Holden highlights from Summer 2014

This summer was a very unique time to be in Holden Village. Rio Tinto’s $200+ million mine remediation project was running full-throttle and extensive infrastructure projects were undertaken in the absence of guests. The following is a list of some of the major happenings of the summer.

1. We ran the entire village on diesel.

The mining company was digging an 80-foot-deep barrier wall to prevent mine runoff from the tailings from seeping into Railroad Creek. Because of this, they had to temporarily shut down the hydroelectric plant that usually powers the village. A pair of massive diesel generators were used in the interim.

The massive machine that’s being used to dig the 80-foot-deep barrier wall. Apparently, there are only 12 of these in the world. The diesel generators that powered the village all summer.

2. We built a ton of stuff.

With no guests in the village, and an influx of money from the mine remediation project, it was the perfect time to turn the village into a construction site and build some much-needed infrastructure. We added a new water system (the other one leaked as much as 70% in some places), massive sprinklers to fight fires with, installed a grease trap for the Hotel, chopped a lot of wood to keep the village warm in the winter, and built two new servers to host and backup the village’s digital infrastructure.

3. We celebrated Fourth of July with the miners (and beat them at tug-of-war*).

*To be fair, there were a lot more of us than there were of them. But still.

We kicked off the Fourth of July festivities with a delicious dinner and dessert, followed by an open mic with some singing, poetry, and general hilarity. We had a parade, some friendly competitions including tug-of-war and a water balloon toss, and then proceeded to pop piles of bubble packaging in the Village Center (because the obvious risk of starting a forest fire, we couldn’t have fireworks but that didn’t stop us from making some noise).

4. We had a couple of unwelcome guests.

This Brown Bear mom and cub were spotted several times over the course of the summer, and wandered into the village at one point. We made a lot of noise to scare them off.

5. We chopped down this huge tree.

One of the villagers was on a walk one night when he noticed a tree that had split and was leaning at a dangerous angle toward power lines, a lodge, and several propane generators. Extremely fortunately, we happened to have some loggers in town. We shut off power to the village in the morning so we could safely take down the power lines in the way and fell the tree into that area. According to the loggers, it was a dangerous cut because the tree was so rotted and the area in which it could fall was so limited. Amazingly, they managed to land it within 15 feet of their target.

6. This hawk started attacking people.

The hawk had a nest alongside the popular 10 Mile Falls trail and was very defensive. It would often swoop down on hikers as they passed, in one case drawing blood. It became the terror of the village during a couple of weeks in July, and inspired a daily “hawk report” during our morning work meeting. At one point, I ventured out to take a photo of it. It screeched loudly at me, warning me to stay away. I decided to make a “Wanted” poster and posted it around the village.

7. The forest fires set records.

The Carlton Complex Fire was the most massive blaze in the nation this summer and the biggest in Washington State’s history. It was burning within 50 miles of the village at one point. 12 towns were evacuated, hundreds of homes were destroyed, and several highways were blocked off. It burned over 370 square miles (for scale, over 4x the area of Seattle). Fortunately, it was ultimately contained.

8. One of the miners got a little artistic with a bulldozer.

And the result was amazing, viewed from Martin Ridge at 6000’.

9. We celebrated the new water system.

When the first building was added to the new water system, we celebrated with song and interpretive dance.

10. We welcomed the new pastor and his family.

On the day the new pastor arrived, we all raided the costume shop and then made our way to the bus dock. As soon as the bus pulled up, we began singing, and then several of us introduced ourselves as “Bekki” (the name of our interim pastor).