With the permit safely obtained Ray put us onto the task of burning the fallen wood in the trail horses corral. There were strewn trunks and branches everywhere you looked and as far as you could see as well as the charred evidence of previous fires. The forest fire in the wilderness park was reported to be under control, thanks to the recent rain, although over 12000 hectares had been burnt 24km away. The flames had leapt into Jasper National Park but only destroyed 50 hectares there. Hopefully we wouldn’t have any close shaves despite Ray giving us a blow torch to get the damp wood ignited!
Roger had been tasked with chopping the logs into various smaller grades for kindling etc whilst Martina and I were to set fire to the corral – only joking!! Ray was busy in the top barn, still trying to install the new and 21st century shower and toilets for us ‘workawayers’ so we were left to deal with the organised destruction. Fortunately Roger knew well enough to not leave me on my own with a blow torch so he helped us get 4 fires started. The permit was for only two but Ray doesn’t adhere to minor technicalities. It isn’t all that practical to haul great lumps of wood very far particularly with the additional challenge underfoot.
The recent rain had turned the ground into a muddy swamp, clinging onto our boots with a vice like grip. Trying to walk through this gloop, over uneven surfaces, carrying or dragging resistant tree trunks whilst curious equine hosts investigated at very close quarters, was a recipe for a mucky disaster. Amazingly we all managed to stay upright throughout the whole day although I’m not sure how, even the quadbike got stuck. Also, these horses didn’t seem to realise that they, as animals, were meant to be afraid of fire and kept getting far too close but were totally unphased, none actually burnt themselves. The smoky atmosphere may have affected Mitsy’s lung condition as she kept coughing but had a similar affliction as a human who hasn’t done their pelvic floor exercises, so one had to watch the juxtaposition!
After lugging the chain saw and heavy log lever/trunk prop around in the heat of both the day and the fire drenched atmosphere, wrenching my feet out of every sucking, grabbing step, up and down slopes, I was getting more than a little fraught. I decided that 6 hours in this environment was more than enough for one day and went to collect the quadbike to load up the equipment. I’d had to leave it outside the corral as there were scraps of hay in the trailer from a previous feed load and some discarded grain which had tipped out of the bucket when Bailey and I had to negotiate some bumpy ground at speed to ensure we didn’t get stuck. Earlier, when the bike had been in with us, the horses were almost fighting amongst themselves to devour these fragments of food, discarding all other bits and pieces into the mud, cans of pop, blankets and possibly the penknife, which has yet to re-materialise.
As I came round one of the fires in the ATV, there was a pile of wood about 30yds away, remnants of a previous fire. I could just quickly load this into the trailer, drive across to the other fire and stoke it up for the evening as well as getting rid of the previous debris. This would have taken very little time if we hadn’t had another equine invasion in such a short space of time so that by the time I turned around for my third ‘chuck’ into the trailer I was completely blocked by horseflesh. Getting a little frustrated by now I tried to barge my way through them but was never going to succeed, so had to go the long way round to the other side of the trailer to dump my load and completely negate the whole point of using it; I might as well have walked across to the other fire.
Martina and I finally managed to dump the wood and collect the kit but were unable to extract ourselves from the quagmire in this 4 wheel drive vehicle with only 2 of the aforementioned propulsion devices working! I was stuck in the mud. Advancing and reversing to try to extricate ourselves was not helped by having horses front and back who were reluctant, to say the least, let alone slow, to move out of the way in case they missed a morsel of grain. Finally I managed to get some purchase and started to accelerate out of the mud when Buttercup ambled across my path and I had to break, getting stuck again!!
We eventually emerged, hot, sticky, sweaty and puce, even by my standards! A white truck was coming up the drive so I gave a cheery wave to who I thought was Bailey, only for it to transpire to be Hunter and his Mum. Strange coloured British people, the redskins are supposed to be their side of the Atlantic.