Holden Village Staff Experience August, 2003

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Do they have running water?
Except for what they bring in on the barge, Holden is a self-contained village.  No roads lead there; you have to go by ferry, and then by a gravel mining road 10.5 miles up and into the wilderness.
The answer is yes, they not only have running water, but they have their own water purification system.  No city water here; it's all snow and glacier runoff.  And Matt - you don't need purification tablets, and there is NO MUD to drink!


They also have their own hydro plant, which, during the summer, makes plenty of electricty to run the village.  Farther up the mountain there is a diversion dam, which sends the water into an 18" pipe that drops 640 feet to run the hydro.  They have a commercial laundry, commercial kitchen with all the amenities you would want if you had to cook for 400+ people three times a day. 
The hydro also runs lights, computers, multi media equipment, a commercial ice cream freezer, sewing machines, you name it.  But it does not run hair dryers or curling irons.  Don't nobody let Harry (head of Operations) catch you with a hair dryer, or you will be toast.  Oh yeah, there's a great toaster...
In the winter, the runoff is much slower, so there is actually less electricty.  Although the community is smaller, there is sometimes a problem with keeping things going.  When the electricity stops, someone has to go climb the hill and restart the hydro.  In the snow.  Lots of it.
The picture to the right is of Railroad Creek, which runs through the valley where Holden is located.  You reach this view by walking through the village along the road.  Unfortunately, my little disposable camera didn't do the sight justice.


The heat is all done with hot water or steam running through the kinds of radiators I used to have in my house when I was young.  And it's fueled by wood fires, which are stoked manually throughout the winter.  Forget to show up for your stoking time, and your friends freeze; it's enough to keep you motivated!
The wood is chopped all summer; there is a group called the Mavericks which handles all the heavy work, and they spend every morning from 6:15 til 7:30 chopping and splitting wood.  They have lots of equipment to help them (it's not like Abe Lincoln), but still, I won't sign up for it.  But Peter - you'd be great for this stuff!
Sewage is pumped into the two huge septic tanks, which drain into drain fields that they set up and rotate, so the impact on the environment is minimal.
Food materials - raw materials such as flour, rice, dried beans - and the really raw stuff such as fruits and veggies - are brought up as needed on the barge, met by Holden's truck, and unloaded by the Mavericks.  And the daily precious ice cream cargo is also on the truck, in those blue coolers.  It's the first thing to be unloaded. 


The sign to the right appears above the electric hand dryer in the dining room, to discourage the use of paper towels (which were never in the dispenser anyway, so you had the choice of hot air or your jeans).  The big deal (and it's a really big deal) in this place is GARBAGE.  Nothing is thrown away unless there is no other use for it.  You cannot find plastic bags, plastic spoons, coffee stirrers, paper or styrofoam cups, or anything you'd normally toss after using.  The ice cream is served in old fashioned glass dishes, which are washed and reused.  Cleaning is done with rags, which are laundered.  Everything is used until it falls apart.
After a meal, the paper napkins (on recycled paper) are sorted from the compost, and the meat if there is any.  The compost goes in the compost bins (and you'd better scrape your plate, or the dishwashers will come out with an unscraped plate and let the whole assembly know what an unscraped plate looks like), and the paper and the meat are burned.


The Garbo Dock
They are so serious about garbage here that they have a name for it: Garbology.  And a long term staff position of Garbologist, to head the department. 
Every morning at 8 a group of staff, randomly chosen by computer, shows up at the garbo dock for garbo duty.  You get it once a month; I was lucky enough to escape.  These folks sort through the village's garbage of the day before, separating it into recycling, burnable, compostable, bio waste and landfill.  Holden deals with the burnable and compostable garbage.  The others get bagged and when enough is accumulated, it's taken to the barge.
Imagine if instead of calling the stuff we throw away "garbage", we called it "landfill".  'Cause that's where it goes.  Might make us think a little more about throwing so much stuff away.
The way they keep bears out of the village is by making sure that all food, even the stuff you have in your room, gets thrown away only in the compost bins off the dining room.  It must work, 'cause I didn't see any bears in the village.


I was pretty amused by this, and I'm sure someone knows when the idea came about, but it's a good example of what they call "Holden hilarity".  There are three storage rooms in the basement of the Hotel, storing lots of stuff that needs to be kept cool, but not refrigerated.  Stuff like potatoes and yams and toilet paper and soap.
The rooms are named after the Three Stooges, and there's a picture and name like this on each.  So when you ask someone where to find something, and they reply, "It's in Curly", you know exactly where to go to find it.
Across the hall from the Stooges, there's Potty Patrol, a misnomer if I ever heard one.  If there's something you don't need, you just put it there, and perhaps someone might be able to use it.  Lots of clothing, but also a pretty little vase, shoes, hiking boots, shampoo - you name it, it's likely to be there.  That's where I found my two working T-shirts that I didn't mind getting dirty.  When I left, I left them where I found them, and for all I know, someone else is wearing them today.
Holden also has a fleet of vehicles that amazed me: School buses, vans, the truck above (from the 1940's with the motor rebuilt), a crane, bulldozers (real ones!) and a real cement truck.  They don't mess around here; the place runs itself.  Plumbers and carpenters are always needed; if you don't know to do it, they will teach you, but you have to stay for quite a while - a year?