Final Day: feeling accomplished with a new destination

We took our time packing up our campsite on the final morning of work. I was called an overachiever for taking down my tent before breakfast and for a while we just stood around Jaime’s computer, laughing at some of the ridiculous pictures and movies we took in between doing actual work. There were still two large reaches left, but instead of splitting into two groups we kept the wolf pack intact and surveyed together. The first reach was large but relatively easy. The second reach was surrounded by logging and roads with huge rock slides at every turn, clearly changing the channel from its natural course and greatly decreasing sediment size. The rest of us tried to hold back our excitement for freedom as Jaime made the difficult decision to leave the site.

We ended where we had started, going full circle around the peninsula: on the Skokomish river. We sat silently in the truck, music blaring, windows rolled down, finally experiencing the beginning of summer heat. We all picked up our cars at Olympia, headed to the campground we have established as our safe haven, and finally showered. Chris soon headed out to meet his wife in Seattle for their honeymoon, cracking my back in at least twelve different places as he hugged me goodbye. Our wolf pack was down to three. I owed Paul dinner as I had forgotten my wallet on our last excursion, so the three of us went in search of seafood and a good view. After running away from the fancy places where women in heels and men in jackets climbed the stairs, we finally found a laid back outdoor seating, right on the water’s edge. Our waiter, to say the least, was entertaining. He introduced himself to us by haphazardly relating some drunk story where he ended up sleeping in his car. When we asked for more time to decide on our order, he said he would be back in three minutes – but wait. “You’re not going to time me right? Cause I’m not married to you, I’m not going to lie to you – it might be a little longer.” And that was just the beginning. Every five minutes some new gag or story approached our table – he wanted to try Jaime’s oysters or made fun of us being on separate tickets or wondered why my desert wasn’t gone faster. At first it was strange and we contemplated if we were on candid camera, but eventually it made for a highly entertaining evening.

When we returned, Jaime pitched her tent and went to bed, Paul passed out in the bed of his truck, and I headed to the laundry room next to the outdoor pool for Internet. I sank into the dilapidated but comfy couch, opened up my laptop and went immediately to my e-mail. Amongst Obama campaign letters and REI advertisements, a small note from a Curt Maxey made me literally cry with joy in the silent and dark room:

“Hi Rachael,

I’ve put paperwork in place to try to employ you for the upcoming fall term with the DOE SULI program, so I hope it will work out that I will be your new mentor, unless you get a better offer.”

I won’t readily admit it, but this past year very few things seemed to go right. I cannot begin to relate how thankful I am for this opportunity and how happy I am to finally study alternative energy, especially at such a prestigious institution. Not that I normally screw things up, but there is no way I can let anything go wrong with this one. Wish me luck.

Squire Swim Team

All of us, at at least one point this summer, overtopped our waders. I believe Chris was the first, though for some reason I’m completely blanking on his story. I was next, falling in at dusk after a full days work in the heavy rain. The last two survivors fell on the same day at two different locations on Squire Creek. The creek was one of the larger ones we had done and the water was still running higher than normal from all the rainfall. I was teamed with Paul on a downstream section and he thankfully had volunteered to wade through the rough water and run the stadia rod while I stood on relatively dry land with the auto level. Though he certainly lasted longer than I would have, on the 4th cross section his foot got stuck underneath a root on the left bank and he toppled forward. I noticed the slip, but didn’t realize how bad it was until later. It had also now begun to rain and on top of falling, Paul was now getting soaked without his rain jacket. Further up the stream, Jamie was on top of one of the steep banks, laying out the tape for a cross section. I’m not sure if she slipped or tripped or what happened, but somehow she face planted off the side of the bank into the water, laughing and shouting to Chris as her floating boots lifted her downstream with the current until she was stopped by a nearby log jam. Of all of us, that was probably the most eventful swim and epic fail – how did we miss it?! When everyone was warm(er) and dry(er), we saluted Squire and thought up potential t-shirt designs for her swim team.


Collectively, we decided that in order to live here you need to be…strange? A little off your rocker? Maybe that’s what happens in more isolated areas?

A lot just kind of walk right up to you and ask, what are ya doin? It’s hard to explain. We can’t say geologists because then people discuss rocks with you. And really we tried to avoid anything about climate change or the forestry service. Not that either of those necessarily have bad connotations, they just have the potential to ignite some sort of opinionated lecture. So most of the time we stick with looking at Salmon habitat. Most of them like this, but then we undergo the unfortunate time of listening to everyone’s fishing stories and then having to confess that we actually know nothing about salmon. When we mentioned to our camp host that we were surveying one particular stream even though there really isn’t any reported studies of fish, he regaled us with “Bulllllshit there’s no fish in there! Now let me tell you…” and so on for about ten minutes (later he would introduce us to all of his bear statues). Others look at our surveying equipment and ask if we’re selling their land or increasing their property values. Those who don’t know what surveying equipment looks like, often ask if we’re going fishing – either the traditional way or some sort of electrocution method. Laughingly, we came up with a few sample responses (none of which we ever actually tried). My personal favorite was Jaime’s: I’m a scientist; I work for the government (has a sort of Manhattan project flair, doesn’t it?). Others included that we’re surveying for the new dam or coal plant that will be going in soon. Lol, everyone loves that.

One stream Jaime and I did, situated next to a backwoods campground, had quite possibly the best assortment. There was a family reunion, in which even though I was freezing cold in my waders and three layers of jackets, the girls bravely donned swimsuits in order to wash their hair. Jaime and I laughed at each other: it had been at least a week since we had washed ours. One girl, for no apparent reason, though I suspect it was to make bubbles, dumped half of a Dawn dishwashing soap bottle into the river. Just climbed up on a log, opened the cap, and started squeezing the bottle and smiling. Another elderly man had the longest beard I have ever seen. He randomly appeared on the rocky bar maybe twenty feet down from us, and, after watching us pick up rocks to measure, he himself would pick up random rocks and toss them aside. Another man on the other side of a wooded log jam had a newspaper bag in his hand and was just picking up rocks and placing them inside. Jaime tried to ask what he was doing, but all he replied was “picking up rocks.”

Harry Potter: lots of driving and no sleep for the final midnight release


In 4th grade I was the biggest Harry Potter fan. I had gotten the first three books as some sort of present (Christmas? Birthday? Funsies?) and, though I struggled through the first one, quickly became quite obsessed with the characters. I subdued my impatience for the 4th book by simply rereading the first three numerous times (much to my parents consternation that I wouldn’t move on to another book). Waiting turns out to be an integral component for any Harry Potter fan. You had to wait for the next book, the next movie, the next interview, the next hint of what would come next. I grew up with Harry, Ron, and Hermione – always a little younger than the characters of the book which made hoping that my upcoming middle and high school years would be filled with just as much excitement slightly plausible. On my 11th birthday I really expected an owl to barge through my chimney or Hagrid to come stomping down the door. The fourth and fifth books my mom pre-ordered from Amazon and the two of us would wait patiently on the doorstep all morning, looking up excitedly at the sound of any diesel engine, hoping it would be an approaching UPS truck. The sixth book I begged my uncle to drive me an hour from Christmas Cove Maine to the nearest bookstore in Damriscotta. I took an old broom, some marker for a scar, and a sheet folded over a rope for a makeshift cloak. Together we admired the decorations, costumes, and foaming green punch, counting down excitedly until midnight. I hurriedly read the first chapter at the bookstore and sat in wondrous happiness all the way home. The final book I went to another midnight party with my family at Prince Books in downtown Norfolk. For the whole night and next day all I did was read – I actually don’t even remember eating or sleeping. When an old friend randomly stopped by, it was literally painful to talk to her for an entire hour as I anxiously awaited the outcome of a Gringott’s bank heist. I flew out to Madison, Wisconsin, was picked up by the organizer of my meteorology camp, and had her drive me to her house to finish the final chapter before I could carry on with the start of camp. The movies have been slightly less memorable as my obsession waned – but I still made every single midnight showing.

I was in the middle of the latest field session, in the middle of the woods with no cell or internet service – but there was no way I was missing this. After all the years of waiting for the next book or movie, there would be no more waiting after this. This was it. The end. The finale. There were no excuses for missing such an extraordinary event. Sure I could see it later in the summer, but why tarnish such a perfect record and see a movie without the same anticipation and dedication of the crowds I have come to love. The closest movie theater would be in either Forks or Aberdeen. Despite filming the entire twilight series in Forks, online there appeared to be no movie theater. So it was Aberdeen – a place not listed on Fandango and who refused to reserve tickets over the phone. My coworkers cooked dinner at the “Promised Land” campground and I drove an hour south to buy the tickets before they sold out. The mall the theater was in had three cars in the parking lot. The place felt like that Will Smith movie where’s he’s all alone in NYC: stores were brightly lit and open with no customers walking around and seemingly no staff behind the counters. The classic elevator music played loudly in the background. I finally ran into human life on the other side of the mall where I bought my ticket from the movie theater concession stand, because there wasn’t enough staff to man both the concession stand and the box office. Walking back, I ran into one little 5ish year old girl, playing alone in the middle of the mall. When I walked past, she looked up and began following maybe 5ft behind me. Great, now I was in some sort of horror film. Someone with a clown mask and knife is definitely about to come around the corner and stab me to death – that, or the whole town is filled with zombies. But alas I made it to my car safely with the ticket tucked into my wallet. I grabbed a bag of marshmallows for the guys (who am I kidding? They were for me…) and drove an hour back to the campground.

Two days later, our surveying had only brought us further north. Now I was two and a half hours away from the theater in Aberdeen. I had just completed three ten hour days in the field (in the pouring rain), with at least another four or five before we went on another break and it was pretty much guaranteed that I would be getting no sleep tonight. I left quickly after we finished work, making the guys set up my tent for me and text me the directions to the latest patch of flat area that would be our campground for the night. The whole way there my phone, suddenly delighted at having service, was buzzing with texts from the east coast proclaiming excitement over the beginning of the film. When I arrived at the mall, the number of cars had certainly multiplied. I am aware of the demographics of Harry Potter fans, but was still a little taken aback that every single person was white, a little overweight, and incredibly awkward. For a while people in wizard robes were shouting spells at each other with sticks, while a seven year old dobby with no shoes but lots of socks ran around in circles in the lobby, an elderly Mad-Eye sat quietly in the corner with his wife, Professor Trelawney, and a teenage Goyle ran around shouting “I am Goyle” with the same fervor Leonidas gave to “This is Sparta.” I acted like a homeless person again, getting stares as I changed my clothes, washed my face, and brushed my teeth in the first bathroom with plumbing I had seen in days. Refreshed, I marched out to a still chaotic scene, wondering when some sort of line would form. The costume contest had finished at 30 til, but they still hadn’t let us in at 10 til. Though order was attempted with some sort of ticket numbering system, chaos eventually ensued and I found an excellent seat in the back of the front row section. Texts of people getting out of their movie on the east coast began to trickle in and I couldn’t stand waiting anymore. The people around me were considerably less enthused: the girl next to me began weeping into her boyfriend’s arm about some friend and a pair of shoes and the girls in front of me kept texting the whole movie, gossiping about some girl sitting three rows back who was rude for not sitting with them. But I didn’t care. The whole movie I was transfixed. I quietly wept throughout the whole thing as various characters were killed and then laughed or shouted or clapped when something heroic happened. I didn’t want it to end. But it had to at some point. I watched every single credit roll by, even though I was the only one in the theater, and then silently got up and filed out into the darkness.

The drive home I was filled with sadness which slowly was overcome with sleepiness. I stopped midway through my drive at around 3:30 am and took a nap in my car next to the Pacific Ocean, looking out onto the moonlit beach. I woke up a little later and continued driving, cursing the terrible directions I was given and missing the pizza box sign the guys had left me. Eventually I found the gravel pit, the only dry spot in the region which was filled with tiny rocks and a sprinkling of overturned and rusted cars. At 5:30 am I crawled thankfully into my sleeping bag and promptly passed out. Though we normally wake up at 6am, the boys let me sleep til 7 and made me pancakes. I did work the full day that day, but every now and then a spontaneous nap would occur in the middle of a survey (usually on a log) – only to be interrupted by the pelting of rain or a stadia rod poking my side.