Working Man

It’s interesting to think that what I’m doing now is “working.” It certainly doesn’t feel like it. That’s not to say that it doesn’t take some effort – it’s just not what I’m used to doing.

Green Canyon. This is where I sleep when I'm not out working. Not on the bee - I actually sleep in my van. The bee just happened to be close to my van. Well, not super close. I was out walking to take care of my morning constitutional when I - you know what? Just enjoy the picture.

I just finished up my first 10 days of training for the Utah Conservation Corps. In this time, we had 5 days of classroom training, during which we became Wilderness First Aid certified, learned about chainsaw use, trail maintenance, and were exposed to your general employment on-boarding processes. It was enjoyable, although I think that much of that enjoyment came from the novelty of my activities and surroundings.

On our way to classroom training. The haze in the sky is from the California wildfires. There was a constant hint of smoke in the air.

The next 5 days were spent on a training hitch. Being “on hitch” is what it’s called when a crew is out on location, usually 5-10 days at a time, working 10 hour days on a given project, and camping nearby. It works out perfectly for me. I park the van in a lot, and don’t have to worry about housing while we’re out on hitch. Once we get back, I have no work obligations until the next hitch, leaving me free to explore Utah – assuming that I have the desire and energy.

Getting organized for trail work.

Performing said trail work. Feels good to get sweaty.

We finished up our practice hitch on Wednesday, and after spending the evening in Logan to get caught up on “business” (health insurance, prescriptions, checking facebook, groceries, unpacking, showering, shaving, calling mom, buying new camping gear, checking facebook again, charging electronics, etc), I left for Little Cottonwood Canyon, a nice spot just outside of Salt Lake City. I was hoping to get some good climbing in, but a combination of heat and unfamiliarity with the area stymied me somewhat. No matter. The hiking and scenery more than made up for it. And it’ll be easier the next time I’m out there.

In terms of other things that have been on my mind – the weather in northern Utah is wonderful. Much more comfortable. The van is also in pretty good shape. I spent the Saturday before I began working on a little electrical project that I wanted to get done. There was some re-wiring that I had been meaning to get around to, and I figured it would take an hour or two to button up. If you have any passing experience with DIY projects, then you’ll know how foolish this estimation was. Around 5 hours later, I was sweating bullets and up to my shoulders in my squeezed cabinetry, trying to extract myself without running fiberglass into my entire arm. I had made the fatal mistake of looking at my previous work and discovering that I could have done it better. In the gung-ho attitude that had affixed itself to my frontal lobe, I decided to do just that. Of course, after I painstakingly re-screwed every last piece back into place, I realized that in the “fix-one-thing-find-two-more-things-that-need-fixing” sort of haze that I had spent the morning, I had forgotten the original objective. After taking a five minute cool-down walk (a highly productive practice), I spent another hour disassembling everything, making the single connection that I needed to make in the first place, testing it, and putting it all back together.

To be honest, there are upsides to completely tearing apart your projects and repairing them several times. My system is running (mostly) smoothly, and my battery meter is working, so I actually know how much energy I’m using, and how much I have in reserve (surprisingly, not a trivial process). The encouraging news is that I’m generating much more energy than I thought I was via the solar panel, and I’m using much less than I thought I was. Awesome.

Better view of Green Canyon. If you look closely, you can see the van.

As I type, I’m hanging out in the local laundromat, getting ready to go out on hitch tomorrow. I don’t know what my exact schedule will look like for the next 3 months, so my communication will likely be a little spotty. But probably no more than usual.

And in case it wasn’t obvious from the paragraphs full of complaining above – I’m having a blast.

 

-Austin

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