Wednesday, July 2, 2008

In the Field Part IV - June 21

After almost 2 weeks back in civilization, I am ready for more of the solitude of the field. I had lots to do in town, but that is done, and so I am on the way to Billings, Montana’s metropolis, to pick up my technician, and head to the field. It is Megan’s first trip to Montana. It is also her first time ever camping, so she is in for a shock…

But, before I leave, we are going on a horseback ride up into the mountains…I appreciate this so much, and in part because it is SOOO different from where I will be spending the next 2 weeks.

Good bye to Bozeman for two weeks…the country here is vastly different than where I will be, and I love both.

Then, I head to Billings, arriving in time to shop for the crew before heading to the airport. When you have a dozen young people working 12-14 hours in the hot sun(finally)moving a mountain, it takes a LOT of food to feed them. So, my car is totally overloaded even before picking Megan up, with all her gear. The plane is on time, and I wedge Megan in amongst all the food, gear, and boxes of lab supplies, and, with 3.5 hours in front of us and Megan holding boxes and a suitcase uncomplainingly the whole way, we are off. The road is slightly different than my usual route, and we bypass the windmills this time, but it is north on a long straight road out of Roundup, almost direct to Malta. We pull in late, about 8, and I still have to set up my tent, so I conscript Tim, my grad student, to help.

My home away from home…did I mention the mosquitoes? They don’t show up well in the pictures—surprising. They are big enough to photograph well, it feels like.

Even though I know better, I still like to be away from the rest, and so I head back down to the river. It is peaceful there, and I love to hear the animals and birds upon both waking and sleeping. The first night it is always a bit hard to fall asleep, and the birds and coyotes seem to have the same trouble. The birds are very fat, as there is an endless supply of mosquitoes to keep them well fed…and, it seems that I perform the same function for the mosquitoes…sigh. Finally the coyotes and the owls sing me to sleep, and before I know it, the lightening on the horizon wakes me up and gets me going.

When I am dressed and sorta put together, I head up to camp. THEN I remember why I shouldn’t camp by the river. I have to walk through tall grass to get to the main camp, and there are clouds of mosquitoes that rise up so thick I can barely see through them, with each of my steps. Ugh. These guys are more resistant to bug spray every year that I come, and they just laugh with joy at this new meal offered them, despite my three layers of two different kinds of spray. If these companies REALLY want to test their products, they should try paleo field camp on the highline.

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