Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Visitors, adventure, and good food

It's been nearly three months since our last post, so here's an update. We have settled into our jobs and we have been enjoying company of guests for the entire month of August and much of the other months--the first time we have really had a lot of people visit us. I guess it helps being a lot closer to home and the people we know. People took our invitations seriously! Here's what's been going on this summer. We just finished a beautiful hike up North Fork of Bridge Creek:

It took a good month to get into the swing of work. With so many trails, tours, activities, lodges, rules, permits, regulations, history, flora, fauna, and natural phenomena to become familiar, it felt like we would never be able to answer questions without an "I'm not sure, let me check with someone..." When you wear the park uniform, you are supposed to be the expert on anything and everything. Each ranger develops his or her own naturalist and interpretive talks and tours including a half-hour evening program on our topic of choice. Mine (Jeff's) is on native uses of plants, and Kate's is on the geology that formed the Stehekin valley and mountains:

We also swear in junior rangers when they complete their assignments. Kids fill out an activity book and then turn it in to us and we give them some park patches, a ranger badge, and then have them say an oath and give them a certificate. I usually high-five them when they're done:

One of the more fun duties is being "Ranger on Deck" where we set up a display table and hang out on the deck talking with visitors, helping them plan their trip and answering questions. Here's Kate with the bearskin and some information packs:

We give a tour of the historic orchard. The bears like apple trees as well, and I watched this one jump up in the trees to bat green apples out of it:

Another one of the work-related activities is getting to know the park, i.e. hiking a lot. we get two days per month of paid hiking, better known as a "field day." Of course, we also just hike for fun, so that's one time that work and play is nearly the same. One memorable hike was to rainbow lake, a 10 mile hike that took us up to the snow fields feeding the stream that becomes rainbow falls, one of our guided tours. Here's Kate in the snowfields looking for our campsite:

Alpine glacier lillies filled up the fields where the snow was retreating:

Since it was too snowy to find the originally intended campsite, we moved to Rainbow Meadows a little lower down:

There was a bear foraging near our campsite when we arrived, but the picture was mostly a brown furry bump that's not worth sharing. If you talk calmly to the black bears around here, they usually run away. A coyote later walked right by our campsite and hunted rodents in the meadow right in front of us:

Visitors: We had three chairs in our house: one for solitude, two for friendship, and three for society. Like Thoreau at Walden Pond, we have enjoyed the company of visitors to break periods of solitude. We had a healthy handful of guests the first couple months but by August, our place became a regular bed and breakfast. Almost every day has been booked with someone, and we have even had double booked a couple times. On our calendar I counted 14 visitors for August, and 10 during the rest of the summer, some of whom are repeat visitors. Thank you everybody for visiting and making our stay here so much fun! here's a collage of some of our visitors whose pictures I had available:

Food: It has been a long time since living in a place where eating local has been so delicious, not to mention even possible at all. With Karl's organic garden with a delicious veggie selection, his dairy goats that make the most wonderful cheese and yogurt, and fruits imported from just outside the valley, we have eaten bountiful and fresh meals. Then there was a cherry tree next door that needed help unloading bushels of perfect, ripe, red fruit from the sagging branches. After getting sick of eating cherries, the rest became a few gallons of sorbet in the freezer. Then there were the apricots that our friends Jeff and Katie brought from the cabin in chelan, which also became sorbet. And now we have recently discovered a guy down the street selling fresh whole milk--the first time I have ever had milk still warm from the cow, just like they used to drink in the olden days. Add to that a local organic market in Chelan that delivers boat orders to Stehekin, and then the Stehekin Pastry Company, which we continue to visit on a regular basis, and we have truly eaten well this summer. Good thing we have such a commute by bicycle to put those calories to work!

And finally, a few more random pictures from this summer. Here's Kate inspecting wildflowers on the hike to McGregor Mountain:

Jeff does the same on the hike to Goode Ridge:

Here we are together on our field day hike up McGregor:

Jeff juggles his new glow toys at a party:

We took the float plane back to Stehekin for one of our trips and enjoyed the scenery:

Here is the rock overlook where we had lunch at Goode Ridge:

The milky way from our back yard, taken with Kate's dad's camera:

Jeff and kate rafting on the trip with Ben and Kristy:

Bridge creek at dusk:

And this is a cabin at Bridge creek that belongs to the park service and we can use as a base camp for longer hikes:

What's to come:
We've been hinting at it for a while, but our plans are made for this winter. After an astronomy conference in Acadia, ME and most of October to visit family and get our affairs in order, we fly to Nicaragua on one-way tickets just in time to see the close of the tropical rainy season. Like last summer, we'll start with 3 weeks of spanish school, and but this time we go to work when school is done. We'll be working on a watershed restoration and reforstatioin project in the Boaco region, east of the Capitol Managua, volunteering with a nonprofit organization, Green Empowerment, and their Nicaraguan partner organization, AsoFenix. We should be working full time until some time in April or May. Then the cycle begins again and we hope to be summer seasonal workers again in the US. If the US budget aligns well with the stars, we may end up at Stehekin again. Perhaps this will be the beginning of a long-term pattern. Keep in touch and remember that we still love visitors, so don't hesitate to look us up whether it be in Nicaragua, Stehekin, or somewhere else we can't even imagine yet. In the mean time, we expect to be blogging our Nicaraguan experience and occasionally facebooking as a means of keeping in touch--so check back in with us in November if we don't say anything sooner.



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