Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Caliente Camp Continued: Part 3

I finally decided on the most likely Caliente camp location, so I settled in and tried to find some signs of our occupancy in that long-ago time, the summer of 1978. The north end looked familiar, so did the middle and south ends. I couldn’t identify any historical signs, like things we had left behind, probably because we didn’t leave anything behind.

The only possible signs I found of the old camp were pieces of charcoal, not necessarily located where we had our wood stove, but maybe, just maybe. Or maybe the charcoal had been left by hunters or other since-then campers.
tree1 It hadn't gotten too hot, so I found a comfy spot under a tree and sat down. Was this the tree I had camped next to? Maybe, but maybe the one I camped next to was farther down the camp road, or maybe it wasn't there anymore. I sat awhile and reminisced. (That's what we older types do, you know.)

BobI’ve mentioned Bob Shannon before. As our “intrepid expediter, camp builder, and drilling arranger,” Bob was on hand when we set up the Caliente camp - our first camp of that first year - and he built all the camp accoutrements not hauled, driven, or flown in to every single one of our camps, that summer and the next. He saw to it that our eight-by-ten, six-foot-high, green canvas tents were floored with 4' x 8' sheets of plywood, which fit under the cots that held our individual sleeping bags. Each tent - except those of our camp bosses, L and G - held two cots for two tent mates. My tent was singular at first, but was doubled later when the whole crew, including the only other female geologist hired that summer, showed up.
At Caliente camp, Bob constructed our first shower of the season, a sturdy and somewhat open contraption made of two-by-fours and plywood. Water came from a metal shower head attached to a 55-gallon drum propped overhead. Water went into the drum from a 200 gallon tank located far enough up hill from the drum to allow water to siphon into the drum through black hosing. Showers were often, but not always, warm or even hot, depending on the effect of clouds on our solar heating system. Cold water went into the shower drum in the morning to hopefully be heated by the sun. In some camps, our black tubing came from an uphill, creek-fed water source. Because of the long run of black tubing down the usually shallow slope, water in the tubing was heated by the sun during the day, and then added directly to the shower drum in the afternoon. The system worked well on most days through the summer.
creekside The water tanks - we had two, one for L's camp and one for G's - could, when empty, be wrassled around by one or two guys in the back of one of the two three-quarter ton pickups we had gotten especially for hauling the trailers and the heavier pieces of our camp gear: lumber, the refrigerator that came along after G found it at an old mining camp, and the 200-gallon water tanks full of drinking water.

At Caliente camp, we filled our water tanks at a Caliente city water spigot. The tanks were made of thick, sturdy metal, and lined on the inside with a white plastic material. Every now and then, Bob would throw in some Clorox to sterilize the water, especially when new or suspect water was used. At the time, I had never heard of adding Clorox to water in order to give it the chlorination treatment so common in municipal and county water systems, but Bob was an oldtimer who knew all about such necessities.
slopeThe two-by-four and plywood outhouse, built by Bob, was equally sturdy and as elaborate as the shower. Two holes were dug deep, the depth designed to last for the duration of each three- to six-week camp. I was able to avoid the latrine-digging and re-filling chores by virtue of my predetermined female status - I was never asked to participate and did not complain about being opted out.

A two-seater sitting area with plywood back and sides for shielding was placed over the holes. The door of the outhouse was an open entryway that faced away from camp and gave an unobstructed view of the local scenery, whether it was of hills, bushes, or valleys. We arranged a flagging system to indicate when the outhouse was in use.

Unfortunately, the view from above the outhouse was unobstructed. Occasionally, the helicopter pilot or one of its male passengers would get the idea that buzzing the outhouse or shower was in order, usually only if C, who would join us at the next camp, was inside. She did not take kindly to these voyeuristic flights, but somehow her anger only spurred them on. Fortunately, the guys got these wild hairs only infrequently, and equally fortunately, they were not perpetrated on me.

...To be continued...


Gaelyn said...

This is a wonderful reminese, plus the scenery is outstanding whether you really found the old camp or not. I love the idea of doorless outhouse and shower. Even if everybody else didn't. Been enjoying this series and look forward to more.

Silver Fox said...

Gaelyn, glad you are enjoying this series - it includes some stories I've written about the "old days."