Diving in… the Ditch Diaries continue

Diving into the Ditch Diaries.


looking north down the weminuche trail


Twenty days in camp and counting.

After a week off, we’re feeling good. Strong, in shape, recovered, ready to hit it hard.

Not bad for a middle aged woman from the Big City, I think.

Some ask me why I don’t volunteer, help the Forest Service crews clear the trails, stop complaining and get out there and get it done.  I can’t afford to, for one.  Volunteering is a luxury many cannot afford.

And as much as I love working with my old fashioned tools and have utmost respect for the simpler ways, I also love an outlaw.

Besides.  They don’t want me.  I know.  I’ve tried. Maybe you’re either a Yes-Man or a I-Don’t-Think-So kind of person.  You know which one I am.  My reputation precedes me.  We can leave it at that.


the north fork of the pine


Woke this morning to an odd scratching sound and a beeping which reminded us of a back-up warning signal on a dirt mover machine.  Not something you’d expect to hear out here.  What we found was a porcupine with his head hiding under the log on which we store our saddles.  Glad I saw him before the dog or horses did.  He’d already done some damage to Bob’s old heavy saddle, chewed on the fenders and back cinch strap.

Always something.


early morning at ditch camp


Early morning after putting the horses out to graze.  Gunnar and I hike up the North Fork trail.  It has been cleared.  Traditional methods.  I’m impressed, but glad I wasn’t around to witness.  Mid season, and I can guess by the number of trees I had counted that need to be removed and were – what was that, sixty four?  – that there may have been a good size crew or it took a while.

Yes, it’s sticking to the rules, but is it lower impact on the forest?  Or the visitors to the forest?

First time in how many years I could walk without climbing over dead fall.  I’m grateful, but skeptical.  A usual reaction from me.

A friend tells me she tried to hike up the Ute Creek trail to Black Lake and spent too long finding her way up, over and around to make her destination.  Could have sworn there was a Forest Service crew parked there with horses and a group of volunteers for about ten days.  What did they do if not clear the trail?


free ride


After my indecent proposal of suggesting we take chainsaws into the Wilderness once a year, early season, before the tourists, and properly address the growing problem of dead and falling trees and resulting closed trails, the reactions I received will not surprise you.

Those in the Forest Service were adamant about sticking to the rules, the traditions, at all costs.  Everyone else, not so much…

The rules, the traditions… but folks, it’s all changing.  Wake up.  It always does, only now, more so than ever.  Things are happening, fast.  Haven’t you seen?  The trees are dead or dying.  Now they are burning and we all know the risk and know it’s far from over.

This is a growing problem.  First the beetle kill. Then the burns. It’s not going to go away any time soon and if we bury our heads in the sand (or under a fallen log like my chubby porcupine), it’s still going to remain.  And probably grow.


grass seed


This is my mountain.  This is my forest.  These are my trees.  These are my trails and my back yard and my home and my business and you know what?  I’m going to do something about it.  If nothing else, I’m going to grab you by your shoulders, give you a good shake, and make you open your eyes and look.

It’s yours too.  What are you going to do?  Tell me to hold onto the past and stick to the rules?  I’ve never been big on either one.

Open your eyes.  Open your mouth.  Breathe in the thin air that’s probably going to be a little thinner when all these trees are gone.

Maybe that’s all we can do.  But I swear, that’s a helluva lot better than burying your head and pretending it’s all the same today and maybe even tomorrow as it was yesterday and everything is just peachy.

It don’t look so peachy to me.


water on flower turning to seed


Gunnar is lying in a big nest that is our double sleeping bag, still warm from a night of tangled flesh, while steam rises from his wet back and his nose is tucked into his fat fox like tail.  Bob is getting the fire going, the coffee is done percolating, condensation on the tent roof drips, the moon has set behind the wall of fuchsia sunrise, and the horses are hiding head down in the sea of fog that settled at the base of the mountain where the thick grass grows.


purple flower


The changes we are witness to.  Needle-less trees provide less protection from hail, rain, and I remember when in the years before we allowed ourselves the luxury of a tent, Forrest was at ease tossing out his bedroll under the boughs of a big spruce tree and that was usually enough.

Now the birds of prey fly through and hunt in among the trees.

Grass grows taller when not in the shade.

Raspberry bushes take hold.

There’s no shortage of firewood.

There are some silver linings to these clouds of dying trees.


turning leaves


The first flock of geese flying in formation for this season, heading south.

We step outside the tent to listen.

No motors.

Silence after they pass.

That’s the best part of being out here.

Solace of solitude.

No, I don’t want the chainsaws all the time. Don’t be silly.  You should know me better than that.   Don’t you remember what I asked for?  Just one week, early season, to let my horses ride in safely.  I even offered to help.


gin getz on flying crow


And what about the noise pollution of small planes that fly low over camp and buzz our horses out in the meadow regularly enough that they no longer lift their heads?


bob and gunnar


One hundred and forty feet of ditch in a day.  Not dug from scratch, but cleaned up.  Vegetation removed, upper bank cut to the perfect slope, bottom slipped and shoveled, lower bank raised, compacted, re-seeded.

At the end of the day, you lean on your shovel, look around and think it’s all a work of art. The ditch. The dirt. The slope.  The calluses on your hands. The view. The sun going down behind the Pyramid. The horses grazing in the thick wet grass.  Hillsides, even with dead red trees.  Maybe even when they’re black and burned.

I’ll find beauty.  I’m here.  I’ll look.  Closely.  An intimate view, connection, touching, tasting, finding.  And in the meanwhile, I’m going to care. About every fallen needle, deer in the distance, slope of the bank, and tiny little transparent green-grey trout fry swimming in the still pristine waters of the North Fork of the Pine River.

And caring sometimes might mean speaking up, stirring the waters, and splattering a little mud.  Otherwise, like that porcupine, all you’ve got is a shallow view and a sense of self preservation that probably won’t last too long.

At the end of the day…  you sleep pretty well out here.


almost home


Enough of a good thing.  I’m tired of the rain, wet boots, cold hands, heavy shovels, soggy Levi jeans.

What a strange summer.

Sadness in the air, heavy as the sky cries.

We mourn the loss together.


my boys


Something about our team.  The three of us.  Links in a chain.  The secret ingredient to making it all work.

At the end of the day, we balance each other out.  With chores, interests, humor, drive… You take this tool, I’ll take that. We’ll get it done, together.

I’m the one to give lectures.  They listen.  Conversation is killed.

Follow your passion, I tell them, live like no one else.  Life is an adventure, live the life you’d be envious of if you knew someone else was living it.  Be the person you want to be.  Start now.

Dare not only to dream, but to make your dreams come true.

They put up with me.  I don’t know if they listen, but at least they don’t interrupt.


Just before lunch another hail storm hits.  We’re in the tent, steaming ramen in flimsy paper bowls perched precariously in our laps, looking out the tent flap to a ground turning white.  It’s loud on the tent.  Oddly enough, it makes you sleepy.  Why not indulge?  It’s not like you can get much done out there in this, and you know it won’t last too long…


bob packing in



All hell breaks loose around ten a.m.

Norman’s been on edge this year.  Something about his confidence.  I need to help him through it.  If he’s part of the team, he’s got to work too.

In the meanwhile, he explodes, all fifteen hundred plus pounds of him, bucking, four feet in the air, head down, sacks of rocks flying off, metal racks tossed in the air, and away he goes a half mile across the big wide open meadow on the Divide with the dog and me behind him.

No matter how I tried, this time, I could not keep hold of the rope.


Work season is winding down.  Then the fun begins.  Hikes and rides and pack trips with nothing more in mind than to be here, appreciate the wilds, make the most of where we are.

I hope to do that every day.

Even while digging ditch.


rio grande pyramid and window in another storm


2 thoughts on “Diving in… the Ditch Diaries continue

  1. glad to see someone is out there still living it….adelante…..abrazos fuerte, ginny pearl

    On Mon, Aug 26, 2013 at 12:51 AM, GinGetz.com

  2. Your photographs are lovely. The last one of Pyramid across the valley floor is stunning….really beautiful veil of light. Thanks so much for sharing!

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