Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Camping extraordinaire -- this is why I live here

This was my plan: as soon as we had finished school on last Saturday, I was going to go out onto the tundra. I had a lot to accomplish: #1 set up a campsite, #2 set out my fish net, and #3 build a rack to dry the fish on. I have never done #2 or #3 before --though I've accummulated a bunch of advice over the months. I was just going to do it by trial and error, and by watching what other people did, and if I messed up, then I'd learn from my mistakes.
However, once school was totally over on Saturday afternoon, I was hit by a wave of elation, relief, and disbelief that the entire load of the school year was finished, over, done! (how could I have any other career that just keeps going through the summer, without that rush that accompanies finishing up a whole school year? It's addictive) So I didn't waste any time getting out there on a beautiful day; I packed up the honda:
got out onto the tundra and realized: What's the rush? I've been on this schedule, getting things done, for so long, and now I have all these routine-free days stretching out ahead of me. Can't I forget the mission-mindedness and take it easy for a while? So I just set up the campsite, got a fire going, and explored for a while. Esther and Odin seemed to like this goal just fine. We saw a red fox from a distance, the first fox Esther has ever seen, and it trotted away from us and we didn't see it again. I stained the knees of my pants blue and red from last year's cranberries and blackberries (that were under the snow all winter, and now are all over the tundra, but watery and fermented) trying to find the softest mossiest place to put the tent -- I found a pretty awesome spot: Our spot is on a penninsula between the Bering Sea and Hooper Bay -- in the distance in the above picture, you can see the bay. The ocean is a couple hills behind me in this picture, close enough that we went to sleep lulled by the sound of waves crashing on the beach every night, and close enough for Esther to go play on the beach in the sand every day, often with other kids who are out playing on the beach with their families:Later that first evening, teacher-friends Katie, Moses, and Marta joined us (along with their dogs Honey & Tika), and besides being awesome weather, it was a cool night because we walked a little ways away to Old Hooper Bay, one of the old village sites and checked out the remnants of sod houses that once were there.
Above: Marta with Esther, and the top one is Marta & Katie with the three dogs, as we were wandering the tundra at about 11:30 pm. Yes, lots of great light, still, that late!

This is the remnants of an old sod house at Old Hooper Bay; they were subterranean, so they were half in the ground and domed over with driftwood and sod. It's just so cool to see these, still.
The sun set at around 1:am, which surprised all of us when we realized it was so late that the sun was going down, and everyone but us packed up to go... but it wasn't lonely -- all those years that I camped by myself, I got used to being outside alone, and now with Esther, I don't feel alone in the slightest. Lots of people taking honda rides through the beautiful evening stop by, and so we are never by ourselves too long. We even have neighbors out there, Harvey and Mary, who are a couple dunes over, and they have been doing camping & fishing for three years out here, in this area, and they have quite the system, quite the camp set up. We visit each other all the time, and I am learning so much from them. They get worried that Esther and I are cold, and even though we totally stay toasty, we like to go over and hang out in their huge tent with their fancy stove inside. It's fun to have neighbors!
We sleep so well outside, too, though we often wake up early since it gets bright very early, as the sunrise is around 3 (though since the sun sets around 1, it just is dusky all the time; no night). The next thing I knew it was warm morning in the tent and Esther was saying, "Mom, a snipe did wake me up!" Super cute.
Poor Mosquito-bitten babe! I missed a spot on her forehead when I was using citronella oil on her, and the mosquitos all went to that particular spot. :( In general, though, the mosquitos aren't very bad since there is almost a constant wind, with no trees to block it. The days that the wind lets up are the days when the mosquitos come out, but that's not very often. I wonder: what do the mosquitos do for all those windy stretches of time? How do they eat? Why wouldn't they all just die out? I bet the mice and other animals in the grass are just one huge mosquito bite.

My campsite has gotten fancier over the days; Roy decided to join us for a night and we built a lean-to to put my supplies in, and as an additional windbreak, since it is pretty windy out there, even though it's beautiful. We had a bit of rain this morning, but nothing that was unpleasant. We've been having some fantastic meals out there -- even though it's normal food, cooking it over the campfire somehow makes it amazing.... Now we've slept out there four nights, and we plan to just keep going for a week or 10 days; Esther and I go to my mom's house on June 25. This is one of the best things about living here, that the wilderness is off my back doorstep, and even though I can even see my house from my campsite, way off in the distance, I am in a totally wild place. We often come back to the house for supplies and showers, etc., (and to blog!), and then we just turn around and go right back out -- it's a 20 minute drive, tops. Awesome.
Esther by our lean-to, the Tibetan peace flags waving in the breeze....


Catherine said...

Camping Extraordinaire,
I'm green with envy. I haven't been camping in years. Thanks for posting the wonderful blog and sharing pictures.

vrtulobjeq said...

Wow I just imagine how difficult it would be to live in those undeniably freezing cold circumstances, nevertheless I believe your quite warm of mind, body and spirit ?

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