I’ve had an especially hard time finding access to Internet this week, so I apologize for it taking me so long to get another post out there. All of last week I was in Kendesnii with my YCC kids, the Head of Maintenance, Wayne, and his wife, Barb. Our main objective was to set up signs around a relatively new campground, repaint kiosks and picnic benches, and to clear trail. I learned a lot about how to choose the location of traffic signs and then to cement them into the ground. I can honestly say it never crossed my mind how much consideration goes into which direction a sign needs to face, the dimensions of the hole it sits in, or if it is perfectly level. By the end of work each day my arms were sore from carrying countless 50-pound bags of cement to each sign location.
On Tuesday we had a bit of a scare. There are currently three very large fires in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, and it turns out one of them was only 17 miles away from where we were camping. The pounding wind that had so successfully kept the mosquitos at bay during work also served to push the smoke over the mountains and down into our little valley, engulfing the trees, unleashing snowflakes of ash, and turning the sky a hazy gray. At 4:30 in the afternoon the sun had been choked into a tiny pinpoint of yellow, making the whole sky a mustard color. I was almost convinced we would be evacuated the next day: if not for the fires, the smoke alone would be reason enough.
However, that was not necessary. By Wednesday the sky was beautiful and clear again as if nothing had ever happened. Because we had gotten so much work done already, Wayne decided we could have an easy day of “investigating trail for debris,” which basically meant we hike a bunch of trails and occasionally pick up stray branches or cut down trees that cover the path. One of the paths led us up steep sheer rockslides to look at old gold mines from the early 1900’s. At one point Teshina and I stopped to look out at the surrounding mountains as the two boys went up, ever higher, on to more precarious cliffs. From where I stood I could see everything they did and communicate with them, but I became a nervous wreck. Two fifteen year-old boys are enough to give any nineteen year-old a full head of gray hair. I turned to Teshina, who is seventeen, and said, “I’m catching a glimpse of what kind of parent I’m going to be, and I don’t like it!”
Since I basically babysit high school students all day everyday I’m learning a lot about parenting. It’s easy to be carefree and adventurous when you’re only responsible for yourself, but now I have to make sure these kids don’t hurt themselves, and I’m instantly less fun.
A perfect example of this occurred on the last night of our trip last week, while the boys were fishing down by the lake. I was attempting, after being interrupted multiple times, to quickly write something down in my journal, when I heard Gavin crashing through the woods behind me. He had his hand over his mouth and was mumbling something about pliers. I asked him what he meant and, instead of replying, he simply removed his hand and showed me the metal spike pierced through his lip. My eyebrows shot to my hairline but I surprised even myself with my calm reaction. I went to the first aid kit in the van and started searching for something with leverage.
However, my search was cut short when a minute later Sean’s voice came from behind me, asking for scissors. I turned around to see the fishing pole in his hands attached by the line to the crotch of his shorts. I handed him the scissors with a small sigh, confident his was the lesser of my concerns at the moment, then jogged over the Gavin’s tent, from reach loud groans were floating.
“Got it!” I heard him shout in triumph. “I used my knife.”
“Yeah, I got mine too!” I turned to see Sean holding the hook, bits of his shorts still bunched on it. When I looked down, I realized that, instead of cutting the fishing line like I had expected, Sean had simply cut a gaping hole in the center of his pants. Leave it to these guys to make a small crisis a whole lot more complicated than it needs to be.
But we survived the week, somehow, and I managed to get all of them back to their parents in one piece. To be honest, worse things could have happened, but there are plenty more weeklong trips ahead of us, so I’m still holding my breath. If these kids weren’t so funny, my job would be a lot harder than it is.
Today we did some trail work again, but this time we hauled gravel in wheel barrels from a pile near the Visitor’s Center, through a mile of woods, down an extremely steep rock edge, to the next section of trail to be cleared. The trip downwards had to be completed at a pace between a jog and a run because of the incline, all while maintaining control of 75 pounds of gravel in a very tipsy wheel barrel. But the way back up the trail was by far worse. Even though I had already dropped off my load, I always found myself out of breath, covered in sweat, heartbeat pounding in my forehead, by the time I made it to the top of the trail. And that’s not even counting the mosquitos continually buzzing around our heads, despite the 90-degree heat.
But my day has since improved greatly. Not only did I manage to find access to Internet tonight, but I also am doing my laundry. My roommate, Riley, and I volunteered to cook dinner for one of the Park Rangers in exchange for Wi-Fi and a washing machine. Speaking of which, I should probably go make sure I haven’t ruined the spaghetti yet. I will write again soon.
Thanks for reading!