, which usually is at 7:30. I spend my time making coffee and setting out the oatmeal bar and getting  a head start on my other prep for the day (cookies, bread). On Fridays I drive the truck into town to pick up the food order right after I finish cooking breakfast. I love this part of the job because 1. I get to sit down for 2 hours, 2. I get to personally check and send mail at the post office, and 3. I can buy anything I want from the store after I pick up the food order because as far as I can tell there is no food budget. I drive to town around 8:30 am and always pass this logging truck on a certain spot of the road before I go through the town of Kokadjo (population 3). One time he threw his ratchet strap over all the logs and it almost hit me. So Maine.  While picking up the food order I converse briefly with the people from the other two lodges and scope out what food they’ re getting so that I can order it next week. We all help each other get the boxes into the trucks and tetris it all together. Here's where I pick up the food order.

Then I usually take my time going to the store to get any extra items and I stop by the office to drop my receipts and then I drive back to the lodge. Everyone unloads the trucks of food and then I work my butt off doing all the prep work for that evening and the next morning until I get off at 2. Usually at 3 we drive to Kokadjo and go to the snowmobile bar there, we've gone three times so it's basically tradition.








This Friday was one of those rare perfect windows for ice skating. The pond was completely snowy a week ago, but then we had a huge thaw followed immediately by a freeze, so we got a few patches of glassy skating ice. It was the very best way to end my work day-- skating around an island in my backyard. A fox ran across the ice just as I was turning around to view Mt. Katahdin. I watched it run to the next island and then heard it yip. Then I continued to walk off the pond and post-hole my way back to the lodge.






























I then went back to the staff house (we call it the Burrow) to relax and drink milk with coffee brandy, which is apparently a huge thing in Maine (I even listened to a radio survey about it). I went back to the pond a couple hours later to try out a different skating spot. It was snowing by this point and the snow was drifting across the pond in little riffles that are hard to describe but really awesome to watch. 


























On Friday nights I don't have to cook dinner, thank goodness, so I either lounge in the Burrow or lurk upstairs in the lodge for staff dinner. Evenings at the Burrow usually consist of knitting, a beer or two, wood stove stoking, and occasionally Game of Thrones watching. On this past Friday I went to bed at 8:30 because this week was vacation week aka the most exhausting week for the service industry in New England. My days are really draining, but usually at the end of them I feel pretty glad to be in Maine for another winter with a backyard full of ski trails and frozen ponds to play on!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Doubt in the desert

I’m writing to you from the one-week point of my road trip, and the week and a half point of being out of a job. For this post I’ll go back in time to a few days ago, where my mind was in a quite different place than it is now:

After a day hiking in Zion National Park, I spent a layover day in town, lurking in the library switching off between watching Grey’s Anatomy and looking for jobs (well let’s be real, I was mostly watching Grey’s). Searching for jobs sent me into a spiral of doubt about what I was doing, living out of my car in Utah with no job prospects. My only future plans were to fly to the east coast for closing weekend at camp, and then fly back and keep traveling. I had a couple hours of slight panic- could I buy an earlier flight east? What was I doing here, wandering in Utah?? I could be home in DC or helping out at camp, sleeping in a bed in a mentally comfortable place!
It was getting towards evening, so it was time to get back in the car and find the next campsite before darkness at 7 pm. I drove out of Zion through the Carmel Tunnel, and stopped my car at a gorgeous slickrock slope. I got out with bare feet and ran up the slope. The red rock beneath my feel, the wind whipping over the desert, my tiny car below me, the bright blue sky… my doubts melted away.
My thoughts went kind of like this: I am in southern Utah! I love southern Utah! I’ll play on the slickrock barefoot! I’ll watercolor! I’ll hike! I’ll read! I’ll write and reflect! I’ll nap in the sun! I have a whole few days to play here, and I should live it up!


























So I did! The next morning I drove to Bryce and got myself a bear canister and a $5 permit to camp in the backcountry. I was going to bite the bullet and embark on my first solo backpacking trip. I spent the day stopping at view points and reading and going to a rad ranger talk about plants in order to earn my Jr Ranger badge. Then I packed up and hiked in to my site, set up camp, and made dinner. And honestly, I was pretty scared the whole time. As I type this I’m currently solo camping in my car, but it feels quite different in a tent a mile into the woods.
But you know, despite a night of kinda bad sleep (because I was too scared to get out of my tent to pee), I had a really good experience. I had days to myself in Utah, to challenge myself and also just do whatever I want. As I keep telling every retired couple I chat with (there have been a LOT of them, my gosh, so chatty), I don’t know what’s next. But as of right now I’m a lot less stressed out about it. I am seeing some beautiful country, taking some time for myself that I haven’t had in a while, seeing friends, and getting my car camping skills down pat.


























I’m hoping tonight will be clear enough for another stellar show of the meteor shower that I glimpsed last night. I don’t know where I’ll be, but it’s sure to be swell. And now that I have only one day left here in this slickrock land, it's not enough! I could play here for at least another week! But alas, I gotta travel on. To be continued

Friday, September 22, 2017

an Idaho day

Of course, it is the end of the season and I have yet again neglected to blog. I’ve lost track of the number of time I’ve started a post like that!
So here’s a short one to just check ‘blog’ off of my to-do list.

This blog post doesn’t quite have a theme- it’s more about how random my days can be out in Idaho. Here’s a snippet of a weekend day where I work a bit and play a bit- pretty typical.



























I woke up bright and early in my car next to the Salmon River. I had picked a river put-in to park my car at, and the sunrise was perfect there! Very pink.
Next stop: Drove to the nearest hot spring right off the highway and took a pre-breakfast soak, then got fancy breakfast at the Stanley Bread Company.
Drove to the Stanley Ranger Station which was closed so I wandered around with my handheld radio until some people who worked there realized I was trying to find someone from the forest to help me out.
Got directed to get my radio programmed at the fire station.
Tried to shoot the shit with the firefighters while they tried to program my radio and realized that I am about 0% good at that (the chatting with the fire crew part).
My radio was completely locked so they let me borrow theirs for the week, thank goodness.
Drove on the Ponderosa Scenic Byway towards Boise, stopping to pee and snarf a pastry from the bakery.
Stopped at a cute little town to find the post office, and had a successful post office direction honing trip.
Met up with Bridget at the Boise library and transferred all of the bags of glass recyclables to her truck because we missed the window of being able to drop it off in Boise (the only place to do glass recycling in all of Idaho!)
Wandered the Boise farmers market and ate sambusas (with potato) and saw the cutest puppies in all of the land.
Decided we wanted to go tubing on the river so we tried to find tubes in Boise for quite a while.
Found tubes at the tire store despite some man telling us that summer was over, and figured out our car shuttle.
Floated the river pretty late in the afternoon. Results: pretty cold by the end of the two hours, lots of peeing in the river, success with the sets of rapids and directions, and one epic beer rescue.





























Got out and car shuttled then headed downtown in search of the fabled Basque food of Boise.
Found a bar with Basque food, devoured very meaty sandwiches pretty much without breathing, ate our dinnertime dose of potatoes, wrote postcards.
Followed friend’s directions and drove up a street from the capitol until in turned to dirt, then kept going until we got to a trails parking lot with a grand view of Boise.
























Made a nest in the back of the truck and slept a wee bit, because it turns out our sleep spot was a popular gathering and chatting and laughing very loudly spot for other Boise-ans.

And that’s a day!

Monday, July 24, 2017

Summer is for water

Summer is halfway over, and for me (and probably most everybody) summer usually means lots of time spent in the water. My many summers in West Virginia were tied to swims in the pond. Dips in the pond at night, after lunch, during swim time, and during intersession... basically whenever I wasn't busy. The pond was my calm and an essential piece of my summer. Oof just writing about it now pulls at my heartstrings. I love pond. 

Similarly, last year summer was marked by dips in Spruce Pond at Bear Brook. Every sunny weekend day I took a dip, sometimes a long swim. Sometimes I’d swim alone, but most times I’d go with a group of friends to decompress after 10 days in the field.  Spruce was our spot, whether to howl at night on the bank or to stand around and giggle about skinny dipping and if the tourists across the pond could see us. Spruce was my perfect replacement for the pond at camp—I needed that nearby water.

Hitches themselves last year were infinitely better if there was a nearby lake or swimming hole.  Days off were spent by rivers and lakes, and joy was found in water with friends after a long and sweaty day of manual labor. My last moments with Reed were exactly that: happiness and a refreshing post-work swim. About a month after Reed drowned I took a chance at swimming again in Spruce Pond. It was a blazing hot October day and I felt happy walking to the pond and stripping down and wading in. But dunking my head was another story, I felt a flash of complete panic and got out immediately, vowing to not swim on my own again anytime soon.

Here we are on a hitch meet-up, after an afternoon spent swimming and jumping of a cliff:

Fast forward to this dry, hot, Idaho summer, where there is no nearby pond to jump in. This summer water is difficult. Water is anxiety and sometimes panic. There are tough memories linked to the sensation of flowing water. But still, it is refreshing and sometimes so necessary after work. A couple weeks ago on my Wilderness hitch we were camped by the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, a premier whitewater rafting river. It was absolutely stunning and also quite fast moving, glittering and powerful. Work was insanely hot and draining, as we were working on an exposed rock slide area moving boulders. 

Everyday after work we flopped by the bank of the river to relax and wash our clothes and wash ourselves, and so everyday I had an internal struggle in my head. Should I reiterate the rule about not swimming alone? Should I watch vigilantly or just focus on enjoying the feeling of sun and wind and water? How much do I trust people to swim in a strong river? How much do I tell my members? Do I use Reed’s/ my story to tell them why I am so safety crazy? Or do I just let the story come out when it’s natural? Should I just try to chill out and have faith that I’ve said enough to instill a culture of safety on the hitch?
My brain buzzed through these questions and flipped flopped between my need for water and my anxiety. I needed to cool down after a day working on an exposed site in 100+ degree heat, and I needed to bathe. I dreaded the feeling of the current pulling on my legs, and thinking about rocks or sticks that I could slip on and get stuck on. But then I could look down the canyon and the sunset reflecting on the water and I would feel happiness and love for the rushing and wild river.
Luckily my crew happened to be camping at a popular spot at the confluence of a nice creek and the mighty Middle Fork. Someone had built a round pool out of rocks, sort of like a natural hot spring tub but extremely cold. One of my best memories from that hitch was sitting in this pool with everyone after a particularly tiring day of rock-moving, enjoying the feeling of the numbing water and laughing about our day. We were all instantly refreshed by the river pool, the exhaustion of the workday completely forgotten. The enjoyment of water was there, but the fear was at bay.





























It’s slow progress, but I’m going to try to look at enjoyment of being next to a river as progress. As much as I don’t mind and even quite like being by the water now, I still have not been able to swim freely yet, which honestly has been shocking to me. I dearly want to have a joyful relationship with swimming again. I can dunk for a split second, but the action of rinsing my hair or taking a stroke is still terrifying. The motion of having my head back in the water and rubbing my scalp with my fingers immediately dredges up memories of my first seconds of worry at the river back in New Hampshire. I’m scared that what I fear most will happen again—that while I’m enjoying myself and feeling the rush of water though my hair, an accident will happen.

Those are the thoughts I’m dealing with, but I believe those thoughts will lessen with time. So maybe for the first time in my life I need to be ok with this summer not being about swimming. This summer is for appreciating water, and for being aware of its power. This summer is for refreshing dips but it’s not for testing my level of comfort. I don’t know what next summer will bring, but I hope it at least has a nearby pond.