The Days and Daze of Lists

These days are endless list-making.  Things to do before disappearing into the wilderness for six months.  Before leaving Tucson there was the list of things to buy that might only be available there (1), the list of things to pack (2).  There was the most painful list of all…what clothes to bring along (3).  A group of nominees were selected and moved to the guest bedroom where they were matched with the required accessories, then the heart wrenching process of breaking up with outfits that simply could not be accommodated within the suitcase and had to be returned to the closet to sulk in darkness for half a year.  Those with travel visas went on the list “To Pack” in the suitcase.  Actually there were three “suitcases”: a small one for things needed on the two day drive north, another for in-town clothes for whatever trips might take us back to Boise, and a third bag for clothes that would go directly into the ranch.  So many decisions.  Before departure there is also the list of tasks for folding up the house and handing it over to its guardian (4).

The day-one drive ended at in St. George, UT where we met friends for a lovely dinner.  I had packed clothes for cooler weather because of the northward trek and checked the weather before we left.  Somehow it was 89 degrees in St. George on our arrival.  My cashmere sweaters looked very unappealing and I felt fairly foolish.  The next morning it was 27 degrees.  As the thermometer fell I felt my IQ rising.  Before we reached Provo, UT we were driving through a snow storm and now I was downright brilliant.

It was early evening when we arrived in Boise.  The snow had stayed behind in Utah but it was still chilly as we settled into our friends’ home and began to make more lists:  a list for meetings with the Forest Service (5), a list for meeting with the Idaho Department of Water Resources management (6), a list for people to see before we fly off (7), a shopping list for 6 months worth of food, cleaning and living supplies…YIKES! (8), a list for garden supplies (9), a list for chicken accouterment (10), a list for cat and dog needs (11), a list for six months worth of prescriptions (12), a list of needs for the farm equipment and systems (13).  In additions there are the lists associated with the projects we will be doing this year:  a list of supplies for planting new fruit trees (14), a list of re-chinking supplies and window replacement needs for the historic cabin (15), a HUGE list of building supplies for the major renovation of the 16′ X 24′ former hunting cabin where we reside (16).  Lastly the master calendar list that dictates the deadlines for completing all these lists (17).  Is it surprising that we are feeling a bit dazed?

When we finally arrive at Campbell’s Ferry there will be a new set of lists of tasks to be accomplished immediately: clean out a half mile of ditches to get the water flowing toward the cabin, clean the rodent scat out of the shelves and crevices  in the cabins, wash EVERYTHING (dishes/shelves/floors/windows), get the internet up and running, etc..  Then the real work of the ranch will begin.

All this preparation makes me think about those pioneers who had to pack their wagons for the trek west, deciding what to take and what to leave behind…likely forever.  What plans they had to make for their survival!  The sheer physical exertion of the journey is daunting enough.  I guess we have it easy…although it doesn’t feel like it at this moment.

Time Travel

Flight In 2014

Frank Church – River of No Return Wilderness… Flying into Campbell’s Ferry

In April each year I am transported one hundred years back in time. Well, perhaps that is a slight exaggeration since my vehicle is a Cessna 206 that lands on a grassy hillside that serves as the airstrip to a property called Campbell’s Ferry, a historic homestead surrounded by 2.4 million acres of wilderness. Once there my husband and I live a life-style much like the earliest settlers.  Our water still comes from a mountain stream a quarter mile away, flowing in open ditches dug by the first residents.  Our fruit and vegetables are grown on site.  We have outhouses and an outdoor shower in place of indoor plumbing.  Our nearest neighbors are 4 miles away, accessible by a narrow trail following the Salmon River that flows past the property.  Our residence is a one room cabin 16’X 24′.

In a week we will leave Tucson, where we live six months in a real house with modern conveniences.  Traveling back in time takes survival preparation: planning, logistics, shopping, packing, transporting.  It takes time, effort and a little mind bending to prepare for a very different life.  Life in the past is not easy, as your early ancestors would tell you if you asked.  Nevertheless, I anticipate my arrival there with something like the excitement one might feel for a rendezvous with a sweetheart after a six month separation.  Why?  This place that is spectacularly beautiful can be difficult, demanding hard physical labor. It also surrenders an uncanny serenity, even spirituality, to every day living.  Part of this spirituality comes from the simple joy of living in nature’s wild heart.  Another aspect comes at the end of the day when you can actually see hard evidence of your day’s work: the garden is weeded, the ditches are cleaned and free flowing, repairs have been made on the historic buildings, the fields have been mowed.  It is a more tangible kind of satisfaction than the abstract knowledge that a report has been written or meetings scheduled for the next day.  At least it is more “real” to me when, at the end of the day, I can sit with the sunset reflecting through my glass of wine as I look out and see the improvements that are the result of my mangled manicure and sore muscles.  I can say, “I accomplished that and made things better.”

I keep a daily journal of our lives while at Campbell’s Ferry.  I wish that my ancestor’s had kept journals or diaries but, if they did, none survive to my knowledge.  I have tangible treasures that help keep them alive in my mind: my great-grandmother’s silk Chinese rug, my grandmother’s lamp, my father’s carved Indonesian chest brought back from his year working on a tramp steamer, some pieces of my mother’s antique furniture.  But I have little, apart from a few saved letters, that speak of their day to day lives.  These handed down treasures live in Tucson and I feel sad saying goodbye to them for the months we will be away.  Through this “time-travel”, however, I feel like I connect back through the ages to the people who would otherwise just be names on my genealogy tree.  All of us, if we go back far enough, are descendants of those who lived lives in wilderness, so even though I leave my grandmothers’ things behind I feel a deeper connection to my ancestors by living a similar life.  In a way I enter their lives and experience them at a profound level.

In this blog I will be writing about life at Campbell’s Ferry past and present but I also would like to offer space on the blog to those who are living a similar existence or to those who have family stories, diaries, or journals of wilderness life they would like to share.  Submissions should be sent for review.  Submission does not guarantee they will be posted on the blog but I would hope that most are publishable. The person making the submissions bears the responsibility of ownership of the material and through submission agrees that they may be published.  Together, I hope, we will be saving a history that would otherwise be forgotten.