Calm Before the Somers Fire Demob Storm … Joseph, Oregon


Last week found me heading west to Roseburg Oregon and a pre-position fire  assignment … Oregon was expecting an ‘armageddon’ lightening storm and in anticipation of  many fire starts  they put teams in places most likely spots to cover any outbreak.  Well,  the fires didn’t start as anticipated … always a good thing … so we were assigned to closeout a couple of fires on the other side of Oregon.  After  560 miles, a torential deluge and lightening storm in Redmond, an hour casting a line in the Snake River at the Dalles,  and the best cheesesteak standwich from NY Richies in LaGrand I pulled into Joseph Oregon, under the protection of the Eagle Cap Mountains.  Eagle Cap Mountains OregonJoseph, in the midst of the Wallowa Valley, the native homeland of the Nez Pierce and the town’s namesake is the great Nez Pierce Chief Joseph.  Chief Joseph Statue

Fire camp is located in the fair grounds that just saw the 2014 Chief Joseph Days Rodeo … our work area is setup in the Thunder Room, a dance hall and bar, the décor a mixture of twinkle lights and antlers .  Joseph is near the Wallowa Lake  … that is pronounced Wah-lau-a which is as beautiful as is the town.  Joseph caters to tourists and there are some amazing places to eat here.  I’ve whined before about the monotony of fire camp food and to have a break from ham sandwiches and powdered scrambled eggs is a treat!  So here is the local roundup, so far, Arrowhead Chocolates – handmade truffles and assorted caramels AND on Sunday morning a crispy, browned just right, belgium waffle smoothered in mixed fresh Oregon berries & whipped cream … ahhhh ohhhh doesn’t do it justice.  Coco’s is a fun beach themed restaurant that boasts homemade hogie rolls and I saw a dish of nachos that would feed a pack of teenagersThe BBQ pork and the BLT were ordered the next visit … I’ve yet to sample the hand dipped ice cream at the Sweet Shop, but the Gina (a mushroom and swiss burger) at the R&R is juicy and worth every savory lick off of the fingers.

Second only to what is happening or not happening on the Fire, food is the main topic of conversation … what’s in the regular lunch (same as yesterday with a different meat between the white bread slices) or the vegatarian (same as yesterday but the veggies are just slimier), we give and take bets on what meat will be centered on the paper plate at dinner (it generally served in a rotation … some type of chicken, pork, or beef product).  We compare caterers and talk of ‘the best’ and ‘the worst’ fire camp food we’ve eaten and then someone says, remember when we ate MREs for days? And we are grateful for the food before us.  Third in fire camp conversation is PortaJohns; where they are located, how far they are from our tents, and our midnight treks  to the portapotties and the I unzipped the wrong tent on the way back  stories.  We compare portapotties; ‘the best’ and ‘the worst’ then we hold our breath and close the doors while the folks who maintain our sanitation do their very smelly work.  And we are grateful we have pottajohns and aren’t squatting in the woods or behind the barn.


Cherie, Keri & Renee at Wallawa Lake

Tomorrow begins demobilization (demob) and I get wound up while others have spun down  … so Cherie and I will be working feverishly while the others can take a trip down the street, taste the sweets and find a good photo op at the lake.

Sweetie will be heading home from his assignment on the Chiwaukum Complex in Washington on Thursday … first one home has to mow the lawn …. when I pull in the drive on Saturday night it’ll be grilled medium rare  steak and garden freshies on the patio under the twinkle lights.  And our conversation will start … what caterer did you have?





One response »

  1. Geez Keri..wandering may not adequately describe your life. Totally an adrenaline rush, or for me, it would be exhausting. But what an awesome writer you are, with expressive and descriptive narrative.


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