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08 August, 2009

Cypress Journal August 3

The Getting There

Having gathered maps, reports, site forms, and rolled up the archaeocratic paper trail at work on Friday, there was preparedness aplenty for me to fall into the familiar and lovely rhythm of procrastination through the weekend, only starting to pack after 10:00 Sunday night when the kids were quiet. As usual, I managed to stay up ‘til 1:00 in the AM, cooking field-meals the whole time.

Assembling the gear of the poorly-funded 21st Century archaeologist: GPS, camera, notebook, pens, bags (I hardly ever collect any artifacts, but you never know, and the bags always come in handy somehow), compass, tape measures (metric, because that’s what confuses the amateurs and makes me a professional, dammit), shovels, T-probe (if you don’t know, I ain’t telling you), boots for all conditions, and so on. Plus, since Cypress is a restaurant-less island: squash-beans-tomatoes from the garden, a kilo of primo sunflower seeds, various dried stuff, a chicken and batch of spaghetti sauce. Turned out I forgot the sauce, though, because I have to forget something.

Instead of up before dawn to beat Seattle rush hour, I’d planned the harbor rendezvous for noon, so this trip began at a leisurely 9:00, which inevitably became a hurried 9:20, but somehow I made up the lag. And by somehow, I mean washing down a fistful of pseudophedrine with a pot of coffee, then blasting Camper Van Beethoven. Which got me to Exit 164B just in time to pull into the Filson store as they opened for the morning; they being manufacturers of outdoor wear that is fine, but would stomp milque-toasts like Bauer and Bean eight days a week. I had a hat made by them through the early Hawaii years, and wore it until nothing remained but the wire brim and the boar’s tooth I’d tucked into the band. Across the street is a liquor store, but of course I did not go there, because I was in a state truck. Yep.

So then back on the highway, later recycling the coffee at a rest area featuring a humongous cedar stump. (Decided to use the toilet instead of the stump, figuring the oldsters and tourists just wouldn’t understand, but now I am bitter at the lost opportunity, and vow to return one day with a taut bladder to do that giant justice.) Swept up to the dock in Anacortes just a few minutes after noon.

On Cypress Island at Last
Weather was fair and the seas subdued, and we were at Secret Harbor before 1:00. Hauled gear to the field station (the mansion where I stayed last year is gone, but the humbler place suits and functions better). We talked over the plans, and after sorting through maps and a trove of historic photos headed out to Eagle Harbor, where yachties and sail-powered salts moor and disturb each other. First we dropped off the kid who makes a grand $70/week to maintain composting toilets and toil at trail maintenance and everything else; “carcass removal” is part of the job description.

Some illiterate was tied up to our clearly labeled “administrative” mooring buoy, but we don’t stand on formality, and moved on to the spot with a shorter row ashore. Being gallant, I let the captain also row the dingy, because our agency has fierce and able women who don’t need to be patronized, especially by land lubbers like myself who could not out-row a one-armed retiree.

So on shore she did her stuff (delivering bulk organics to the composting toilet; and yes, I was again chivalrous in my refusal to interfere), and I set to checking out an archaeological site that was recorded many decades ago, recommended for annual monitoring fewer decades ago, and since left to its own devices. Rising sea levels, storms, and boat wakes may have taken their toll, but some of the site remains, and now that it has been measured in the metric system and photographed digitally, we can all be proud.

By now, it was late, and time to get back. At the field station, I discovered that I’d forgotten the spaghetti sauce, and we opted for the steaks she’d brought instead of naked pasta. Again, my unflinching respect for the fairer sex prevented me from lifting a finger.

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