Back in the field

In the field: take two

Quinault area, Washington

6/22/2011 – 6/30/2011

 Random Thoughts

–       A lot of the areas we have surveyed smell like the porcupine cage I used to clean at the Norfolk Zoo. I had always thought the porcupines just kind of produced their own weird smell, but now I’m wondering if it’s the plants that were installed in their exhibit, or maybe their leafy diet. Or maybe there are porcupines out here and they like to get awkwardly close to me so I can smell them, but never actually see them. They’re pretty tricky that way.

–       The trees are really big here

–       Just because this place is called a rainforest doesn’t mean that it’s a tropical rainforest – you know where there’s like monkeys and it’s really warm. There are no monkeys here and it’s kind of cold. Also just because it’s considered the dry season right now, doesn’t mean that it will be dry. Because it’s a rainforest. And it still rains. A lot.

–       Dirt Roads. I had never driven on them before until I went to Shannon’s house at the beginning of this trip – but even then it was a pretty small distance and I had been thoroughly warned. When I got west, I was outraged that on my state wide map they would list such things as real roads. One of my crowning achievements in life thus far was conquering that road in South Dakota (I’m serious – that stuff was mad scary). In passing conversation I mention all of this to Chris. He is shocked – he has only ever lived on dirt roads.

–       List of things we need to google: Johnny Appleseed, Cee Lo Green’s tiny hands, and many other things we should probably put into a list but always think we will just remember

–       Sometimes we make movies with the field camera. Jamie made one on the slug in his natural habitat, climbing up the hillslope. I accidentally made one because I couldn’t figure out how to turn off video mode. Paul and Chris made several more, but we’ll just wait for Jaime to find them in a few months when all the data is downloaded and assembled – like a fun surprise in the middle of boring numbers.

–       The name John Buffington sounds really good in a British accent

–       Wildlife: Mostly deer. A lot of huge slugs as well. Like sometimes I’ll just be hooking up the tape for a cross section and my arm will just emerge with the tinge of slime. The smallest slugs are maybe the size of my thumb, but the larger ones look more like twinkies (this makes more sense than it sounds because they’re yellow). A few spiders, but nothing creepy. The other day in some clear cut there were at least six or seven elk – that was really cool. In the rivers themselves we see very tiny fish and just hundreds of stoneflies (though maybe they’re cadisflies or mayflies – I dunno, one of those EPT species).

–       Sometimes I wear the gravelometer as a hat. My head is a 180 in the binned rock sizes.

–       S’mores are delicious (this has really been a known fact, but it can never be reiterated enough)

–       Waders are like your super suit (a la the Incredibles). The boots give you traction and sturdiness, but are also composed of materials which float if you happen to lose one. Neoprene socks soak up water, but then ingeniously use it as an insulator. The waders themselves cover your entire lower body up to your chest. The strapping suspenders and marsupial-like pouch only add to their utility and stylishness. Overall, you can stomp around chilled rivers and cut through prickly brush all day without fear. Genius. The feeling is like no other – like you’re in a dry suit scuba diving (except that’s a terrible analogy as the two are essentially the same and far fewer people have scuba dived). At the end of the day when you reluctantly take your waders off, not only are you still mostly dry (silly rain), but you feel light as a feather, having temporarily laid these superhuman powers aside for a little rest. Chris and I created an ode to these waders, performed in the complex medium of white people trying to rap/find anything that rhymes. Sadly, it was written down in a field notebook which I currently have no access to – just something to look forward to in the future.

–       I may have accidentally mentioned an irrational fear of being killed by an alligator. I really knew this couldn’t possibly happen, but in every movie ever, someone puts their hand into a shaded crevice or steps into a murky bog and then bam, dead, just like that. So not only do I do both of those daring activities numerous times a day, I also feel like I’m the sort of person that this would happen to. So luckily I have such kind co-workers that when Paul ran into a crocodile, they talked for a while, exchanged phone numbers, and agreed to arrange an attack for sometime in the future. Bring it.

–       You know that saying where if you and your buddy come across a bear, you don’t have to run faster than the bear, you just have to run faster than your friend? Chris decided to take this idea to the next level and developed a plan that if we ever ran into a bear, he would just pick me up and throw me at it – kind of like a sacrifice – which clearly I just feel honored for being chosen. Thinking about this though, you also often hear that animals are just as afraid of you as you are of them. So if a pack of bears ever aome across some humans, do you think they would have the plan to just throw the smallest bear at us? Something to think about right there. Let me know if a tiny bear is ever thrown at you.

–       Salmon bark quite loudly – and frequently.

–       Materialism in the woods. It kind of goes both ways. On the one hand you’re living out of a backpack without toilets or showers or really any running water, sleeping on top of poking roots or hard rocks with an optionally waterproof shelter and little heat. On the other hand, now I want all this stuff: super waders, waterproof clothing, fancy backpacks, the latest GPS device, hiking boots, water filters, thermos, stove, etc. etc. I can still probably do without most of these things (its amazing what I can do in flip flops let alone real shoes), but the clothes are getting iffy. I had thought my thrift store jeans, promotional t-shirts, gifted gloves, and high school hoodies would be fine; they would get dirty and crappy and smelly, but it didn’t really matter. Except now I learn that all of these things are made of cotton and cotton loses all notion of warming you as soon as rain touches it. Which is fantastic in a rainforest, let me tell you. I am now the recipient of various layers of nylon, fleece, and plastic, from Jaime who is thankfully the same size as me, though mostly to my chagrin that my own clothes didn’t work out. I’ll be on a thrift store hunt this break perhaps.

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