Painted Desert

Painted Desert

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

A typical day

6:00 Alarm goes off. Hit the snooze button.
6:30 Get up. Get dressed.

My field outfit:

Broad-brimmed hat, sunglasses (which I only wear if we are in an area with lots of white rocks, which reflect the light terribly), white button-down cotton shirt (much cooler than a knit shirt, plus it has a collar I can turn up), rip-stop nylon hiking pants, hiking boots. What goes in my pockets:

Knife (can scratch calcite, but will be scratched by quartz), compass, cloth to wipe glasses, chap stick, hand lens on lanyard.

Make lunch (always peanut butter & jelly, potato chips, and a piece of fruit). Have breakfast (almost always cereal).

The kitchen (note: photo not actually taken at breakfast):

7:00 Go to lab. Work on gluing fossils together.
8:00 Check in with supervisor to see if he needs me for the day. If not, head back to apartment and get ready to go out with Katie. Some of the gear that comes with me:

Rain jacket, nalgene bottle and hydration bladder with 2 liters of ice water, a bandana, lunch, sunscreen, ziplock bags for putting rock samples in, a pen, pencil and marker, a notebook for writing non-research-related thoughts in, reading material, a first aid kit, a small duffel bag for carring around equipment and samples in the field, a rock hammer, an awl and paintbrush for excavating fossils, extra pencil leads, eye moisturizing drops, extra bootlaces, and my field notebook.

8:30 Head out to work with Katie. Drive six miles through the park, open a locked gate, drive a ways on a dirt road then hike in to the site.
9:15 Start working. Hold the other end of the tape measure for Katie, or dig trenches while Katie relaxes.

10:00 It starts to get really hot. No breeze. A little bit humid since it's monsoon season. Everything begins to get hot. It's hard to even sit down since the rocks burn me through my pants. I have to be careful picking up my rock hammer or anything else metal. I don't find it draining… I can still climb hillsides and swing the big rock pick to dig trenches… but it is very uncomfortable. Sometimes we bring an extra cooler of ice water.

11:00 Snack. Back to work.
12:00 (sharp) Lunch. Find shade if shade is available, perhaps beneath an undercut sandstone ledge. Today we wedged ourselves into a small patch of shade; my feet were up by Katie's head, and her back was hunched so her head fit into the little cave. Eat sandwich, chips, fruit. Drink water.
12:30 Back to work, perhaps a bit refreshed though it's still very hot. Clouds have begun gathering on the horizon in all directions, but the sky above is still crystal blue.
1:30 Clouds finally begin to form overhead, and we have a chance of getting some shade. A breeze starts.
2:00 The monsoon storms begin to form, and we can watch them moving over the badlands.

The storms are patchy, but today one of them traveled directly over us. It began with a few drops, but within a couple minutes it was pouring—big, cold drops that quickly had us soaked.
We even had a little bit of hail. The worst was over after 15 minutes. I found it very refreshing, but it was cold enough that Katie got quite chilly and didn't really recover until the sun came out later. We had mostly cloudy skies for the rest of the work day.

4:00 Pack up and hike out.
4:30 Snack time again. A cold drink and some cookies or baby carrots.
5:00 I go back to work in the lab to clean and glue some more fossils. This "outside of work hours" arrangement allows me to get in my quota of lab work and have another full day per week in the field.
6:00 Come home, get changed and help make dinner. If we're grilling, we head out with a sports item like a frisbee to toss around while the meat cooks. It often becomes sunny again in the evenings, which is nice.

Last night, my birthday dinner was grilled steaks. These amazing steaks were $0.99 a pound at the local Safeway. We bought a seven-pound package and marinated them in what we had lying around, which included pickle juice and jalapeno juice. They were very good.

The woman on the right is our new roommate, who hails from England. We all get along very well.

8:00 Catch up on projects like reading, sketching or writing blog entries.
9:00 Play Diablo II with Katie. I brought this classic computer game in case I had lots of empty time (in reality, I'm busy almost every hour of the day) and got Katie sucked into the wonderful computer-game world of killing things and taking their stuff. So most nights we play for an hour and get a little bit further in the game. We are about halfway through it now (and halfway through my internship)!

10:00 Bedtime. It is usually cool enough in my room to sleep… we haven't used the air conditioning yet, the brick buildings are well-insulated… but I can always open a window. I can hear I-40 in the distance. I try to get 8 hours of sleep for the next gruelling day.

For the weekend of the 4th, we are planning to see fireworks in Flagstaff and maybe some of northwestern AZ's geological wonders. I will be sure to let everyone know how it goes!


Spinning Girl said...

wow, you are having the biggest blast of all!!!

Mom said...

Loved your "play by play." Are you managing to maintain your weight? Sounds like not too much to eat for all that activity.

Were you really there under the clothes on the floor?



Anonymous said...

Hey Jo
You guys have the sweet life. Great pics, nice description of your mundane lives...I have told everyone they must read this blog...

Weary Hag said...

Hiya Jo ... I must say, especially after seeing your mom's comment here too ...
When I first saw the picture of your 'outfit' for the day... I thought to myself "Golly, Jo's really lost a bit of weight." Then I realized it was laid out on the flo'

hahaha ... miss you

and HEY! Thank you tons for the neatest postcard in the world! Sorry I haven't been around but somebody's got to feed the turtles.