Enter the New Camp Ground Hosts
Jenn, from Ranger Preston’s office, welcomes me in the morning. “If you want to remove the shutters, I’ll give you the cabin keys and we’ll meet you out there this afternoon.” Awesome…I’m out the door and on my way. Alaska Jack cocks his ears, perhaps sensing my excitement during the ten-mile drive from town. I walk onto the cabin deck and interrupt a cow moose with her 2nd season calf munching on leaves in a small clearing of woods by the viewpoint. I fumble around for the camera and catch a photo of them walking away…right by the railing.
The first order of business consists of removing shutters, and then sweeping out the dirt and rodent droppings. At least 18-inch round logs support this cabin. I whiz through four different screen doors and Jack jumps each time they slam shut. He’s leery about walking on this strange surface of stained, knotty-pine plywood, and he avoids the weird object in the room – an old Earth Stove, which is our wood burning source of heat. It’s time to tackle the ominous task of unloading the overloaded pick-up…but for the distracting view of Davidson and Rainbow Glaciers across the Chilkat Inlet. I call Mare to share, and cannot wait to pick her up at the ferry tomorrow night.
Jenn and Preston pull-up with a warm welcome and a couple of Coleman stoves. “You’ll have to mix and match parts to make it work,” Preston says. “John (the previous camp host) had all of his own stuff. Set this place up anyway that makes you comfortable.” Preston has a shaved head, like me, but is big and stocky with a thick moustache, sort of how you would expect an Alaskan Ranger to look.
After Jenn shows me the unlimited supply of firewood and propane, the real training begins…to the campground and into the outhouses. She shows me how to scrub the inside and outside tube of the toilet, and where they keep cleaning supplies. Preston shares information about duties, issues and responsibilities. “Sometimes kids come out here to burn pallets and party. Call me if you have any problems, or if you need anything.”
We tour the 14 outhouses on the grounds, while the clouds spit a cold drizzle. This type of weather stops nobody from working, or fishing around here. Jenn points out the bear paw prints on the outhouse door which is near the boat launch. Now that would scare the scat out of someone!
Back at the cabin, Preston chats with me but I can’t absorb much…I’m trying to not show my teeth chattering, and not look like a thin-blooded desert dweller who can only think about firing-up that wood burner. “Sure, Preston, go ahead an open the park for business…might as well, I’m here.”
After they leave, I crack a beer and start a fire. Jack and I warm-up by the wood burner, which must be overloaded because the place is as hot as a sauna. Then I hook up a Coleman stove to the propane tank, and it burns well…until the propane hose catches fire. Luckily, I can blow it out. After re-treading the connection, I check for leaks with a match. Poof! Fire again… I’m sweating while unscrewing connections, trying to thicken the threads by rubbing them with a bar of soap. One more try to hook-up the connection and check for leaks. The hose ignites at the stove connection and the tank connection. Am I going to burn down this beautiful cabin the first night? Away with those old stoves, I happen to have my own equipment – a single-burner that doesn’t leak and will suffice for making coffee in the morning.
Alaska Jack and I snuggle on top of a blow-up mattress near the wood burner. The sky stays bright until about 11:30, and then lights up around 3:30 in the morning. We call this a “one-dog-night.” After coffee in the morning, I realize I’m out of water and the well-pump handle does not work. I recall Jenn saying that she has water containers for me until the pump parts arrive.
While unloading the truck, my first visitor/viewer arrives. An elderly man dressed in rubber bibs says that he’s been crabbing today. His wife teaches in a remote Alaskan town with a population of 150 residents. They have alcohol and drug abuse problems there, along with incest. We chalk up the reasons to basic human nature. I share with him how excited I am to pick-up my lady tonight. “We haven’t seen each other for 10 days!” He responds, “I haven’t seen my wife since Christmas…and won’t see her until June.” Ah…that is a common situation up here in the wild.