Thursday, August 4, 2016

July 26 2016: today, Davey and Sarah Y in town, the rest on the beach

The day before the Katmai trip! I was up before the rest of the crew and as is my habit, I looked out to see what was happening at our sites. I was astonished to see that the inside buoy still hadn't washed up, but it had moved in the direction of the outgoing tide. So I decided to head down and pull on the running line to see what would happen. There was still enough water that if I was quick enough, I should be able to get it in through the water (read: not get everything all muddy). So I pulled and pulled and pulled and the line came and came and came, all the way up onto the beach. One more, almost checked off.

Davey went into town to build the crate around the Honda for its southbound journey, and to begin the crate around the Yamahas. Yes, we're taking the Yams south as well, just in case a miracle may occur. If not, many of us want to keep a part of the 60 for sentimental reasons. It was a great outboard.

Sarah Y spent the day in town packing up our homepack, making sure they were in 50 lb boxes that crew members could take with them as luggage. That is a cold and, except for the gratitude of her crew mates, a fairly thankless job.

The rest of us stayed on the beach tackling the five-page checklist for closing up.
I even found photos of what the crew cabin should look like when it's time to board up the door (thank you, Jean, for everything you did last year to get the cabins to a point where we could take those pictures.) One of these barrels holds canned goods that have been removed from their original containers (somehow the unopened cardboard or plastic wrap protects the cans from rust from condensation) with a handful of rice. Another holds dry food like pasta, rice, and oatmeal to protect it from rodents, another holds leftover boat food like granola bars and even beef jerky to keep the rodents out. The barrels are covered with big mixing bowls and the mixing bowls are covered with garbage bags to keep them from becoming little rodent cemeteries. The shelves still hold food that we think the rodents won't bother. Every year it's a balance between making the packing/unpacking job a little less demanding and not wasting supplies.

Cleaning up after a season like this one is no trivial task. This is definitely not what the cabin looked like for most of the season. Cardboard boxes are routinely tossed out in front of the cabin. After flying over our camp one season, I became very sensitive about how trashy it looks if there is even a little bit of non-tundra stuff on the tundra. So I've become vigilant about preserving the delicate beauty of the tundra as much as we reasonably can. Even though it looks bad from the air, we save them in case we'll have a bonfire. And we collect any that remain at the end of the season to take them to the garbage at AGS. We have community clothing that many in the crew accessed as they ran out of dry and even marginally clean clothing of their own. But the problem with community clothing is that no one feels responsible for it, so it just stays where it is dropped. Pots and pans are usually stacked everywhere (including the floor when we run out of counter and sink space.) We will often use the same pots to cook the next meal, a gentle extension of the principle of keeping the soup pot going from one day to the next - and people store their dishes in many creative places so they can find them for the next meal... but no one else will cockroach them. Also, as the season progresses, bags and boxes of abandoned who-knows-what begin to accumulate and crowd out the things that are in active use, but everyone thinks those bags and boxes belong to someone else, so they just sit there all season. Finally, at the end, we scour the cabins for meaningless bags and boxes, laundry, dishes, and mysterious substances quietly festering in corners to root them out. The problem with quiet festering is the next step - when it stops being so quiet.

The five page checklist has these headings: All cabins, My cabin, Debby's cabin, Around camp, Take down sites, Net locker, Skiffs (do each thing for each of five skiffs), Trucks (for each of four trucks), Four-wheelers (for both), Rangers, Generators, Nets, Fishing gear (waders, gloves, headlamps, sleds, row boat), Business with others (Naknek Engine, post office, property tax, Paug-Vik lease, settle with buyers), packing and southbound, homepack, Food inventory and storage. Then there's detail for each heading, some more than others. Much of this we can't start until we stop fishing, hence the tension at the end of the season about when to stop fishing. The mood of the closing up process is always on the frantic scale, and those of us with more tolerance for frantic concentrated effort prefer to fish for longer while those with less tolerance prefer to pull our nets sooner.

Here is the detail for All cabins:
•Wash blankets, sleeping bags.
•Wash all clothes that will be left behind – make a list of all that stuff
Bag or barrel all that stuff to keep rodents out
•Rodent proof food (dry stuff into barrels or crates)
•Rust proof canned food (into crate or barrel with rice sprinkled in as desiccant)
•Cover stuff with towels/sheets to keep dust off
•Turn over anything that a lemming might crawl into and die
•Empty open water containers (buckets)
•Fill (almost) drinking water containers – leave lid partially open
•Clean thoroughly – make sure to take out anything that will spoil
•Board up and lock up
Find screws, plywood in advance
Charge de Walt batteries in advance
•Bring in:
unused propane
stuff I want to keep from outside
stuff that will help someone gain unlawful entry into other cabins
•Prepare water drums
•Put up gutters for water collection
•Try to fix gutters so they won’t fall down
•Clean up around all cabins – dump runs
•Take batteries out of everything
Clocks, speakers, radio, headlamps, buoy lights, flashlights
•Lock kickouts (?)
•Pack up things that don’t freeze well (milk, mayo, fresh food) and
Donate to elders
Ship south
•Empty refrigerator
•Bring power tools back to my cabin for secure storage
•Turn off propane and bring it inside

We never know what the winter will hold, but we have a good idea of what it could hold. It might be cold. If so, things will freeze, animals will try harder to get inside, there will be moisture from condensation, but maybe not as much spoilage. It might be warmer. If cheese or jam or anything perishable is left in the tundra-ator, yow for next spring. They don't make gloves that thick. Someone might get bored enough to want to vandalize.

Batteries have to come out of everything because they tend to corrode if left in, and then our flashlights, clocks, headlamps, radios become unreliable. Lemmings tend to climb into things they can't get out of. It's a terrible thing to find their desiccated little bodies in the bottom of buckets or even large basins. I don't know if they really eat each other before they all die, but my sister did think she found the lemming Donner party. Bleah. Just turn those containers over. And if we inadvertently leave a bucket of water around, we can be sure we'll find some drowned rodents in it. Bleah.

We try to fill our water containers with late-season water so we don't need to consume early-season water. (And yes, we cover these water containers, but not so tightly that water can't get out if it freezes.) We store this water because I believe that the pipes may host critters during the winter who leave parts of themselves behind, possibly to contaminate the early-season water that runs through those pipes. I'm sure the people at the camp run lots and lots of water through those pipes when they get the well running again, just to clean them out. But still... In the past, I heard a lot about people getting a case of "Bristol Bay Belly" in the spring. Our crew never has suffered from that. I imagine avoiding that early-season water might contribute to our good record. And if not, no harm done and it's one more thing we don't have to put on our early season to-do list.

It has been years since we've seen any sign of someone trying to break into the cabins. It used to be a real problem, and at least one year, the results were spectacularly disgusting, with bird corpses decomposing on the table, mold towering out of opened but unused food cans, squirrel heads flying out of the bedding we pulled out of storage in the closed wringer washer. We found all that in the middle 70s, long before most of our crew members were born, but it leaves an impression. For a few years, we tried leaving the cabins opened, so that people in a jam could easily take shelter. But the hospitality was not returned, so we started locking up as tightly as we could. Since then, no squirrel heads.

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