Drayton Valley

I spent a week in Drayton Valley and I must admit that it is remarkably similar to Fort Mac; Fort Mac seems to have a wider mix of people (tons of Newfies there) though while Drayton is lots fo oil-loving Albertans. They seem a bit redneck though and everyone drives an overly large truck (my apologies if you know some normal people in Drayton).

Our task this time was to survey  the length of a new pipeline; however, they were putting it in alongside of some existing pipelines so there was not much to see or do. Everywhere that looked like an ideal spot to sink a couple of test pits was either outside of our testing area or were highly disturbed by the pipes already lying beneath the surface. Most of the line we would drive along without bothering to get out of the argo, at least the scenery was pretty though.

As a highlight to the trip, I finally got some training on driving the argo! Sarah would normally do the tricky part of finding our destination then she would let Angie and I switch off on getting us back to the truck. The landscape wasn’t too challenging for the most part but I’m glad to have gotten in a bit of practice. However, I was the one driving the day the argo died (not my fault, honest!). We were driving and then slowly it came to a stop and sputtered a bit and then would move no more. Of course this was the same point that a thunderstorm was quickly moving in, bringing with it intense humidity and mosquitos like I’ve never encountered before. Thus we scooped up all of our gear and had to make a mad dash through the long grass back to the truck which was thankfully only about 500m away This seemed close but without a free hand to discourage the mosquitos I fear I was literally eaten alive (I had almost 50 bites on my right arm alone, they were even biting through my pants).  We called the argo supplier and he blamed it dying on the fact that it was a bunch of women driving, resisting the urge to have the man lynched and disposed of we instead drove back to the argo (or at least closer to it), managed to get it started long enough to load it and get out of there just before the rain it.

Sarah really loves nature.

After getting a new argo we resumed our work, which didn’t take us nearly as long as we had hoped, so we found a lovely river to cool ourselves off in for a few minutes. Sarah’s got quite the amazing brain when in the wilderness, she can remember all of the cutlines and forestry roads she’s been on. As we were driving into the area she mentioned the road (a generic looking gravel one between some trees) would take us across two rivers and that one of them would have an old toilet resting in it – she was right. The last time she was in the area was over three years ago. I was impressed, but then again I get lost going everywhere.

The rest of the trip was rather less eventful but was some good experience nonetheless. And now I’ve spent the last few days dealing with the fiery itchiness of a thousand mosquito bites, I’m sure as soon as they heal up it will be fieldwork time again.

Catch Up Time!

I’ve been a bit bad about writing lately, oops. I shall blame part of that on stress about the job situation, but a small catch up posting might be in order.

I got fed up with all of the waiting around and hearing nothing, so I drove up to Calgary to talk with my boss – I wanted to make sure that I would have a full-time job come fall, before I told the college I couldn’t teach any classes. I didn’t want to burn all my bridges and then end up without a job in a couple of months. When I arrived at the office, though, I was informed that they had ‘let go’ the permit holder I worked under on the Birch Mtn project. That had me a bit worried but now her last e-mail to me made more sense, where she had let me know of another company looking for junior permit holders. I was a bit confused if she meant that I wasn’t going to be getting anymore work, but I think she realised she wasn’t going to be around to train me and merely wanted me to have the best chance at getting trained well. However, I did talk with my boss and he reassured me that yes I would have work in the fall and that I didn’t need to worry about any of that. I do worry that my training will be a bit more haphazard then I had anticipated, but I’m not sure they would a) hire me b) pay me as well. I also discovered that if I show up, they’ll find me work to do – excellent. So I worked for the rest of the day and then headed home with the promise of being sent more work to work on from home.

They did send me some work, however, it only took me about an hour to complete each of the two tasks they sent me – that’s not really enough to pay the bills. In addition to that, I had already told the college I wouldn’t be able to teach anything in the fall, thus a steady income was suddenly quite important to my financial situation. So, the following week I decided I would just start showing up for work every day and they could find me things to do, which they did. I worked on writing sections of reports, doing some editing and formating, learning about map making, etc. Instead of driving back and forth from Lethbridge to Calgary, though, I decided to pack my tent and just camp.

I feel like it should have been more of a political statement or something like that, but really, it was because I’m cheap and it saved on gas. Plus it was kind of fun. I met a nice lady a couple of sites over that became my camping mom. She checked to make sure I had a hammer for my stakes, a pillow, food, and enough blankets. I tried to convince her that I had planned ahead but in the end I still inherited an extra blanket (which was actually really nice to have). She also warned me of the dangers of having strange men invite themselves back to your tent – she doesn’t put up with any of that and calls the RCMP, just as I should do in that situation. She lives in Nanton, I have no idea why she was camping so close to home and I wish I had gotten her last name.

That brings you up to speed on work, this week we’re in exciting Drayton Valley, but I’ll write more about that in another post.

Waiting, Still Waiting….

Still playing the waiting game with work which has me both angry and frustrated. I know it’s the nature of field work – the client has to get the info to us, then comes the permit application, and then hoping the government will like it. Plus the arky department is fairly new to the company I’m with, so I suspect that is also causing a bit of chaos. But it is frustrating to sit around while I know 5 other people in the same field who are working virtually non-stop. I don’t handle this much time-off very well – I don’t need it yet! Plus I want to be learning as much as I can right now, there must be office things I can be learning.
To stave off the insanity that doubtlessly comes on the heels of too much time off, I’ve been exploring the Cottonwood area. It’s a beautiful area filled with dozens of types of animals; it’s so peaceful down there. I’m not sure why no one goes down there, perhaps because the area is filled with rattlesnakes as well…but it is nice to have the area to yourself (unless of course you encounter said rattlesnakes, then you’re going to wish you had a friend to carry you back up the hillside).  

However, last time I was down there I most certainly did not take enough water with me. After wandering around for a bit I thought it might be a good idea to go for a wade in the river to cool off a bit – best idea ever! However once I got started  it was hard to stop and I ended up going for a swim, without a swimsuit…. the water was just so inviting! I even had one of the beavers come out of his lodge for a bit of a swim with me.

After paddling around for a bit I found a bandana in my bag, used it as a tiny towel, and then sat in the sun in my underwear drying off a bit more. Looking around I saw off to my left, at the bend in the river, a fawn was enjoying the cool water as well.  Wanting a closer picture of it, but not wanting it to slip away, I slipped on my hiking boots and began stalking through the long grass towards the bend. Keeping an eye on both the fawn ahead of me and the spot on the rocks where I had left all of my clothing, I made it fairly close before the fawn headed back up the bank and into the trees. As soon as it did disappear, I realised how immensely thankful I was that the area has so few visitors as I looked down at my state of dress/undress. Perhaps next time I’ll just remember to take more water with me.