Today wrapped up the three weeks of training, I have my red card (meaning I can perform my duties as a forestry technician), I’ve been trained with a compass, and I’ve hiked my booty up enough hills to prove that I can hike to a fire. This week was full of information and things to do, and yet at the same time I felt lost with nothing to do at times; it’s all about finding a balance of knowing when to work as hard as you can, and when to sit and wait for direction…’hurry up and wait’ as they say.
The week started out with a great weekend of climbing and relaxing. I went up the Icicle Canyon twice to boulder at a few sweet spots (Mad Meadows, the Sword, and Forest Land). I also made a few great dinners, and delicious banana bread muffins; all of this free time at home with no internet is sure to improve my cooking/baking skills. Luckily we work out enough at work that I’m not too worried about eating too much.
Monday morning involved a lot of ‘hurry up and wait(ing)’ while our supervisors tried to improvise with a few changes they had thrown at them. We were supposed to dig line all day line but ended up getting going after eating lunch up on a ridge. We dug line for a few hours then our crew was called to assist in a medical evacuation up where the other hand crew was working. We scurried up the steep hillside and got our tools and packs organized and figured out a system for carrying the person with the injured knee out on a backboard. With rotations of tool carrying and backboard carrying, we were able to get the injured person (who was an assistant crew boss) out of the forest along some old muddy roads in a little over an hour. It was tough work but it felt so great all coming together and working as a cohesive unit to successfully get the injured person, as well as all of our gear from the day out of the forest. When we reached the main road, and set the backboard down, well sure enough it was a mock medivac and the person wasn’t injured at all, phew! It was great practice for us of what to do if/when something like that happens when we’re out working on a fire or a project. Plus, it was great PT (physical training); I was drenched in sweat by the end.
Midweek we finished up some more district orientation and had a barbecue at a beautiful ranch down the Chumstick Highway. There were a bunch of farm animals there (draft horses, pigs, puppies, chickens and roosters), and the sun was shining beautifully. We also did some pretty hard PT, running one day, and hiking up Icicle Ridge another. Icicle Ridge is one of the common hikes we go on, and we do PT hikes we hike quite fast, back and forth on the switchbacks, and up the steep slopes. It’s always pretty exhausting, but I try to remember to focus on calming my breathing down, realizing that the exercise is great for me (I’ll be thankful for it when we’re actually hiking more slowly into a fire and I still have energy to put into digging line), as well as appreciate the fact that I’m not carrying a 40 lb. saw up the slope! About half of the crew guys will carry saws on each hike we go on, and I’m so impressed every time; those saws are heavy and the slopes are so steep!
Thursday we went for a run with our crew in the morning for PT. When we go anywhere, even on our runs, we travel in a line. This helps with passing information down the line and keeping us together as a unit (plus then we look quite legitimate haha). The run definitely pushed me (sprinting up the hills was rough), but it was awesome to finally finish PT without anyone having to call a gap in the line. We spent the afternoon driving around through the hills around the Lake Wenatchee area. My squad boss (the person who supervises a smaller unit of the crew (there are three of us in the squad, we all ride in the same truck together) knows the area really well and is great at pointing out different geographic and ecological features of the land. We talk about tree types, shrubs and invasive species, as well the various ridges we see in the distance (Dirty Face Mountain, Wedge Mountain, Icicle Canyon, SnowGrass Ridge, Nason Ridge, and more that I can’t quite remember yet). I definitely enjoy the rides along the old dirt roads and learning about the area, luckily people let me ask all questions about the area. It’s just beautiful over here and it makes it that much more special to actually have an idea of what I’m looking at.
Friday, today, we did our usual morning routine of checking the trucks (rig check: tires, underbody, oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, wiper fluid, lights, horn, and cleaning the windows) and going through station and crew briefings. After that we headed out as a crew to ‘Ski Hill,’ this old ski jump site that has just an incredible steep, unstable hike all the way up to a repeater (which transmits radio signal). We hiked all the way to the top where the repeater sits, and it was just glorious. Our crew has gotten so much stronger and it felt so great to all make it to the top; the hike was difficult, especially for the sawyers, but we all managed to get to the top together, sweating like crazy. After the shaky hike down we headed back to the station and had a great barbecue to ‘celebrate’ the end of training. It was nice to relax after the morning PT. After that we just took care of random paperwork and washed the rigs.
Now I’m sitting outside of the little Leavenworth library/city hall, hiding in the shade from the hot sun (though it might have cooled down a bit now) and mosquitoes, about to go wander to the center of the village for some live music and possibly some food. Tonight I’m hoping to get into a pub where my friend/crew member is playing a show, but I’m not too sure that’s going to happen, then I might head over to another guy from the crews house, who knows I might end up heading back to my house on the lake and crashing early tonight. I’m feeling a bit of a cold coming on, but hopefully I can get it out of me before it hits me too hard. Some friends from Bellingham (and Wenatchee) are going to be in town tomorrow so I’m going to try to get some climbing in with them while I wait for my phone to ring for my crew boss to call me in to work for our first fire?! We’re still waiting on the rain to go away, and for the fuels to dry up, but I’m sure that will come soon enough; plus we’re expecting the tourists to start some fires celebrating the fourth of July. We shall see.
No fires yet, but they might be coming soon. For all we know we could end up in the midwest next week for a two week assignment. We never know when we’ll be called in to work a fire; I’m learning to expect the unexpected and to never have quite a solid set schedule. Hopefully we’ll see some fire soon, but I’m enjoying my relaxing downtime while we wait.