Paid In Soaks

August 4, 2012

It is one-o’-clock in the afternoon. The sun is shining and it’s hot – 72 degrees! This could be the warmest day of the year here at Goldmyer and I’m dressed in a long sleeve shirt and pants, kept inside for most of the day by relentless pests. Our cabin is a sanctuary from the biting flies and mosquitoes which are at their peak right now (along with the visitors) and are just waiting to sink their proboscises into human flesh. I refuse to douse myself in chemical pesticides (aka Deet) that will eat through my plastic sunglasses. Even the wonderful stream of hot water from our solar shower isn’t enough to keep the bugs at bay; I slap at the horseflies as they attempt to take a chunk out of my ass or other sensitive areas. But it is too nice of a day to sit inside. The outdoors is calling and I must answer.

With a glass of tang in hand I head outside and plop down onto the porch swing. A slight breeze is blowing, filling the air with the sweet aroma of maple syrup; the scent of cow parsnip. It is too hot for all of these layers. Do I dare take something off with enemies around? My skin wants to be liberated from the cotton prison. It craves the vitamin D. The fewer clothes I have on the better, so I do dare! Down to my shorts and t-shirt, a Rufus hummingbird buzzes close to inspect my red shirt to see if it is edible. “Sorry little fellow, it is not.” I glance up at their feeder. It’s empty. They are such jittery little birds; I wonder what they would be like hopped up on tang? My skin yells “take it off.” So I slip into something more comfortable: one less shirt. Ahhh, the warmth of the sun.

SWAT.

DAMN FLIES LEAVE ME ALONE!!!!

I think my shorts will stay on for today.


I sit swinging in the chair looking out over the meadow where the old cedar lodge used to stand (burnt down in the 60s or 70s). I’m glad it is not there to spoil my view of the lush meadow. Instead, casting their radiant colors are tiger lilies and fox gloves. Dragonflies weave in between the branches of bright red elderberries (the non-edible variety), and red huckleberries, scarffing up the tasty, plump mosquitoes for a mid-day snack.

SWAT.

SHOO FLY DON’T BOTHER ME!

I can’t take any more of these pesky, biting bugs. They are ruining my peaceful moment on the swing. With my empty glass, I retreat back indoors away from the bothersome insects. I keep trying to tell them if they just leave me alone I won’t squash them or feed them to Barbra, the female spider that lives on the Bob Shed. But do they listen? No. They seem to be out in full force, so maybe a shower today is out of the question.

1:29 PM 79 degrees.

Four months ago to the day Lissa and I arrived to 2½ feet of snow at Goldmyer Hot Springs via a quad with snow tracks to start a six-month gig as stewards of a privately owned wilderness preserve. One of my favorite observations here has been watching the snow melt and seasons change from winter to spring, and finally to summer, which arrived two months early and then promptly left again after a few weeks, transitioning back into a cool, wet spring until weeks after the summer solstice. But summer is now in glorious bloom up here in the Cascade Mountains.

With peak bug season also comes peak visitor season. July has been one of the busiest months Northwest Wilderness Programs (NWWP) has seen and August shows no sign of slowing down. We can see upwards of 140 people here in a week! Luckily we cap usage to around 20 people per day. If you don’t have reservation, chances are you aren’t getting in. So much for the backcountry setting. Our work hours are sometimes long and frustrating as we occasionally must deal with problem visitors who don’t respect the sanctity of Goldmyer.  Our wages are low – $700/month or ~$1.64/hour, plus free rent and limited utilities.

The one thing that was not mentioned in the job announcement was that we also get paid in soaks, wildflowers, animal sightings and beautiful landscapes (and the occasional pint of ice cream). We obviously didn’t come out here for the money but for something on a more profound level: the experience of living off the grid amidst old-growth forest and developing a more intimate relationship with nature and with ourselves. I may not have a good enough answer yet to the question I get asked a lot, “what made you decide to come out here?” I just knew it was the right path to take at the time.

Time has flown by here at Goldmyer and yet at the same time has gone by slowly. Maybe it’s watching and feeling the seasons change. Every week a new plant is blooming or fading. It seems like it was just yesterday that we still had snow, yet it was ages ago. These past four months have been wonderful and we are excited to head into late summer and fall. Last week we learned that our stint here will be extended by another two weeks. I don’t know. The board of directors might have to drag us out kicking and screaming, after they untie me from the 700-year-old Douglas fir tree!

Even with the bugs, I’m enjoying my time outside each day, tromping up and down the trails, keeping an eye on visitors and looking out for a bear or other local resident wildlife. Hopefully soon, I can venture outside once again without wearing any bug nets and not worrying about getting bitten by a horse fly or mosquito while showering.

Record high for the year to date, 84o F. Previous record high was 78o F set on July 12 and 26

Painting of Goldmyer Hot Springs by Richard Jahn May 31, 2006
http://www.richardjahn.com/

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