Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Nevada Conservation Corps goes to...Arizona?

This past week my crew went somewhere I never expected to have a project: Arizona. I'm not sure if other crews have gone there in the past, but it seemed quite unusual to me because I didn't think we would ever leave the state for any of our projects. The reason we did was because we were working with Lake Mead National Recreation Area, which is located in both states, and it just so happened that the work they needed us for was over the border. I wasn't complaining, though, because it meant that we got to see another amazing place that I never expected to see. The scenery where we were working was breathtaking because we were right where Lake Mead NRA meets Grand Canyon National Park. The work we were doing was road decommissioning and installing barriers to keep people from off-roading in the areas we were closing off; and for the entire week, anytime we were working, we could just glance up and see the mouth of the Grand Canyon where the river flows out of the Canyon and meets up with Lake Mead. You can't ask for a better view than that while you're at work. It's things like that that are constantly reminding me how lucky I am to have a job that allows me to be outside so much, seeing new places and having new experiences.

One part of the experience, recently, that has not made me feel quite as lucky is the cold weather. It did get colder much more gradually in Vegas than I am used to from New England but usually it is slightly colder than Vegas in the areas where we work, and this week was no exception. I don't know exactly how cold it got during the nights but it was definitely below freezing (which was quite apparent when the milk in my cereal began freezing to the side of the bowl while I was eating breakfast). Sleeping in weather that cold can be quite uncomfortable, so when we have those cold temperatures during a project I've taken to sleeping with all of my layers on, including hat and scarf, and using my sleeping bag liner inside my sleeping bag to add more warmth (this past week Corey lent me his liner also so I had 2 liners in addition to my sleeping bag), then pulling my sleeping bag over my face to keep it warm. My feet also get very cold during the night so my strategy for that is to put hot water in my metal water bottles before bed and stick them in the bottom of my sleeping bag to warm up my feet. Unfortunately the heat usually dissipates completely by around 3:00 am, but for those first few hours my feet stay wonderfully warm. The morning also presents several challenges of it's own, other than frozen milk. Since we have to wake up before dawn, it hasn't started to get warm yet, so getting out of the sleeping bag can be a challenge, although sleeping in our Carhartt work pants instead of changing into more comfortable pajamas makes it slightly easier because you don't have to undress or put on freezing cold pants in the morning. The boots are a different story though. There is no good way to keep boots warm during the night, even if they are inside the tent, so putting my boots on in the morning can feel like putting my already-cold feet into ice boxes. Then, breakfast involves trying to eat as quickly as possible so I don't have to expose my hands to the cold for too long; and then on the last morning of the week, when we have to pack up our tents, it can be a difficult choice between trying to finish taking the tent down without gloves on before your hands are completely frozen, or fumbling with the buckles and clasps wearing gloves and possibly taking twice as long. On these cold mornings it can be a blessing when the worksite is far enough away to require driving because then we can put the heat on in the truck to warm up. As much as this might sound like a terrible situation to deal with, and sometimes it feels pretty terrible, it's worth it because it's all part of the experience. If there were no challenges the job would not be as rewarding, and by the end of this year I will feel very accomplished being able to say that I lived in a tent most of the year in all types of weather.