Ditch camp

A weekend returned and resting from ditch camp. Perhaps resting is not the right word. Moving cows (bringing the girls to a boy), cleaning cabins, clothes and selves, restocking and repacking. I’m slack on finding time to catch up with correspondence and writing. And when I finally do sit down to write, the words and stories overwhelm and I don’t know where to begin. There seems to be so much. Summers, rich and full. As they must be. Fast and furious and fleeting in the high country.

I must begin with the practical. An explanation of ditch camp for those of you who have no idea what I’m referring to. For those who know, please excuse the redundancy. I’ll share something new with you next time.

Ditch camp is about the three of us living in a little thin wall tent with a wood stove, a welcome upgrade from five years ago when we began camped out under a tarp. It is about being tired and sore and dirty at the end of the day, earning our rest, our silence, our sleep. It is about sitting wordlessly together with a simple meal of Hamburger Helper, listening. To each other. To the steam of the coffee on the fire. The sound of the creek. Birds. The horses contented exhales as they graze on the endless pasture of the Divide. The wind through the trees baring their soul as the needles fall and soften the ground below with a silvery brown blanket.

Ditch camp is about days spent with hand tools and horse power. A team of three. One family, close, together, comfortable in the wild world. And horses and dog and wildlife. Shovels and picks, drags and slips. Rebuilding low banks. Cleaning out debris and sediment washed in during the spring run. Repairing damage and improving flow. And my favorite part. Clearing and felling trees with the old crosscut saw, one pair taking turns as the third person stands guard with ax in hand, watching the waving of the top of the tree to tell us it is ready to fall. The forced and powerful rhythm of the back and forth metal on wood, torsos to and fro, vigorous breathing in and out, sawdust and shavings gathering in reward at the base of the tree as the cut gets deeper and deeper.

And on the most practical level, ditch camp is about maintaining a transcontinental ditch deep in the Weminuche Wilderness for a private company that owns the water rights. An old ditch built long ago bringing water from a creek that flows to the west of the Divide over a mile to the east. Pretty simple. They don’t know we see it as the romantic adventure it is, and remain grateful for the hard work we do.

As for the rest, and there is so much more to share with you, I must wait for another day.

Time to get back to work.