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2015 Mountaintop Adventure

My 2015 summer plans began with an [edited] email forwarded by Andy O’Reilly of Taos:

Hey folks, A friend of mine is looking for some help with a seasonal job opportunity.  Sounds like a great temporary job for the right person.  Please forward to anyone who may be interested.Thanks, AO

The University of California White Mountain Research Center, based in Bishop California, is seeking a seasonal/temporary employee for summer of 2015. We are managed by UCLA but located about 250 miles north of LA, on the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. We manage and maintain several facilities that are located in remote locations on US Forest Service lands in the White Mountains. All of these facilities are powered by off-grid solar electric systems. We host visiting researchers, field studies classes and aid visiting scientist in a variety of ways, facilitating their research projects and maintaining their equipment.

We are planning a variety of energy related projects this summer, and I am seeking a qualified seasonal employee or intern to join our crew. The facilities are remote and at extremely high elevations (10,000ft-14,242ft). Our field season starts late due to snowpack (May-June) and ends early due to winter storms and low temperatures (October). The position would likely last for 2-4 months. Ideally the candidate would be physically fit, comfortable in extreme and remote conditions, have experience with off-grid electric systems, computer/tech savvy and have good work ethic. This could be an intern position or work as a paid employee, depending on the candidates skills and qualifications.

Check out our website at and view the facilities link. The employee would stay at Barcroft Station from Thursday to Thursday, working 8 days on and having 6 days off. This schedule could be adjusted, but candidates must be committed to the projects and have a flexible summer schedule. Room and board would be provided.

The main projects will be installing a new off-grid system at the Summit Hut, upgrading the existing power systems at Barcroft Station and Crooked Creek Station and helping to upgrade our wireless internet network. The wireless internet network uses WiLan radios to supply internet to our remote stations. Upgrading this system will require mounting equipment and antennas, implementing innovative grounding and lightning protection, doing electrical and communication wiring and working with associated software. All of the work will be carried out in remote high elevation locations, with potential for extreme weather conditions.

Anyone qualified and interested should contact me as soon as possible. I intend to have our crew committed by the beginning of April.

I replied and soon began working out arrangements with Jeremiah Eanes, the Operations Manager for the research center. It appears that I’ll have about six weeks of paid work, that will be spread over the entire summer and into the fall.

As we were working out details I received an offer from Ian Woofenden to join the Home Power booth at the Oregon Country Fair. Ian is one of two senior editors at Home Power magazine, for which I have written numerous articles and excerpts over the years. On last year’s bicycle tour I spent two wonderful days at his homestead on Guemes Island in the San Juans, writing about it on this blog. It has become a classic countercultural gathering over the years, although I have never been there. So within a couple days of showing up for this new job, I leave for a week to ride to Oregon, attend the Fair and ride back. At this point, this is the only scheduled event taking me from my focus on these high-elevation PV systems.

I retired in order to work less and enjoy it more, among several reasons. I want to combine work with play and adventure while I still have my health and vitality. This is the first opportunity that offers the opportunity to achieve that joyous combination and is logistically manageable. I’ll focus on work when I’m working, and have my backpacking gear, mountain and road bikes and F650 Dakar BMW for my days off. Of course, I may be too tired after days at the Summit Hut – we’ll see.

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