Thursday, August 20, 2009

Final project recap, and home safe!

Greetings from the mountain plains of Aurora, CO! I've been home safe in the U.S. for more than 24 hours now, and though the jetlag has hit me pretty hard, things have been going fairly well. Here's some photos and details from my last project, as promised, with more summary to follow in the next few days. Also, look for an announcement about my presentation in Russian House some time in September!

My final two-week project was located a few kilometers north of the summer village of Bolshie Kotiy, whose name alternatively means "Big Clogs" or "Big Cats," depending on who you're talking to. It was a work-camp gold mine during the Gulag era, and now houses rich бизнезмены from Irkutsk during their summer holidays. Below is a photo of our work site, where we built a set of 33 stairs from the existing trail to the lakeshore below, turning the course of the trail away from a dangerous ridgeline trail to the much more safe rock steps built by a previous project this summer.

Building stairs is even harder than it sounds, because as you build you have to carry materials higher and higher up the steps you have already built. By the end of the project, no one was willing to carry more than two or three bags aof gravel a day because it involved so much effort. The hard work was worth it, however, as at the end of the project we had transformed an extremely dangerous slope into a passable series of steps acceptable for backpackers. Though the stairs will no doubt require maintenance as soon as next summer, we're glad to know that the brunt of the work is now completed.

In addition to the work we did on the trail, there was time for a lot of good times at camp this time around. We had three days of hard rain, two of which were my cooking days, which was hellish but funny in retrospect. About halfway through the project, I had a long-awaited haircut on the beach. An fuzzy rainy-day photo is shown below.

I also had the chance to visit my second campsite on one of our holidays. It was a long walk, but totally worth it for both the scenery and for seeing Dima, pictured below. Though we had rough spots at times, Dima has grown to be one of my favorite acquantainces from the trip. He's got a great personality and a sense of humor filtered through beautifully limited English. We had a nice cold lunch on a cloudy day, which will do until I can host him somewhere else in the world.

Here's a photo of one of my last looks at the Lake - hard to believe even now, more than halfway around the world, that I won't wake up tomorrow morning to hear waves crashing on its shores. I camped on Baikal for 21 days, and I experienced at least 21 different lakes. I drank gallons and gallons of its water, and no doubt a fair amount of my own body is carrying its mass around this desert landscape in the Rocky Mountains... and, slowly, it is adjusting to its new watershed and transforming accordingly.

I'm missing Russia desperately, and my friends there even more. Something tells me I won't be able to stay away for very long. After the trauma of a 36-hour travel day on Tuesday, however, I think I'll have to find a way to make the travel really worthwhile again, by an extended stay and a worthwhile cause. I'm looking forward to the adventures that lay ahead, in all shapes and sizes, and slowly adjusting to the realities of Home.

Thanks for reading, everyone - there will be a few more posts, so stay tuned for updates! And of course, if you're in the US, give me a call! It's crazy to be so connected again, but I'm trying to make the most of it by having those valuable conversations that were impossible this summer. Much love!

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