Frozen Archaeology

Winter archaeology. Doesn’t that sound fun? No, not really. Everything is coated in a slick layer and the insects have been replaced with the chance of having fingers and toes freeze off. I’m quite happy doing my archaeology when I’m toasty and warm, but alas we had a small pipeline reroute that had to be checked out just outside of Ft. Mac.

It was a novelty to need my sunglasses for the drive up though – I do most of my driving in the dark early morning hours or once the sun has already set, I feel a bit like a mole person some days – toiling away underground. Thus seeing the mountains off on the frosty horizon was a nice change.

Since it was to be a frosty kind of trip we rented a heated, covered argo. Setting up the cover proved a bit trickier than anticipated. We pulled the cover into place and snapped it down but then we saw a couple of other covered argos drive past. They looked much sharper and squared off then our rumpled mess. But once I figured out how to climb in I noticed some straps that needed tightening, which smartened up the overall look a bit more.

Having the heater was such a blessing, it definitely took the edge off of the cold. The snow made travel a fair amount more slippery and we did a number of donuts when simply trying to turn. Slipping up and down some of the slopes was also rather fun, kind of like a giant, protected toboggan.

As for the archaeology, in our safety orientation we discovered that a large portion of our high potential area had been forested last year – with all of the logs everywhere there is not much we can do in the area (we also learned that there were some poachers in the area so it would be best if we dressed as brightly as possible and tried not to sound like wildlife while out in the forest). The rest of the areas looked deceptively good from a distance but as we drew closer their good spots seemed to blend into endless slopes (people liked to camp on level ground – shocking I know!). We did some nice walks though and made out way down to the river crossing.

With a little cautious testing we decided that the river was frozen enough to walk across. This allowed us to test the furthest extent of the reroute without having to go back and drive over an hour out of the way to attack it from the other side. Basically it saved us from having to do another day in the field.

The day was quite pleasant for the most part. I was wearing so many layers that I could hardly move, but steel-toed boots do nothing to keep your toes warm. I also noticed that as the snow on my boots melted in the heat of the argo they began to smell of muskeg once again – I will never be rid of that smell!  It was a pretty decent day but I could easily see how miserable it could have been had the weather not cooperated. When will the glorious heat of summer return? Not soon enough.