Eastern Utah
EMAIL ME AT: mgypsy97 at aol dot com

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Update August 19-25, 2009

I'm doing laundry at a local campground that has wi-fi, and because I'm Park Service they aren't charging me for it. Wonderful people and a very nice campground.

Wednesday, August 19 (2nd Post today)
I am back at the campground after a nice day off. I didn’t even get out of my truck when a camper came up wanting to pay for his site with a credit card, which might give you an indication of why I needed to get away for a few hours. I will make the second round of the campground this evening just to make sure I have everyone who came in today, but for the record it is my day off and I’m not going to worry about anything.

The fire is winding down and yesterday I said goodbye to Brandon from BLM (one of the two who kept me informed of the progress) and today I said goodbye to Jody from the Forest Service. This morning the crew from Kings Canyon-Sequoia left, so all the excitement is going as well. One of the firemen said they carried packs that weighed 38#, plus the tool they carry is 7#. There were a lot of requests made by various crews for Gold Bond powder, Ibuprofin, and moleskin. Sounds like a bunch of long distance backpackers, among whom Ibuprofin is known as “Vitamin I”.

I drove the 100 miles round trip to Burney today and was able to finally get an internet connection. I updated the blog and worked a bit with my email, although I will never be able to catch up on all the blogs I missed this summer. I was also able to reach the manufacturer of Arctic Fox trailers and truck campers, and asked them to send me a brochure of their products. I may be able to swing by their mfg plant which is in eastern Oregon, on my way to the east in September.

I had planned to do laundry but the Laundromat in Burney is closed on Wednesdays, so I’ll be washing the uniform shirts by hand again. I visited the vet’s office to get heartworm preventive for Lady, and also to get her the vaccinations she is due at the end of the month. The doctor wasn’t there, so the vaccinations will be a month or so late unless I need to go back to Burney for some reason. I was able to leave the dog at the hospital in air conditioned comfort while I did my errands. It was so nice not to have to worry about leaving her in the truck, and it would have been too hot today to leave her anyway, so I wouldn’t have gotten an anything done.

I talked to my daughter - she & Donald & kids will be here, along with Steve & Megan, a week from this Friday. Steve will stay the weekend, and Jeannie will remain a few days into the following week. The gravel road has had some work done on it and is much easier to drive on, so I asked her to let Joe & Sarah know in case they can make it. If so, I will rent an adjacent campsite for the weekend. It will be the last time I see them until next year.

One more thing - the effects of the fire can been seen along the way I traveled today. It looks devastated in some places, but within a year or so will come back strong. I would think that is how we have a beautiful though small grove of aspens on the way into the campground. They are just getting ready to change color.

Thursday, August 20:
I feel much better today, even though I believe a camper came in late last night and left early this morning without paying. Camp hosting has certainly allowed me to see the best and the worst of people, and it is sometimes disheartening to know that dishonesty is so prevalent.

I was so tired yesterday evening that I went to bed early, shortly after 8:00 p.m. I’ve been getting so dehydrated from the campfire and it was nice waking up without a headache this morning.

Saturday, August 22:
Camping season is dwindling down now and while some of the other campgrounds may have a lot more visitors, Butte Lake is the best place to be right now if you don’t like crowded spaces. The dust factor is about the worst part of the whole place and there is no fix for that.

Monday, August 24:
I’ve decided that Sep. 9 will be my last day to work, and I will pull out the morning of the 10th. That should allow me to get to Burns, Oregon before the weekend, and I’ll have Les Schwab check the tires on my 5th wheel. I would like to use the Pressure Pro monitoring system, but so far I can’t find a place to put the monitor. Vehicle dashboards seem to be designed so that you don’t have enough space to place things securely. Also, I have one outlet to plug into, so I bought an adaptor which has never worked properly, and I usually just go with the GPS plugged in and the Pressure Pro monitor resides inside the console. What a waste of money that was! I wish I hadn’t taken so seriously all the advice about the things I had to have, and all the things I should constantly check on in order to drive safely. I didn’t check my tire pressures every day when I just drove a Jeep, and I don’t do it now.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Update August 7 through 19

Friday, August 7:
I left Sacramento this morning and arrived back at the campground before Noon. Lee, from Maintenance, was unlocking the bathrooms, but otherwise I was the first person back in the CG. Being Friday we had a lot of reservations, but because of the cool snap and the closure for fire danger, there aren’t very many campers here. There was a very heavy rain here last night from what I’ve heard, and I couldn’t get a campfire going so I just came indoors, powered up the generator and turned on the furnace. While that warmed up the rig a little, I decided the electric heater would keep me warmer, so now I’m cozy with all the heat directed at me!

The only reason it wasn’t too sad leaving Jeannie & family this morning is the knowledge that they are coming up for a few days camping around the last of August/beginning of September. I love being around my kids so any opportunity is not to be missed.

Coming up from Old Station to the Butte Lake CG there were many small fires smoldering along both sides of the highway. It was an eerie sight. I hope the recent rain puts a stop to the fire threat, although I know it will take more than one heavy rain to do that.

Sunday, August 9:
Not much going on today - the campground usually empties out on Sunday, and with the recent fires in the area many people went to other Park campgrounds. I spent my time doing some maintenance, and put out a fire left by some campers that could have developed into something much bigger. Two huge logs were smoldering, but it was amazing how hot was the ash in the fire pit. It boiled and bubbled when I put water on it, and it required much more work than usual to get it to where I felt comfortable leaving the site.

Why do I still get so excited when I see a deer walk through the campground? My heart skips a beat, especially when she stops and looks directly at me, and I at her, and we are in complete unison. Marvelous.

Monday, August 10:
My closest neighbors include firefighters from Los Padres, who are here to help with the fire situation. Several people I met on my early morning rounds commented that they were happy to have them here, and so am I.

I seem to have acquired a chipmunk problem and I’m not quite sure how to take care of it. I’ll have to say that I’ve been lax about leaving potato and tortilla chip bags on the countertop, as well as a loaf of bread once in a while. I’m learning very quickly to put everything in the cabinets now, and to keep the dishes washed and put away. I think the cabinets are tight enough they can’t get into them, at least there is no sign of it yet. The little rascals are cute enough outdoors but I don’t want them in my house - they are rodents after all.

Tuesday, August 11:
Our campground has acquired a mascot. A very hungry and underweight female dog wearing a red collar h.as been hanging about since yesterday. Supposedly she is too skittish to every allow anyone near enough to catch her, yet she is eating donuts and hamburger buns from the hand of one camper, and has accepted food from other campers as well. I take her dog food and biscuits on my rounds and she comes right up for it, although she jumps back if I make too quick a move to suit her. I can’t reach anyone on the radio to find out what to do, so I’ll just keep feeding her. I hope she stays in the campground because she has an injury to at least one paw, and would be no match for a hungry mountain lion.

I am listening and learning a bit about firefighting in the National Park. So far the winds have been kind, but when they kick up it will change the picture. I just hope we don’t have to evacuate again because I don’t think I would come back, meaning I would have to get everything ready for travel and hitch up - under some pressure I am sure.

Wednesday, August 12:
It seems like I’m always sitting around waiting for something to happen before I can do what I want or need to do. I want to do laundry and have decided to pay the supreme price charged by the nearest Laundromat, just to save time and fuel. But I am waiting on Lassen County Animal Control, and while I indicated there was no urgency and that the stray dog in question wasn’t going anywhere because she was being fed in the campground, I am afraid of the bonding that is going on, especially with the young daughter of the people whose campsite she visits, as well as with me, who brings dog food to her 3 times a day. She walked out on the loop to meet me this morning, just waiting for her breakfast.

The dog has made a nest in the hollow of a big log, so she seems comfortable enough and spends most of her time there. She has many health issues though, and I’m afraid that it will take time, effort and money to get her to an adoptable stage, if that’s even possible. She is a sweet young dog, although very skittish around people. So I will go count the clean pairs of socks, jeans, etc., and continue to wash the uniform shirts by hand, possibly until Monday when I can get away. There are a lot of reserves due in tomorrow and Friday, but with the smoke and haze many will probably go elsewhere. The cool night temperatures cause the smoke to settle on and around Butte and Snag Lakes, and along with the strong smell of smoke in the mornings, is frightening to some people.

Friday, August 14:
I am not even going to sit outside tonight or burn a fire. I’m indoors, running my generator so as to charge the laptop, and plan to be in bed before it even gets dark. I am getting bummed out with the situation at this campground - because I’m so remote they only send reservation cards and daily arrival reports twice a week, which leaves a gap whereby someone could rent an unreserved site, not knowing that it has actually been reserved. I got two cards today for reservations tomorrow, and both sites have people in them through tomorrow night. I’ll just have to hope I can smoothe it over with no problems. I wanted to drive out of here in the morning and get my laundry done plus buy some supplies, but I guess that is out of the question until I get the mix-up straightened out, so I will probably go out on Sunday morning. After having two days off during the evacuation I think what is really wrong with me is that I need some time off.

The acreage under fire is growing constantly, but supposedly the situation is improving. I think they are getting a lot of old stuff burned out of the way, which helps keep the severe fire hazards down plus improves the situation for wildlife.

It has been cool today, and I even wore a windbreaker for most of the day since I wasn’t out in the sun for very long at a time. I’m starting to look forward to traveling again in about a month. I don’t like the thought of hitching and unhitching, which I will probably do more of so I can refuel without worrying about maneuvering in and out of crowded stations pulling the 5th wheel. I haven’t really decided on a route yet, although I’ve been studying the maps and checking the routes with the Mountain Directory West. Now I wish I had ordered the Mountain Director East at the same time. I had hoped to go through Butte, Montana, but MDW has nearly scared me away from it. Butte was the place that many copper miners went to when the mines closed in the Irish village I lived while in Ireland, and I would like to visit there. I’m sure I would know many relations of people living there - anyone named O’Sullivan or Harrington, to mention two surnames. I’m really ready to get back to the East, although I’ve enjoyed my many months in California. I just need a “fix” of green grass and deciduous trees (and grandsons). The foliage should be beautiful by the time I get back.

Also, I am going to look for a smaller RV, although I don’t hold out much hope of being able to switch at this time. I’m afraid I would just lose money in the process. To make my 5ver liveable, I’m going to have to rip up the carpet and have laminate installed, and I hope that doesn’t get too costly. But the first thing I will do is to have the oil changed in the generator. I bought oil thinking I would change it myself, but in reading the directions I’ve decided it’s beyond my current abilities and I really don’t want to have to do it anyway!

Monday, August 17:

For about the third time in ten days I’ve had to empty and wash every bit of silverware, cutlery, pots and pans and all the utensils I have. And I AM SICK OF IT! This is not the way I envisioned spending my golden years, and I am not going to give in without a fight. Next time I go to a decent store, probably in a couple of days, I’m going to buy bait and cheerfully murder the little monsters,

The fire is still burning but it looks as though the crews may be wrapping things up in a couple of days. I will be glad when that happens, although I have learned a little about fire management in the National Parks, as well as some of the strategy and terminology used by the firefighters.

Wednesday, August 19:
I'm in Burney today and finally got a decent connection, although slower than usual. I've decided to work through September 10 and then head out. I'm going through Boise - one of the BLM folks that I got to know from bringing the updates on the fire every day is from Boise, and he invited me to visit him and his family when I drive through. I think I will do it. He gave me some very good advice about traveling through Idaho up to Montana, so I might even see a bit of the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone Parks. I will definitely drive through the Sawtooth Range.

I'll get this posted now and try to wade through all my emails. I hope the connection holds.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Last day in Sacramento

I looked over the previous couple of updates and realize that I've been complaining a lot. I think it is due in part to the fact that I was getting burned out with no days off. The past two days have helped but don't really make up for all the hours I've put in 7 days a week. I will be leaving in the morning to go back to it all.

Jeannie and I were out a big part of the day and I've enjoyed it immensely. They will be coming up to Lassen in a couple of weeks, and I think Steve & Meg will come up at the same time, so it will be nice to have family together again even though Joe & Sarah won't be able to make it.

I bought a set of jumper cables - extra heavy duty 20 ft., 4 gauge. The Park had given me a set to lend to folks whose battery wouldn't start, and they were always returned to me. A woman borrowed them last weekend and returned them right away, but came back to get them again the next day saying their battery was dead. I never saw the people or the cables again. Another woman came to borrow the cables and I drove her back through the campground looking for the last borrowers, but couldn't find them. We did find another person who lent their own cables so everyone was happy. An hour or so later the woman who had needed the cables came back to the host site with a set she went into town and bought for me for "being so nice". I was stunned to say the least. The problem is that they were standard duty cables, and I thought I would probably need a heavy duty set when I get back so I can jump my RV battery if needed, so I bought my own personal heavy duty cables today. I certainly won't lend them out to anyone, which is sad because it is good to help people in need, but someone who steals from you just makes you have to be suspicious of everyone. This is a negative aspect of the job although most people seem to have the same values I have, but those few who don't can make a dent in your ability to trust.

I will be up early in the morning so I'm off to sleep and hope I don't run into much traffic on the way out of town.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Update July 23 to August 3

I really needed this time away from the Park and the job, and the evacuation was a blessing in disguise for me. I spent the day with Jeannie, Donald, Ara, Autumn and Ariana. I called the Park office and it seems there was no trouble at Butte Lake so they were opening the campground back up today. Too bad I'm not there for it, but I'll go back on Friday morning. What a way to get my Wednesday and Thursday off!

I'm not sure when I'll be able to post again. I think the trouble is with my laptop and not the air card, but I should have been able to get online when I went to Susanville. I'm going to try to install the card again and see if that works.

Thanks to everyone who has stuck with reading my blog, as erratic as the updating has been. Hopefully I'll be able to either use the air card or find campgrounds with free wifi on my way back east in September.

Thursday, July 23:
I was able to post a few updates when I was in Burney today but couldn’t find a shady spot in the entire town where I could read my email.

I just got back to the campground and wish I could have stayed someplace overnight. I had left a white board out in front that said “Host Off Duty - back in late afternoon”. So I got back about 3:30 which isn’t exactly late afternoon. I got my groceries inside and had just brought my two dogs put for a walk when a man came strolling onto my site with a large dog - of course mine don’t care for that at all. I put them back inside and told him it wasn’t a good idea to take a dog into another’s camp site, and that the majority of incidents in the park are caused by dogs. He blew me off and then told me how I should do my job - it seems the vans belonging to the group are driving too fast in and out of the park, and they kick up a lot of dust that drifts over into the campground. I have yet to see anyone who doesn’t drive too fast in here, which is why everything is covered in a layer of dust.

So I decided “screw it” and went and rubbed out the “back in late afternoon” off my sign. This will be my first day off since I went back for my granddaughter’s entering the world on the 23rd of June, and I returned here the 25th or 26th. I’m taking the rest of the day off, although I might go back and mention to the van drivers that they should slow it down until they pass the campsite area. Wouldn’t you think it would be obvious? Evidently it’s only obvious when the dust is blowing in one’s eyes.

Friday, July 24:
People seem to be coming to Lassen in unusually high numbers, and all the campgrounds are experiencing an increase, including Butte Lake. Although we are never completely full, no doubt due to the remote location and dreadful road in, we still have a lot of folks. There have been several publication during the past year that have named Lassen one of the top National parks and best places to visit and camp. I wish they wouldn’t do that, because the reason it is such a great place is because it isn’t packed with people as is Yosemite or Great Smoky Mountains.

I really liked the veterinary clinic I found yesterday. Lady is suffering from some kind of intestinal ailment, not parasites thankfully, but a battery of tests were run and I will find out the complete results in a few days. They clipped her nails without charge while they were at it, which is always an ordeal. At 86# and not liking to be messed with, it always takes several people to hold her. When I mentioned that I had to go to Safeway while they were doing the blood tests, they offered to keep both dogs at their kennel while I was gone. I really appreciated that, because if I have to leave them in the truck, even with the windows open, I always hurry through my shopping so they won’t get too hot. Both dogs have a couple of vaccinations due the end of August, so I think I will take them back there as it will be on my way.

I was able to get my daughter, Jeannie, on the phone while I was out. They have been having an awful time - swine flu has hit the entire family! Jeannie and the baby are at much higher risk, so they are being treated more vigorously; Donald has a mild case of it, and I guess 2-½ yr old Autumn is somewhere in between. I will try to get back to see them before I leave here.

A recent visitor to the campground told one of the maintenance workers that he had cell phone reception on his i-phone. I don’t know any more details about it, and it will be a while before I have the internet connection plus time to research it, but I am definitely interested in finding out more about it. I’m sure it’s a lot more costly than Verizon or AT&T, and I don’t know anything about the networks they use, but if I return here next year I would definitely like to have a phone connection. I never did like to spend much time on the phone, but I am so isolated and would like to keep in touch with my kids at least once a week if possible. The next thing would be to switch to a Mac computer and forget the Microsoft crap once and for all.

Though I wouldn’t want to go back to AOL for internet and email, I remember fondly the days when I could work offline and then send and receive mail at once, to be stored on my computer to read at my convenience. If anyone knows of an email program that will do that, other than AOL, I would appreciate knowing about it. (I’m not even sure if AOL even offers that possibility any more.)

Saturday, July 25:
One of the perks of this job seems to be the good things some of the campers give to you, such as home grown veggies & tomatoes that they brought with them. David, who works here also has an extensive garden and yesterday brought me some wonderful crookneck squash. Last night, and tonight as well, I am stir frying a mixture of squash, onions & tomatoes and serving it over pasta, splashed with a generous dash of good robust olive oil and topped with freshly grated parmesan. I just used the last of one bottle of good olive oil I bought in Corning, CA, near all the olive groves, and am into my stash of the best dipping oil I’ve ever tasted.

Tuesday, July 28:
It has been a sad couple of days for me. Mandy, the older dog, was put to sleep today. She threw up all over the carpets inside the 5ver, and could just pace back and forth when outdoors. I don’t know what was wrong with her this time, but at 14 and blind I knew it was time to let her go. I have been thinking it for some time now and kept backing out. I don’t even know where to begin cleaning up, and unfortunately I can’t just go have the carpets torn up and replaced with laminate. As dirty as it is with all the volcanic soil, I might as well wait until we leave here in about 6 weeks.

I was shocked today with the actions of a camper who just yesterday afternoon joined a boy scout group that is camped here. He and his young son arrived late, so he just pulled in to an empty spot next to the group site, and set up their tents, a laundry line, and the whole works. When I told him he would either have to move into the scout group site or pay for the site he was in he gave me a really difficult time, mostly acting stupid like he thought it should be ok. The scout leader said he would move him into their site, but this morning the vehicle had been moved but not the tents. I didn’t go up to them because the scouts were all divided into small groups here and there, with an adult obviously teaching them some aspect of scouting or camping, and one of the adults was our Mr. Cheapskate. I can’t believe what this man is teaching young people by example. Some day he will wonder what happened when his son is caught cheating in college, or stealing. He learned it all from the old man after all. Lie, cheat and steal - and then pass yourself off as a good person, scout leader and teacher, etc. It just blows me away and bums me out completely.

For all the really nice people I meet and talk to, it just takes jerks like this to unravel the whole experience. When I took Mandy to the vet this morning I left a sign out in front “Camp host not available; back around 3 pm.” When I made the afternoon rounds one of the campers asked me sarcastically if I enjoyed my break. I told him it wasn’t a break, but that I had to have one of my pets euthanized. He made one flip and sarcastic comment after another. I am not making another round until tomorrow morning when hopefully he will be packed up and gone, or still sleeping.

Can you tell I’m not at my best? Next time I write a blog entry I will be better.
Saturday, August 1:
I’m getting to where I really dread weekends. Sundays are a bit more peaceful, but Mondays are the best. Quite a difference from the working world where everyone complains about Mondays.

I am about halfway through my commitment here at Lassen but it seems to be a lot longer than just a month and a half. I will probably keep my options open for next year, although I definitely want to be in a remote location, where at least it’s pretty quiet during the week and the campers are mostly in tents. The big drawbacks here are the 6-½ miles of road in and out, and the dust. Every time a vehicle goes through the campground, and most are driving too fast for the conditions, they send out big clouds of dust that drift to cover everything in the campsite. I shudder to think what my lungs must look like by now because you can‘t escape breathing the stuff. It is so impossible to keep anything clean that I’ve given up on it. I am told that the soil here at Butte Lake is different than that in the rest of the park, so I guess that’s the price I must pay for being in the most idyllic location!

Monday, August 3:
What a surprise I had on Saturday afternoon. My two sons, Steve and Joe, showed up with Joe’s daughter, Alyssa. They brought dinner for the grill, cooked and even cleaned up! We had a great time and it was so enjoyable being with them again. Jeannie, Donald & daughters will try to get here either in late August or early September, and I hope the boys can arrange to come too. Joe’s wife is pregnant and I worry about her coming over that awful road, but maybe if he drives it slow enough…

Today would be a near-perfect day due to the relaxed atmosphere of the campground, except that I have to drive to Susanville once more. I had three prescriptions filled at Walgreens and they messed up two of them making it necessary for me to drive back - 100 miles round trip. I have yet to find a pharmacy in California that has the simplest drugs on hand - I have always been told they will have to order it and I need to come back in a day or two. That happened the first time at Susanville, so I went back the second time to pick them up. I later noticed that there was a problem with one of the prescriptions so I had to return. I later found a mistake in filling another one of them, so now I have to go back yet another time. I would have just had it transferred to the Safeway pharmacy in Burney, but of course they didn’t have it on hand and would have to order it. How can pharmacies in little Asheville, NC operate so much more efficiently for the consumer, while those in large cities such as Sacramento cause you so much of a problem.

What else can happen to me?

I am in Sacramento again, having left Butte Lake last night due to evacuation of my campground because of nearby fires. I packed everything I could into my truck and drove here, leaving the 5ver in place. It would have taken me a long time to get it ready to drive away, and I just couldn't deal with it. I worry about the battery draining and everything in the fridge/freezer being ruined, but can't do anything about it now. I had fully charged batteries and don't know what pulling in the slides takes in the way of power, but for some reason I pulled them in. Hopefully I can get back to the job by the end of the week and there will be no damage.

I've been writing updates, but they are stored on my laptop which is still out in the truck. I'll post them later today.