Thursday, December 15, 2005

Wildland Firefighting

Wow! I just finished my wildfire class I've been taking this week, which finished off the saw work that I've been doing over the past four months. I am so excited to get on a fireline. Standing around these big engines just makes you feel like a six year old with a new Tonka truck toy. These things are incredible! The engine in this photo is 10.5ft tall and when I stood next to it, the tires were up to my collar bones.

Eli Shank with Type3 engine. Photo: Me

The fire department we visited is in Bayfield, which is a town just outside of Durango. Their fire district covers a large section of National Forest and a challanging amount of wilderness urban interface zones. With this being such a rapidly developing community, sub divisions are exploding everywhere and being constructed high up on hills, with beautiful views (south facing), in large numbers (over 500 new homes in one place) and directly on the forest edge. There are poor water sources, limited access roads, and a large number of uninformed people in these areas. As a result, the station we went to is DECKED OUT! They had an incredible amount of engines, and new equipment. It was a great place to go learn new stuff.

Left: 1" Forest Service hose. This stuff is made of cotton!
Below: Brand new Type1 engine. The only way to describe this thing is BADASS. Puts out 1000gal of water a minute! Cost? $601,000
Photos: Me

A lit fusee. These are used to start fire in the field, and drip a fireline onto the ground. They're basically roadflares. Photo: Me

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Blue House!

It snowed last night while we weren't looking. It was real sneaky too. At one a.m. there was no snow, then the snowplow woke me up at five a.m. and there were atleast 4 inches! The roads were plowed well, and driving to work, I only saw one near-accident.

Photo: Evan BlairPosted by Picasa

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Done with conservation corps

I am SO over my job. I enjoyed doing conservation corps, and I enjoyed learning a new skill, meeting new people, seeing new forests, and camping out under the clearest, coldest stars I've ever seen, but I am very ready to go back to Oregon, and SCHOOL! We're officially done with all of the field work, and will spend this week in a classroom getting the theory side of the work we've been doing. This will include fire mitigation practices from what I understand. A retired Forest Service employee (someone who probably specializes in fuels, I'd assume) is running our class.

Then Phil and I will pile into my car and head west! Rachel and I are still looking for somewhere to live in Corvallis. We have a few prospects, but probably will not be able to firm anything up till right after Christmas, since there is so much to do and see when I get home.

Phil and I are packing up to head over to Moab in the morning. We're going to climb a Kor-Ingals route on Castleton Tower as long as it isn't too cold when we get there! I'll take lots of pictures and write another post when we get back.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Me falling a tree at Mueller State Park last week. Posted by Picasa
4ft. firewood logs we had to carry up steep hills all week.  Posted by Picasa
This is my chainsaw. It's smaller than the others. It still makes my arms sore. Posted by Picasa

Mueller State Park

For the last ten days, my crew was working in a very cold place south of Denver called Mueller State Park. It's a very new park to Colorado, apparently not even 15 years old. Including the adjacent Fish and Wildlife land (which allows hunting, but is also protected from development and other evil human endeavors) the park covers over 12,000 acres of land. This was all donated by a family who saw the importance for protection for the herds of hundreds of elk migrating through their backyard every year, not the mention the black bears, bald eagles, and other more recently rare wildlife.
We were focused on thinning out a swath of land surrounding the visitors center. It was just under 10,000 ft. where we were working, and we had to haul all the logs and slash up a very long and steep hillside where we chipped it up and blew it back into the forest. In the morning it was as cold as 6 degrees, and when it eventually snowed, it was hard to keep fingers and toes warm while working with our saws! Quite an experience.
It's good to be back home in Durango, but it is very cold here too! The snow is coming soon, creeping down from the foothills.

Friday, November 04, 2005


I had my birthday this week, and it was awesome. Phil and I just hung around and were boring as usual, but we ate a wonderful homecooked meal and played cards too! I'm finally finished with the Russian olive project we've been working on in the office all week at Southwest Youth Corps. On Monday, I'll take off early for a place called Mueller State Park. I'll be gone fort 10 days, and that brings us right up to Thanksgiving! It's been nice living at home for these past few weeks of work. The word is that this upcoming job will be our hardest one so far and there will probably be snow on the ground. More when i get home!

Friday, October 21, 2005

I can smell the snow in the air...

Me on the Rio Grande! Photo: Dana Kopf

Phil and I just got home from the newest release ski video from Matchstick Productions (MSP). I'm so stoked to go skiing! We've already had snow on the ground for several days in town here. Not at our house, but within two miles, only 50-100ft. higher than we are. It's sticking and staying for multiple days.

I hit the climbing gym pretty hard yesterday and am getting excited
to get in some good shape again! Doing all this chainsawing makes me feel like a fat lumberjack, with no cardio health at all, even working over 7000 ft. everywhere we are. The next time I have to camp out it's going to be over 10,000 ft. in mid November. Yeah! On Monday we start a project with an organization right here in Durango called the Friends of the Animas River (FOAR). We'll be working to tame russian olive, which you can read about if you just click on the name. In a nutshell, it's an invasive species that thrives near water, but it's not as bad as tamarisk, which is a total pain in the butt, but it's getting there.

Wild mushroom season has come to an end because it's so cold now, but I had fun running around the woods this fall trying to learn about the nasty things while they were out. Here are some photos from some days up in the mountains and when Sophia, Phil's sister was in town.

Me with some nasty smelling stuff. Photo: PK

Something pretty! Photo: Sophia Kast

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Where Have I Been? Greetings from Durango, Colorado!

Hi Everybody! Long time, no talk for some of you. I'm just getting new in to this whole "blogging" thing, but apparently it's the new rage in mass communication, that can easily be used on a personal level. Having internet at home makes it a lot easier to keep in touch, but having so many of you to keep in touch with makes it very hard. For those of you who haven't updated, my most current and often checked e.mail is The school account I have still works, but I don't check it as often.

Blue House! This is where we live.

Photo: PK

Me Struggling on an easy climb at East Animas.

Photo: PK

Since Phil and I have moved to Durango, we haven't climbed much. Rafting took up most of our time in the spring and summer. We did experience a record high water season thought, with the little river here in town peaking at 8,500cfs. Now it's high again and looking at \ somewhere between 600 and 800 with all this rain. We already have a lot of snow in the foothills and people are already bragging about having gone skiing... I can't wait!!

Phil is on his way back from the west coast where he has been working a lot, and playing on the side. He spent a couple days with Keith and Mel before they took of for Korea, which was only a couple days ago. You can read about their adventures on Keith's blog at:

My roomate, Evan and I brewed a nice dark porter tonite, which should be prime for drinking near Christmas, just like last year. In a couple more days I'll be whipping up a batch of brown ale. Not quite up there with the quality of brewskies Josh is coming up with, but I've got some catching up to do.

Work is hard, as I have moved up to a heavier chainsaw (22lbs of power I have to
lug around!) and a lot of innergroup social drama. Those sort of things happen no matter what the work environment, so I consider myself lucky to be gaining so much educationally from these four months, not to mention that I get to work outside every day! For those of you who don't know, I'm working for Southwest Youth Corps and I'm on saw crew that deals with Wildfire Mitigation. Basically prevention via thinning. We've been camping since early September, but for three weeks I'll be working out of Durango, which will be very nice to come home in the evening and eat real food!

This is what was our garden in May, before we made it beautiful!

SYC's website:
Durango's Webcam (5 blocks from my house!):