Wow. So much to say. I haven’t lived outside of Washington State since 2001, which was startling to realize, seeing as how I still think of myself as a traveler of sorts. I have lived in 3 ½-4 different areas of the state in those 9 years, but as for a straight-up complete change of scene, it has been a while.
Being so inundated with new scenes, experiences, points of view and so on has at the very least kept me distracted from the fact I miss Devon like hell. Distracted so long as I’m at work, anyhow. Tim and I have been burning through the phone card minutes like mad in the evenings. I have also been missing the home territory. My solitary internets usage in the past 4 weeks brought messages from Anacortes, and I found myself desperately missing the town, my friends, the parks, and the saltwater.
Well, let’s see. First off, no one ever mentioned a thing by the name of PT to me when I was applying for this job, or after I had been hired and was asking what I needed to know. This here Physical Training that these damn firefighters do every day kicks my slim but out-of-shape ass. Had anyone mentioned that I would be made to run miles at the speed of light, do pull-ups pushups curl-ups lunges etc until my limbs fall off, and be subjected to a particularly evil video routine known as P90X, well, I would have told them to fuck right off. That, or actually gotten some exercise this spring in preparation.
I chose not to train for my Pack Test, for instance. Passing the Arduous Pack Test is a requirement of hire for all Wildland Firefighters. The Pack Test involves hiking 3 miles with a 45-pound pack in 45 minutes. I can hike all day with a 30-pound pack, and know exactly how to pace myself to pull that off. Moving at four miles per hour requires me to walk faster than my legs can, so I had to try to trot along on legs that wanted to give out from the previous week of PT, without knowing if the pace was something I could maintain or not, let alone push. Someone has to be dead last, and I was the one. However, I did manage to pull off a next-to-dead-last finish in the final 100 yards. I even had around a minute to spare.
In daily PT I come in third to last, on average. There is a mildly chunky guy named Jordan Stemp who I have taken to calling Detlef (after Detlef Shrempf of the Seattle Supersonics) and who reminds me of Ralph Wiggum of The Simpsons, and a young gal who is probably asthmatic, who I consistently manage to beat on runs, hikes, and hill climbs. Gotta take my victories where I can, you know.
In other news, Tim and I have picked about 15-20 pounds of morels, eaten a lot and dried the rest. There is camas growing here, everywhere. Despite there being a town named Camas in Washington, it would seem most of the plants themselves have been crowded out by development—I have never knowingly seen camas in my life before now. I hope to go digging here soon. I’ll tell you how it goes.
The weather has been for shit, mostly, though the weekends have been conveniently gorgeous. My lookout is at about 8400’, and the trailhead is around 6500’. The snow level has been around 7000’ feet, with plenty of rain: it looks like I’ll be lucky if I get packed in by Fourth of July weekend.
In the meantime, I’ve been learning all sorts of things. At Guard School, I got 110% on my written test, learned how to heat up an MRE, and learned and how eating an MRE every day for lunch makes my digestive system pissed off for about a week. I’ve learned how to read the Osborne Firefinder, a compass and the Latitude/Longitude business on a map down to Degrees, Minutes and Seconds. I have also finally learned all about Townships, Ranges and Sections. I have learned how to shoot a .38, .40, and .44 at onions, old road signs and garbage can lids. I have learned that I can shoot a .22 left-handed pretty well—I can’t close my left eye to shoot the “normal” way. I have learned that the people who believe that Obama is a “Moslem Commie” (actual quote) really do exist. I have learned that a Crew Boss who looks like the type to say something like “Moslem Commie” knows a whole pile of yoga asanas, and instead said “The key to these positions is that you gotta breathe. If ya ain’t breathing, they ain’t doin’ shit for ya.” I have learned that alcohol is way the hell cheaper in Idaho than in Washington, that groceries cost a lot in Elk City, and that vegetables are hard to come by. I’ve learned more than I ever expected to about chainsaws, and how to drop a tree with one, and do it well. I’ve learned how to dig fireline, mop up and cold trail. I have learned my 10 Firefighting Orders and 18 Watch Out Situations. I will recite them for you sometime, if you like. I have learned that when I had Lyme disease in 4th grade, a couple of the people on the crew hadn’t been born yet, and the rest were at most 5 years old. I am finally understanding why people used to say to me “Oh my god, you were born in 1980?!”
I have also learned that—while I find all of the training I am receiving interesting, informative and extremely useful—it wears on me tremendously. I am not the type to sit back in class; I’m rather more of an obnoxious goody two-shoes, trying to learn all I can and answer all the questions the instructor asks of the class. I can’t just slack off and then barely pass the test. I can’t walk instead of run, or do fewer pull-ups. Even if I wanted to, I wouldn’t be allowed to, because my damn brother is too good at all of this crap, and I can’t be dragging the Delph name down. Plus, he’s one of my acting supervisors, and he’s not going to let me have it easy. The following trouble is that I don’t want to do some of these things, and have chosen not to be a firefighter because of them (kind of like calculus in high school: not only did I not want to do it, but I was specifically going to avoid any line of work which required me to know and use calculus). The strain of working hard to succeed at things I don’t want to have to succeed at hit me pretty hard last week. Don’t get me wrong, learning all that I have will make me a million miles better at my job, once I get to do it. I’m just really effing ready to get up onto my lookout.
Here is the first batch of Morels.
Here is where Tim got his truck stuck up the Montana-Magruder-Sheep Fucker Road. Well, first he got it stuck in the snow on the road. Then, he backed up, to get unstuck, which didn't work quite as well as planned. His quote that goes along with this picture is, "When you back up, the danger comes from behind you!"
And, Dogs Like Trucks. Especially in Idaho.