Category Archives: Firefighting

On the Cusp

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On the Cusp … has an adventurous sound to it, doesn’t it? It portends, it anticipates, it leans forward, a balancing act one day at a time. It feels like holding my breath before I tip off the edge of the ski run, point upward toward the peak at the end of the vertical trail, open a new book, or start a plan. Anything can happen.

Today’s footwear … in Cusp Mode

Breathing, in this moment, the fire is glowing in the stove, but the window is open and I can smell the rain of spring. Here, in Council, the ground is only beginning to shed its snow coat while in Boise the greenhouse is busy protecting the baby greenlings, the piles of last falls debris are anticipating a burning and the bird-caller-finder-feeder neighbor lady’s trees are full of veracious beaks on recon while our garden beds and fruit trees are coming out of hibernation.

A MUST Read!

Today I’m cusping like this…taking a few more days in front of the fire, reading books, and thinking I need to finish the quilt laying quietly under the sewing machine needle waiting for phase 2. I finally finished with the “Beast” … my yearly January puzzle that took me like 8 weeks to complete … I did a happy dance when that last stupid pink,pinky,whitish-pink, green, greenish, greenish-black, black flower patterned piece actually fit in place.

I am cusping and planning a hiking trip in Yosemite National Park in a couple of weeks. Sweetie was a wildland firefighter, at one time he was the first Superintendent of the Union Hotshots, out of La Grande Oregon. In a few weeks we’re headed south to Reno for a Hotshot Superintendent Reunion & National Hotshot Association meeting.  Sweetie, knowing that Yosemite is on my “want to see it myself list”, suggested we spend a few days in Yosemite before heading north again.  Bless his heart!

Anticipation

In cusp mode, I’m not ready for spring yet, I’m not so secretly praying for another monster snow fall on the ski hill before I hang up the Pearls for the season. Though I did buy those new Asolo trekking shoes  and this afternoon Sweetie and I are planning on cleaning, organizing, and replenishing our fly fishing packs …

Anticipation

On the Cusp … Yeah! an adventure all in itself!

 

 

 

How to take the Perfect Free Form Road Trip

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Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park

We did it! We fled our day to day and hit the road in the Escape-mobile.  Taking a free-form, take a break, go somewhere different road trip … Sweetie and I had only one fixed destination point and time that was Willow Creek California to spend a few days with an old smoke jumper friend of Greg’s. To and from there we had no idea where we would end up …

We may not have know how and where we’d end up, but I’d put a couple of I’d like to do’s on the list: First was an item from my wanna do list ‘experience the giant redwoods’, then maybe some time on the coast, we wanted to find roads that we’d never driven, before we wanted to have fun, and I wanted to flee from the madness and negativity being generated by “the” election … banning talk radio and news reports.

In remembrance of our last spring’s no power, food, or fuel experience in Moab, I promised myself, no more road trips with out a bit of emergency preparation on hand so into the Escape-mobile I tossed our faithful camp-in-a-box, a sleeping bag, a couple of chairs and our pillows. Of course, 2 gallons of water and foodage … snacks and power bars, and several books on cd.

But in all that preparation we forgot … maps.  At the first fuel stop Sweetie bought more maps … maps of states we already had in our map case, at home … guess a back-up could come in handy … at least if we remember them.

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Crater Lake National Park in the snow … Nov 2016

All trips from Boise, Idaho start off East or West on I-84 … for us that means turn left and head west. Ontario to Vale to Jordan Valley then a right turn onto and onward through Christmas Valley on our way to Crater Lake National Park.

I love coming to a fork in the road, consulting the trusty map and sometimes almost tossing a coin for directions … we finally made it to Crater Lake; beautiful, deep blue, and snow covered.

Dropping off the mountain hunger overtook us and we stopped at a little spot called Becky’s Cafe in Union Creek. It’s been there since 1926 and is in an old and quaint log building … I had their excellent chili …

But as I sat there, I kept looking around, and then … “I think I’ve been here before”. Déjà vu .. shivers! …it came to me, driving back from a fire assignment in Grant’s Pass, a friend and I had made a detour to Crater Lake and had actually stopped at this place for dinner  years before …

Headin' South

Headin’ South

On to Medford Oregon our first night’s stop … I tapped booking.com for a place to stay … and found a nice place downtown, the Inn at the Commons from the list and booked it.  When we pulled into the parking lot and walked inside, Sweetie looked around and said, “I think I’ve been here before … it used to be a Red Lion. I was here on a fire assignment.” Laughter and  another Déjà vu!

Gold Beach Oregon

Gold Beach near Gold Beach Inn

From the mountains to the coast then north to Gold Beach, we embraced a storm so strong rain was sheeting from the windows when we stopped for lunch … the surf was high, doing a fine imitation of a 767 revving to take off. From our ocean side beach view room at the inviting Gold Beach Inn we slept with the balcony door open to the storm.

Headin' South

Headin’ South

Next morning the sun  shone bouncing off of puddles and asphalt … I was psyched … it was visit the redwoods day … Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park and a pleasant walk around the Simpson-Reed Memorial Trail … stretching as tall as possible and feeling as tiny as Tom Thumb against their magnificent hugeness.  Perfect! and another … Cliche warning … breathtaking!

Bottom Pic ... that is ONE tree Greg is standing against ...

Bottom Pic … that is ONE tree Greg is standing against …

I love checking places off my wanna do list … but I also love finding ‘that’ spot, the one I didn’t know about that just tickles me to the bones.

Like the Siskiyou Smokejumper Museum (It was cool … and we found Greg’s name on a jump log from his days smoke jumping out of La Grand Oregon). Or the It’s a Burl wood shop … I felt like I was in Rivendell.

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Our last big stop was in Willow Creek to visit a friend and fellow smoke jumper, Dick Kirsh and his wife Judy. Leaving town we stopped to check out what is billed as the largest collection of Bigfoot memorabilia in the world, but just our luck the museum was closed … and we had no sightings, fleeting or otherwise, of the creatures on our way through the mountains either. Sigh.

Willow Creek California ... Bigfoot Capital of the World

Willow Creek California … Bigfoot Capital of the World

The last couple of days of our never-drove-that-road trip we took a lot of dirt roads (which kept Greg holding his breath, fearing a flat tire).

We passed through the Hart Mountain Antelope Preserve where despite being told there were 1000’s of them … the sightings of antelope were more frequent than Bigfoot, but not by much.

Onto Frenchglen, the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and stopping to see John French’s Round Barn before the miles and miles and miles of long, clear, vistas and horizon hiding roads before finding ourselves back on I-84 blacktop and home.

I’ll take a free-form, asphalt free (at times) road trip  anytime!  A couple of stats … 1500+ miles, 6 days, one 14 hour audio book, no flat tires and uncountable laughter.

I love travelin’ with my Sweetie.

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John French’s Round Barn … he was shot and died … the shooter was acquitted. Mr. French, he had a temper, so the sign says.

Until next time …

 

Fire, Fire, Fire … Vaya con Dios

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East from Newhalem bridge ... Goodell Fire

East from Newhalem bridge … Goodell Fire

Hello from the Upper Skagit Complex ICP, in the small village of Marblemount Washington, just outside North Cascade National Park.  Where the mountains are ‘steep as a cow’s face’ and is no place for fire fighters.  So the strategy is patience, point protection of Newhalem and Diablo and dams with very few fire fighting resources. The whole of the Northwest, California, Montana and the Great Basin is aflame. This will be a fire season to remember.

Trinity Lookout East Roaring Fire Idaho 2006 Renee Flanagan, Me, Dawn Elkington

Trinity Lookout East Roaring Fire Idaho 2006
Renee Flanagan, Me, Dawn Elkington

The year 2000 was an auspicious year for me; my youngest son Steven graduated from high school, as the System Admin on the Uinta National Forest we survived the infamous Y2K bug, and  that year I took a status-check-in assignment with Tom Suwyn’s Great Basin Type II Incident Management Team on the Bruin Point Fire in Sunnyside Utah.

Passing the reins ... John Kidd new IC ... Tom Suwyn First IC

Passing the reins … John Kidd new IC … Tom Suwyn First IC

That assignment made all the difference in my life.

I met my husband on a team assignment at the first Utah Wildfire Academy, I found my dream job at the National Interagency Fire Center in 2004. Now fifteen years and two Incident Commander’s (IC’s) later, this roll will be my last team assignment. These people, my fire family, are THE FINEST people and fire professionals anywhere, hands down.

I don’t often remember specific fires, and my friends will tell you I’m always asking “where were we”, “what was the name of the fire ‘when'” , but I do remember hard work and long hours filled with laughter, and anticipation, and smoke, and sunrises, and tents, and rain (or not) and once or twice snow in August. I’ve traveled backroads I’d never have imagined existed, spent time in small towns and villages along desolately long desert highways or tucked in the bend at the end of a high mountain road.

Then & Now How Ladies Have Changed Doyle Days 2010 Linda Chapple, Heidi Little, Me Cheri Ausgotharp, Renee Flanagan, Unknown, Unknown, Deb Lopez Bailey Dutton, Robin Broyles

Then & Now How Ladies Have Changed Doyle Days 2010 Linda Chapple, Heidi Little, Me Cheri Ausgotharp, Renee Flanagan, Unknown, Unknown, Deb Lopez Bailey Dutton, Robin Broyles

I’ve joined in festivals and community parades and became breathless at the utter wonder and awe of mountains and deserts under night sky’s overflowing with starlight, oh, and the occasional weather balloon decked out with glow sticks … seen any UFO’s lately Gardnerville?

Plans Group (Minus Evan Boshell : ( Panaca NV 2014 Lou Ballard, Heidi LIttle, Linda Chappell, Clark Tucker Me, Renee Flanagan, Cheri Ausgotharp, Myron Hottinger, Gary Peck Julie Osterkamp

Plans Group (Minus Evan Boshell : ( Panaca NV 2014 Lou Ballard, Heidi LIttle, Linda Chappell, Clark Tucker Me, Renee Flanagan, Cheri Ausgotharp, Myron Hottinger, Gary Peck Julie Osterkamp

I am laughing outloud as I pull years and years of fire memories from my brain … how about the time we built that scarecrow out of fire clothes, put red glow sticks in the sack head for eyes, hid a walkie-talkie in the shirt pocket and stuck it under the stairs going into the Finance trailer … remember when we’d whisper into the other a walkie-talkie … we had a lot of jumpy screamers. LOL.

There were the nights Steve Robertson would play his guitar, and folks would sing after we closed up shop. How about Heidi and Linda’s yummy Blackberry cobbler, or the ice cream social and human bingo, I loved the 4th of July carnival and the hot shots 3 legged race with the kids in Duchesne … so much laughter.

There were times we had no showers or caterers, yes we were smelly for a few days and ate MREs, BUT I learned how to make a pop bottle explode with an MRE heater element!

There are sad memories too, of friends who are no longer with us; taken by accident, fire, and cancer: Jimmy Ashley, Spencer Koyle, and Dawn Elkington who are a part of our memory and always in our hearts.

Church Camp Fire Duchesne Utah 2012 Unknown, Sarah Peterson, Cheri Ausgotharp, Me, Kirstin Cannon

Church Camp Fire Duchesne Utah 2012 Can;t Remember Who, Sarah Peterson, Cheri Ausgotharp, Me, Kirstin Cannon

I couldn’t put every picture  of every memory in this post (mostly because they are home on dvds) but I just had to share the smiles and remember … before I say Vaya con Dios.

 

Bailey Dutton & Nan Coates

Bailey Dutton (L) and Nan Coates (R)

Heading Home from Constantia Fire Doyle California Ken Moore, Mike Taylor, Linda Chapple, Heidi LIttle, Lou Ballard, Buzz Van Skyke Richard Birgir, Myron Hottinger, Me, Robin Broyles, Cheri Ausgotharp, Bailey Dutton, Lynn Cook Deb Lopez

Heading Home from Constantia Fire 2010 Doyle California Ken Moore, Mike Taylor, Linda Chapple, Heidi LIttle, Lou Ballard, Buzz Van Skyke Richard Birgir, Myron Hottinger, Me, Robin Broyles, Cheri Ausgotharp, Bailey Dutton, Lynn Cook Deb Lopez

Awesome OPS! Colt Mortensen, Tracy Swenson, Brook Chadwick

Awesome OPS! Colt Mortensen, Tracy Swenson, Brook Chadwick

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Vance Anderson won the Premier Prize at our Fireworkless 4th of July Carnival Church Camp Fire 2012

Fire Fire Fire Wearing PPE in Camp Beginning of Cascade Complex 2007 Susie Hatch, Ukn, Staci Heaps, Sarah Peterson, Heidi Little, Me, Karen Feery, Shanon Swan, Sue Weber, Cheri Ausgotharp Deb Lopez, Susan Marzack , Lyn Cook, Wendy Ambrose Soper

Fire Fire Fire Wearing PPE in Camp Beginning of Cascade Complex 2007 Susie Hatch, Ukn, Staci Heaps, Sarah Peterson, Heidi Little, Me, Karen Feery, Shanon Swan, Sue Weber, Cheri Ausgotharp Deb Lopez, Susan Marzack , Lyn Cook, Wendy Ambrose Soper

Somers Fire 2014 Joseph OR Cheri Ausgotharp, Me, Renee Flanagan

Somers Fire 2014 Joseph OR Cheri Ausgotharp, Me, Renee Flanagan

A perk of early morning rising ... Washington Fire Gardnerville NV 2015

A perk of early morning rising … Washington Fire Gardnerville NV 2015

Reused Words … Insane, Food & Hotshots

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Insane, Food, & Hotshots (not necessarily in that order). My word is and continues to be ‘Insane’! Last week Sweetie and I spent days in San Diego with family and friends … in planning the winter wander we thought, San Diego in March will be a nice break from the winter…unknown at the time there would be no winter from which to escape … it was the winter that was NOT in Idaho! The temperature and climate in San Diego was exactly what we’d been whining about in Idaho the past 6 weeks; all sunshine and blue skies; very pool, beach and golf friendly. Definitely NOT a skiers winter.

Sweetie’s adventurous past includes a couple of summers smoke jumping and 7 seasons as the Supervisor for the Union Hotshots, a Type I Fire Crew, (there’s more but I’ll leave that for another day). The initial draw to southern California was the first Hotshot Supervisor’s ‘reunion’ and ‘organization’ get-together http://www.ushotshots.com/ but that was only one reason to seek the sun, the other is Sweetie’s sister Paula who lives just north in Carlsbad and is the ultimate southern Cal host and guide.

Greg & Paula San Diego 2015

Greg & Paula San Diego 2015

The Italian side of their family proudly claim their major foodies label; I’m always in taste bud heaven whenever we’re together.  This family always knows the best place for a nosh, the perfect shop to pick up the perfect dinner ingredient, or they break out the old recipes for sumptuously yummy pasta. The first evening we were introduced to “Cardiff Crack”.  It is a more than addicting burgundy and pepper marinated tri tip. My mouth waters every time I attempt to describe it …it’s so addicting it has its own wikipedia page … http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cardiff_Crack .  Day Two’s late morning breakfast took our  minds off previous night’s fabulous dinner. There is a small  diner in Encinitas on the 101 … named The 101 Diner, where we each order the mini-acai bowl and 1/2 order of the cilantro lime sauce over Eggs Benedict …Beware! The description says mini the results is XL.  The atmosphere is friendly, easy going, and busy (be prepared), but OH! the food!! It’s worth the wait. http://www.yelp.com/biz/101-diner-encinitas?hrid=KjrnxUOQtbG4pbRmoKs-Ug&rh_type=phrase&rh_ident=acai_bowl .

Keri @ The 101 Diner Encinitas, CA 2015

Keri @ The 101 Diner Encinitas, CA 2015

I could go on and on about the fabulous food but then I couldn’t tell you about the beaches, and hikes, and … on one beach hike we came upon a Sea World animal rescue truck. They were searching for and saving baby sea lions. The el Nino weather pattern has heated the ocean pushing the fish out of their normal winter waters beyond the reach of the little ones, who then begin to starve because they aren’t strong enough to reach the food sources.

And THIS is the perfect day to end a winter escape … sailboat viewing from Point Loma and a walk around the lighthouse,

Cabrillo Lighthouse 2015

Cabrillo Lighthouse 2015

with a reverent stop at the Point Loma Military Cemetery before heading over to Little Italy where more great food closed this end of our winter’s explore.

Point Loma Military Cemetery San Diego CA

Point Loma Military Cemetery San Diego CA

Those who partake indulged in Ballast Point brews  (Sweetie voted  as Number One, the Sea Monster, a dark 10% alcohol brew), afterward we devoured creamy polenta & ragu at a quaint place I cannot remember the name of and finished the evening with fresh gelato from Gelato Vero Cafe on India St.(my favorite dark chocolate and nutella).

Reminder to self … even if it is 75 degrees the sun will eventually drop below the horizon and you’ll freeze your flip-flopped toes right off.

Wanderings are only as memorable as the people who are entwined in the hours … love and thanks to Paula & Jim, and all of the fabulous fire folks who made this wandering pretty special.

… Oh! did I tell you about the fresh sea food at Mitch’s?

 

Summer Wanderings – Hardly Time to Think

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I love working on an Incident Management Team (IMT) or a more familiar term my Fire Team for 14 years!  I look forward to each assignment  because it is an opportunity for me to participate in something that is helpful and has purpose; to save lives and property. Though I don’t fight flames I support those that do and that is also my privilege. To that end most of my summer wanderings are tied to fire assignments.  This year (so far) has taken me to the small town of Panaca Nevada where the rain did most of the work for the firefighters and we were home in 4 days. Panaca is the oldest surviving Morman settlement in Eastern Nevada and history was only a block away from the Incident Command Post (ICP). I wandered around the oldest building in eastern Nevada, the Mormon (or Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) meeting house/school. photo 1_1 photo 2_1A week later I was in Garden Valley Idaho, only an hour from home on the Whiskey Complex, where a few friends and I spent a lunch hour wandering the Pioneer Cemetery and enjoying the history and peace of that place.  image (1)A few days later we took a lunch break hike up the Station Creek trail exercising off some of the carb heavy fire food. image 

Leaving there I passed home long enough to do laundry and mow the lawn before turning the Escape south to another out of the way place 60 miles south of Ely Nevada; the Kirsch Wildlife Refuge where to the unsuspecting visitor may seem an odd place for a refuge, the middle of nowhere with views of sagebrush and dirt roads.  What did I find there? Hot springs and bass filled lakes that do not boast a cottonwood tree or bush to mark their existence in the flat landscape. Amazing the places that are tucked off of the main roads and kept a pretty good secret by the locals. photo 3_1 It is a far piece of blacktop to reach the Refuge so you might have to be a die hard bass fisherman to brave the distance. And yes, that little blue shiny line is water!

Tomorrow my Escape will be pointed west toward the Oregon town of Roseburg that the Oregon travel logs call “Land of the Umpqua” ; another 9 hour road trip across beautiful high country deserts and steep sided mountains and rushing rivers.  I just checked out some hikes I think I’ll take on my way home …Thundering Waters, waterfalls, waterfalls, waterfalls …  Umpqua National Forest and Roseburg BLM District.  Cool Beans!