Friday, September 26, 2008

Work Crew is Over!

Robyn the work crew supervisor released us early today, but the elements weren't so generous. It started raining just as we finished shuttering Marcellina cabin. I stayed a while in the shop, then got tired of waiting so walked home in rainish hail.

I can't complain... coming up is a long weekend followed by a whole lot of nothing until May. Winter caretaker starts now.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pitch Black

It's really dark here at night, and quiet. One can become annoyed by the tiniest light a mile away.

I just arrived home. It's eleven thirty now.

Tonight I walked down a country road, in the mountains, in absolute blackness - except for the stars - with a group of Gothic residents, six in all, to dismantle a tee pee south of town built by one of the summer work crew (Jonathan Speer - some kinda plant artist). We built a fire and burned the mildewed blankets and sundries. It was an event like that of an exit from summer camp, or cleaning out one's high school locker... except it was here.

And here is seriously the middle of nowhere.

The best part of this night was the exchange I had with George, previously named, on the way down to the fire, which amounted to... 'I walk all over this valley, at night, alone, without a light, all the time, unafraid.' And he's been doing it for ten years.

Who are these people? My dad took me to see 'The Legend of Boggy Creek' when I was five or something and ruined me for dark wooded places, forever.

And so as I walked, one foot in front of the other, assuming the attitude of those around me... soon realizing I could see in the dark, like they could. I could see the road, the trees, the sky, the vague silhouette of light from CB over Snodgrass, the Milky Way, Andromeda... I could see two point two-million light years. I felt the dizziness of the unfamiliar. And being with people who knew where they were and what they were doing, I felt safe. The unfamiliar began to feel familiar. And I realized I knew where I was... I could tell by the outline of the mountains and the stars. I knew exactly where I was.

We had a great time pulling up stakes, knocking down poles, tossing crap onto the bonfire.

We stared at the fire for a long time... And after the coals died down we all walked home. Nothing unusual.

This is life in Gothic.

Monday, September 22, 2008


Last spring while watching Stanley Kubrick's 'The Shining' I googled the phrase winter caretaker and got a hit. An ad appeared for the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic, Colorado. I had never heard of it, but I liked the sound of it... nine or ten months alone to work on some art and enjoy the mountains... perfect.

After some fancy application writing, and persistence, they offered me the job. I was as surprised as anybody, and a little worried... afraid that I might actually like it. I had a good job in Denver, and a not so great apartment, but it was stable. I honestly didn't know I was really going until I really went.

Except for two other caretakers, and the lab's business manager (billy barr - the only year round resident in Gothic) I'll be alone. There will be once or twice monthly trips down to Crested Butte, about three miles by ski or snowshoe only after it snows. No snowmobiles or motorized anything is allowed in the valley in winter. There is a 'ski cabin' right next to mine where back country skiers can stay the night. I'll be supplying them with water and propane throughout the winter. So it's not completely REDRUM up here.

I arrived on September 1st after a long six hour drive in a u-haul. The weather was good all the way to Gunnison.

Mount Princeton

But on the road north to Crested Butte it started raining. I didn't mind. Rain and clouds give the scenery more dimension.

Highway 135

Elk Street, Crested Butte

It was near dark when I arrived in CB. It took another hour to get up to Gothic. One of the residents (George) who just happened to be walking by pointed me to my cabin. I found a bed and fell asleep.

On Wednesday (9/3) I began work crew detail with about five other guys and a supervisor. We fixed and built fences to keep cattle out of the lab's research meadows, shut down the summer water supplies, and closed unoccupied cabins. Most scientists and students were gone before I arrived, leaving their various cabins and labs to be shuttered and emptied by the crew.

Back in Denver, before this job came along, I was sitting on my ass in front of a computer for the better part of a year, and four thousand feet lower. Try carrying fifty pound bags of cement up a hill at this altitude and you'll understand why I've never been so tired in my life.