Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Search Day 6

Camp news:

Some of us don’t feel well today, just a general malaise. Coughing is getting worse for some, that is tiring.

Breakfast is quietly taken, not much appetite. There are a hearty few, as always.

The skies are darker than yesterday. Our tents and trailers are covered in the fine dust and ash.

Jeanne is complaining about not being able to keep the kitchen free of ash. She is a stickler for cleanliness and for that we are grateful. No one wants to be over-come with camp ‘runs’!

Today we go to 11,000 feet. Our highest trek yet.

Heads down we trudge our way to the top. Rocks roll underfoot and we stumble along. A few promising rock shelters are investigated. Nothing is noted.

The plotted survey map shows us to an open rocky area, a basin, that looks very promising.

Visibility is awful. We cannot see the next mountain. To the south, we see a dark blanket covering the forests, but no fires - strange.

The moraine and old glacial edge are identifiable on the map, as is a small lake. For most of us, this is our first look at a moraine and its attendant lake.

If the Sundance Paleo Indian model is correct we should find many artifacts of early man. We are excited.

On archaeological survey, we walk about 5-10 meters apart in a horizontal line and call out to each other when something is noticed.

Today the calls start right away. “Lithic!” “Chip stone!” “Proj point!” “Ground stone.” My, Oh My! We have hit the jackpot. Now to try to figure out what we have. Mapping and setting the site boundaries takes precedent. There is much scampering about and much light chatter. We settle down to the work at hand.

We know the moraine lake water is cold but we check it any way! At lakeside lunch, we talk about the moon and its landscape probably looking like this.

Moon? There has been no moon! We have been too tired and have gone to bed so early each night, we have not noticed nor have we looked up to the heavens.

We are camped in a light pollution free area; the heavens should twinkle for us. How strange we have not looked.

We decide we will stay awake later and check this out tonight.

There is a general feeling of unease amongst us. Chatter is not up to our usual. We know we are tired, that this altitude has slowed us down.

It has been a grueling 10 hour, 10 mile, 11,000 foot altitude, day for us. We are tired, happy with our finds and we are dirty!

Showers are needed. The branch holds, but again our solar water is barely tepid. Some grumble and gritch. We ask to have some water heated over the propane burners. Jeanne snaps at the request.

Jeanne is not happy at all. Ash is everywhere. She doesn’t feel well. She is coughing. In addition, this is our poorest meal to date.

We try to make Jeanne happy to no avail. She is talking of quitting. “Leaving right now,” she says. Lordy! That means we will have to cook! We talk her into staying at least for the night. We tell her, “We will do breakfast.” She agrees to sleep in. Straws are drawn as to who will be on duty. No one is happy.

Visibility in camp is worse than when we left. At 11,000 feet, we had not noticed the change as we were in a protected basin. And we were busy looking down at the ground, as trained archaeologists do! The dark blanket covering the forest to the south we had seen seemed far away.

We do stay up later to see the stars and the moon. There are none.

Where the bright white moon should be is an orange-ish, blurry blob. There are no stars. We are concerned.

There is much talk about the fire. Is it closing in on us? Maybe the Rangers have been trying to get to us and have been unable to do so. The PI did say visibility was bad for her but those Rangers are trained to go where none of us dare. Where are they? Have they forgotten we are here?

We are glad we are camped lakeside, as we know we can get into the water if the fire comes into camp.

We discuss leaving but then realize night visibility is too poor for us to go.

We wonder about the outside news.

Someone tries their car radio — static.

Anger explodes.

The car door slams!

to be continued

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Search Day 5

Camp news:

Dark and early wake up calls again.

There should be a dawn light but it is dark.

The air is thick and smells acrid.

Bones and muscles have for all stopped their screams and moans. We are acclimated to the long, high treks and early morning hours.

Hunger needs to be satiated.

At breakfast, the PI announces she will go to town today. Her assistant will lead us on the survey. She is a bouncy little gal who sets a pace faster than we are used to. We will slow her down!

The daily camp chores are done by the stand-down person. We take turns at camp duties none of which is over-whelming.

After breakfast,the stand-down places lunch and goodies out on the long table for individuals to put together for the day; dishes washed; toilet paper restocked; surface trash, of which there is little is picked up and bagged. Then aid the cook in dinner preparations.

We start our trek, slow and a steady up we toil.

At this altitude of 10,000 feet, the gnarled trees begin to look skimpier. They look as tired as we feel. The ground seems drier. Grass, what little there is, crunch under our boots.

We do not need much shade, as the sun has not been full on our backs. It is muted even more today.

We haven’t found any signs of early man by lunch time and that is taken in the little shade thrown by scraggly, beetle eaten trees. Branches are brown and thin. It is worrisome.

We see more animals too. They seem to be frantic, are grouping and running down the mountain. They make us nervous as we think they know something we do not know about. It is too quiet.

Where are the birds? The fire! How close? Should we be getting out of the area? Surely, the Forest Rangers would tell us to get out if we are in any danger. We calm a bit.

No finds all day much to the disgust of the assistant who was so hopeful. That is ok. We still had a good but tiring day.

Camp home looks good.

Our PI is there waiting. She could not get down the 2 track to the main road, as visibility was so bad further away from camp.

We are not pleased with her report and tell her about the animals. She saw many also. We are worried.

We talk about leaving, but then again decide Rangers would have notified us to get out if we were in harm’s way. She tells us she tried the car radio, still no reception.

We all pitch in to help with the dinner dishes and general clean up.

Showers are next. The branch has held, but the water is cold; the filtered sun has not warmed the water.

We decide not to have a campfire as everything looks, feels, and smells too dry. A swirling spark could get us into trouble.

We are tired, worried and go to bed early.

to be continued

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Search Day 4

Camp News:

My God! It is dark. It is hard to get out of bed. The alarms shriek.

The air is thick and smelly. Some of us are coughing. The fires must be nearby but we cannot see them.

Today we will be higher on our search, about a thousand feet above where the projectile point was located yesterday. Smokers have decided to quit, as the air is thick! The sun is warm but muted again. It seems filtered.

Our daypacks seem lighter. The trek easier with less brush and rock to deal with. There are no trails. We have turned south which takes us up to a high flat basin area. Mountains surround the tiny basin. We have no view to speak of other than the next high mountain and the low open basin.

We noticed some animals today. Usually they manage to stay out of sight but today they run openly before us. The lake where we ate lunch has a funny dusting of ash on it. We saw a few small animals in the water. The fires must be bigger and closer than we imagined.

The PI mentions a need to go to town 2 hours away and she will check on the fires. We have not had contact with anyone outside our camp since we arrived 5 days ago. None of us thought to bring a radio. Several of us have tried our car radios but there is nothing but static so we are truly out of touch with the world.

It is wonderful to leave the world behind for this short time. No one cares about anything other than our work and our simple camp life.

So far, the personalities of all seem to mesh quite well. The PI has chosen her crew well. There is a mutual respect with acknowledgement of differences in experience and desires. We are working well together. The gentle teasing has begun which is a good sign of camaraderie; of becoming a family.

As we leave our lunch area K. notices a light scatter of lithics. We noodle about the area and find a Clovis projectile point base, stone debitage and an outré passé flake.

Clovis is the only stone technologist in North America to do this type of knapping with resultant outré passe flake. We have found the earliest Paleoindian — they were here right where we had lunch! We are excited. We are exhilarated.

Mapping takes up the rest of afternoon and it is really getting dark; we will arrive in camp in the dark — not good.

Solar showers will be cold. UGH!

After a wonderful Italian dinner, more chatter around campfire about early man.

Is there an Old world, Solutrean, tie-in as some speculate? Did early man cross the Atlantic Ocean? Or, did early man walk across the Bering Straits as the glaciers receded and opened up a land bridge from the north?

Bedtime is really early as we are super tired.

The long 10 hour, higher altitude trek has us exhausted.

Dreams are a mix of paleo questions and psychedelic firings of our oxygen starved brains.

to be continued

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Search Day 3

Camp news:

Alarms go off at 5 am. Early start of our day is necessary but, wow! A few more minutes of sleep would be great especially since it is dark.

We stumble and grumble to breakfast. Jeanne knows we need extra fat to sustain us at altitude and for the long treks. Breakfast is good and provides us with what we need, want or crave.

This day is longer in time and length of trek. We are getting stronger; we huff and puff less even though we are higher in altitude. Our daypacks are heavy. Our muscles moan. Some bones talk to us.

We climb and stumble our way up. One skinned shin is in need of attention. Be wary of the rocks, some look stable only to roll underfoot and throw one off balance. New lessons are learned along the hard way.

As usual, we comb open areas and crisp babbling stream-sides for any sign of early man.

The sun looks strange again today. The day is darker. There is a little breeze. Fires must be huge and close by.

Lunch break is again time for chatter about our work.

We found a paleo-point (arrowhead) just before lunch; mapping and paperwork are done and the high fives to M. for finding it. Good eye, M! So know we know they were here!

The archaeology model “Sundance” is good. Whoever wrote it knew what they were doing! We have the proof and we know more is to come.

Back at camp, showered we eat and talk about the find.

Excitement reigns.

What will our next day bring?

We will do a 10-hour trek tomorrow and will be at about 9000 feet.

to be continued