There’s a theme in the volunteer positions of Wallowa County that if you don’t make it to the meeting, you’ll get put in charge of something. I used to think that folks were joking, until now. My friend Mike (with the aid/approval of another volunteer acquaintance) thought they’d put my name down as the manager/coordinator for the Salt Creek Summit Checkpoint. Last year, the manager retired, and no one stepped up to fill his shoes, so they picked me. “Okay,” I thought, “I’ll give it a try.”
I was excited for this year’s event, as my son (TBear) had gotten his radio license, and was able to participate. His Mom arranged for the absence from school, and he would get to join me! Unexpectedly, Queen Marie did too! I was a bit worried, though, as I thought that it might be too much work and boredom for them to enjoy. (Spoiler: I thought wrong.)
Friday I picked up the kids, Saturday we made the lights on my truck work again, and on Sunday we built a stove platform before picking up the firewood for the checkpoint.
Monday morning (a holiday) we were out the door at 8 AM to pickup the wall tent, and it’s owner. She was to help us, and make sure all was setup properly. Luckily, the former manager had packed the area down with his snowshoes and boots. The trail crew met us at 9:30 to haul most of the gear to the site, but we had to walk the 300 yards from the parking lot. Setup of the tent was fairly straight-forward, and another volunteer showed up to help out. The trail crew works all that week on the trails, so they’d be keeping an eye on it for us. That night we had our pre-race meeting, where I lined up some more materials.
I went to work on Tuesday, while I had the kids do the bulk of their school work. I told them they wouldn’t have much time after that. That night we retrieved a pickup full of fencing, barricades, poles, and slats to build our temporary fence. In the morning, we headed back out to set it all up, this time with the help of a different volunteer who had done so in the past.
We all suited up in our snow gear, equipped for cold, but we got wet and windy conditions too. With gusts shaking the truck, and slushy wet precipitation, we all got wet and cold. The fencing consisted of 2-ft tall orange plastic netting. We were expected to zip-tie this stuff to sticks pounded into the snow. However, we had 0-4” in many places, leaving nothing to hold things upright, especially in the wind.
We had a manual with color pictures of what it should look like, but were having trouble executing the task. Our volunteer from previous years suggested we twist the flat fencing into a roll at the places with high wind, to reduce drag. This, coupled with some extra, free-standing devices helped us to create most of the fence line. However, since there was no snow on the asphalt road, we held off that section. We were told the groomer (snow bulldozer) could push some snow onto the road for us first, and would do so “some time today.”
After a few hours, the radio guys showed up, and we had lunch. The trail crew hauled their stuff down to the checkpoint, before going about their business. They brought a 2-section tower to stick in the snow. This year, it was placed across the trail from the tent, with Christmas lights and wires suspended high in the air. Onto this tower was placed a rotating camera, and antenna. This antenna pointed at the parking lot for another rotating camera, PLUS a phone for people to ring the checkpoint! (These guys are committed, I’d say.)
We helped them where we could, but had plenty to do, fixing the night’s damage to the tent, splitting firewood, etc. That is… until TBear smashed his finger driving a stake, then it was off to the first aid kit… back at the truck. After that, I let the kids go play in a snow pile, while I wrapped up. I didn’t really get to setup any radio stuff this year.
On our way home, I stopped by the local lumber yard, and picked up some 4×4 concrete piers. We came home exhausted, but I managed to produce a bunch of blocked 2×4 posts before making meals and retiring to an early bed time.
Stay tuned for part 2, and the first race day!