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Alone in the Woods: Week 1

Oct 2, 2011 Leave a Comment

As of today, I have spent a total of three weeks working alone in the field.  The first week... well, it sucked.  I hated working alone with a vengeance after that.  Since then, I still don't love it, but it did get a little better.  And I'll tell you why.  But let's start from the beginning, shall we?

Here is a picture I took of a fuzzy caterpillar that week.  It doesn't have much to do with anything but I will keep it here for symbolic purposes. 
My first week by myself started on a Tuesday, the day after Labor Day.  First of all, I hate starting field weeks on Tuesday because that means I have to stay until Friday, which is a huge bummer.  My boss decided to take leave and stay in the office that week (lazy!) so he wouldn't be even close to where I was, which he normally would be if he were working on his own mapping.  Therefore, I would be alone, and naturally, thought I would probably get attacked by a bear and die.

When I got to Negrito, the gate was locked and no one was there.  I had been warned this might happen, and remembered to bring my forest key with me to unlock the gate.  However, my forest key was not actually my forest key, as I would later find out.  But I didn't know that at the time, so I was like, WTF?  And ended up having to camp on some stupid hill outside of the base.  I put my tent up in the trees so it would be harder for random hunters to see me from the road but I had to park far away, where it was flat and not rocky so every time I was in my tent and needed something from the truck (or vice-versa) it was a trek to get there.  That was annoying thing number 1.

I couldn't drive into Negrito but I could walk into it, so the first thing I tried was getting into the kitchen/mess hall.  But it was locked and my "forest key" didn't work on that either.  Sadly.  But no matter, I had my camp stove and could cook dinner on that.  Wellll....no.  For some reason, I could not get that thing to work.  I filled it up with gas and pumped it a bunch of times but it was no use.  The pump handle thing kept locking and therefore gas was not releasing from the container into the stove and it would not light.  I had chips and salsa for dinner that night.  That was annoying thing number 2.

Later that evening, while I was in my tent, I came up with a brilliant idea.  Tomorrow, I would build a fire using the Negrito fire pit and cook my dinner on there.  Yes!  I was a genius!  The next night, after work, I gathered all my cooking materials and hiked up to the base to begin making my fire.  At this point, it was still raining pretty regularly during the day so all my potential fuel was wet.  It took a while, but I was persistent, and eventually burned enough pine needles to get the firewood dried out enough to create fire.

Ta-da!  Small, but fire nonetheless
The second dilemma was finding a method with which to cook my dinner over the fire.  Lucky for me, the Hotshots left a grill sitting outside on the ground.  I propped it up with two rocks on either side of the fire and was able to cook my sausages.  Hooray!


The nights were strange that week.  It was weird being alone and I had lots of odd dreams.  One night I dreamed that there was a coyote outside my tent and I was trying to get up and move so I could defend myself, but I couldn't.  Then I dreamed that a snake was crawling underneath my tent, and I could feel it moving.  Another night I dreamed about contra dancing.

Since I'm done with Pitchfork Canyon, I'm now working on the quad next door, and it's a farther drive.  It takes about an hour just to get from one end to the other.  By Wednesday or Thursday, I realized that the gas in the truck was getting really low and I started to get nervous.  I really really did not want to run out of gas out there.  I'd already had enough vehicle issues this summer and didn't want to have to call for help again.  That was annoying thing number 3.

Finally, Friday came and I could go home.  I was sooo happy.  Usually, we're supposed to do a little work on our last morning and then go home.  So I was a good little employee and dug one hole in a drainage full of Apache Plumes.  Then I began the drive back to Albuquerque.  I knew it would be a while before I made it to a town and a gas station so I didn't turn on the air conditioning, didn't listen to the radio and prayed that my gas wouldn't run out before I got there.  It got really low, the truck dinged at me, but I made it.  I was relieved.  But as soon as I got on the paved road, the truck started making a weird noise.  It sounded like creaking plastic coming from somewhere underneath the gas and brake pedals.  Weird, right?  I had no idea what it was and couldn't really do much about it at the time except keep going and hope nothing bad happened.  Lucky for me, the noise seemed to stop for a while until I was almost back to the office and then I knew I would be okay.  For that day, anyway.

But I didn't care.  I would figure it out later.  I was home.

5 comments »

  • Chloe said:  

    Wow. Girl. That was an awful week!
    I'm sorry you had to go through that! :/

  • Rachel said:  

    I seriously cannot believe you have to camp out in the wilderness by yourself. I wouldn't be able to do that!
    Sorry your week was rubbish, but you have earned serious cool points with me!

  • Wildology said:  

    Can't wait to hear the rest:)

  • PJ said:  

    That sounds horrible. Though I guess there were some brights spots so that it wasn't a total wreck of a week.

    Hope that you aren't getting washed out with the rain that is hitting now. I'm hearing horror stories from JZ or flooding in the lab.

  • Jessica said:  

    I'm envious of your job sometimes...but not when you have to camp outside. Alone. I don't think I'd do very well with that.

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