If you ever see a mysterious arrow in the middle of the forest, you should definitely follow it.

Today my field partner Paul got totally buttfuck lost in the middle of the redwood forest, and it was awesome. Normally this would be terrifying and, since he had the car keys and I didn’t want to be stranded two hours from civilization with no phone, it kind of was, but his explanation of what happened? Totally worth it.

We’d just spent several hours bushwhacking our way through spider webs and huge blackberry vines trying to mark the route of a decommissioned road that runs alongside the stream that we were surveying, and upon finishing our task I peaced the fuck out straight through the woods to the highway. This is what normal people do, because you’re much less likely to have a spider crawl down your pants and bite you on the vagina walking along the highway than you are crawling through brush. I have heard what vagina-bites do to people, and it does not sound pretty, so I stick to open spaces with clearly marked roads as much as possible.

Paul, however, stayed behind to pee when I took off, and then decided to walk back through the woods in the general direction from which we came. This worked okay until he came to a branch in the stream and didn’t know which way to go, which is when he noticed a random sign with an arrow on it hammered into the base of one of the trees. “I assumed the arrow pointed to the highway,” he told me later, “because what else could it possibly pointing at?”

A plantation of marijuana plants. This might have been a coincidence, because the area we live in is ideal for growing weed and there are a lot of grow-ops here, but still. He wandered in the direction the arrow was pointing for half a mile and found himself in a field of pot plants.

We were trained for this when we started the job, so he followed the proper procedure (get the fuck out of there), but he couldn’t find the path he’d made when he came in so he once again just started wandering randomly in what he hoped was the right direction. It took him 40 minutes, but eventually he heard a car driving by on the highway and found the road and finished the walk back to the car on the pavement like a sane person.

When he finally walked up I’d been waiting for an hour and pissily asked him what the fuck happened.

“I followed a mysterious arrow and found a pot farm,” he said. “Let’s get the hell out of here.”

So the moral of the story is, if you follow random signs in the middle of nowhere you will find drugs.  You also might get shot, since the drugs definitely belong to someone and they probably don’t like you.  It’s your call, but I suggest following the arrow.


July 15, 2011 at 10:25 pm Leave a comment

My preferred method of camping involves the Holiday Inn.

Apparently I’m a masochist.  I say this because this weekend I demanded that J and I go camping despite the fact that I hate camping.  Sleeping outside deprives me of some of my favorite things in life, like air conditioning and TiVo.  But I decided that was what we were doing and J, dutiful boyfriend that he is, packed all our stuff in the car without complaint and only looked at me like I was crazy like, 8 times.

We only forgot minor things, like flashlights and maps, but we remembered to buy a lot of booze so the prep part was definitely successful, but pretty quickly into the actual camping part it became apparent that a) I know nothing about camping, and b) I am afraid of nature.  The following things actually occurred during the 19 hours we were gone, and even though they pretty much all make me sound like a spastic idiot I’m going to share them anyways.  Benevolence.

First, just after we’d arrived and I’d supervised while he set up the tent, J pointed out a giant spider like two inches from my right foot and I made an embarrassing ‘wargghh’ noise and the spider leapt into the air and landed like a foot away and it was terrifying and prompted the following exchange which is completely true:

J: I think they call those wolf spiders.

Me: (highly alarmed) BECAUSE THEY’RE WOLVES?

J: Because the people they bite turn into werewolves.


This is the full capability of my mental processing when I have unexpected encounters with nature.  I do not hold my shit together well in these situations.  Also, I’m 25 years old and I still say things about ‘when I grow up,’ which probably explains a lot of my life decisions.

Yet another display of my camping savvy was the conversation that took place just a few minutes after the flying-werewolf-spider incident, during which I pretty conclusively proved that I’m not to be left alone in areas where a bear might be within 50 feet of me:

Me: What are you supposed to do if you see a bear again?

J: I don’t remember, exactly.

Me: Run?

J: No, you definitely can’t outrun a bear.  I think you’re supposed to be loud and make yourself look big and intimidating.

Me: (in the deepest possible voice I can manage, which is not that impressive because it pretty much just makes me sound like a really old woman with emphazema) ‘Go away bear.  I’ll cut you.’

J: I don’t think you’re supposed to pick fights with them, either.  It’s probably worse than running.

Me: Well, we’ll see when the time comes.

So if you read a newspaper article about some girl that tried to knife-fight a grizzly bear and then died a tragic-yet-not-unforseen death, it’s pretty safe to assume that it was me.

Also, I put my hand in a giant patch of poison oak despite the fact that I know exactly what poison oak looks like and then a garter snake came sort of near me in the water and I freaked out and told J to fix it, but I’m not going to go into details because it was really ridiculous, even for me.  Just use your imagination, and if it involves some hysterics it’s probably pretty accurate.

Eventually it got dark enough that I couldn’t see all the nature surrounding me, which was both reassuring and awful at the same time (there could have been a sneaky-type bear like, right next to me and I wouldn’t have known to get my knife— it would definitely would have won the fight), so we started playing cards to amuse ourselves.  Unfortunately the only two games we both know how to play are gin and gin-rummy, and they’re pretty much the same thing so we got bored pretty quickly and decided to invent our own game which required you to say a word that rhymed with whatever card you discarded at the end of your turn.  It also involved drinking heavily, which is how at the end of the second round I heard the greatest thing ever when J put down the 7 of hearts:

J: Stevin.

Me: Stevin? Seriously?

J: (long pause) …Grevin.

Me: Those aren’t real words.

J: You weren’t supposed to notice that.

I instantly felt better about myself.  Other people failing miserably always reassures me.  After that there was a lot of liquor involved, so things get kind of hazy until we got in the tent to go to sleep and I told J to be on alert for bears so I would be ready if I had to stab them.  Then he was all like, ‘You don’t even have a knife,’ and I told him that I take my cues from Leroy Brown so I’m always prepared and he gave me a really weird look and we went to bed.  All in all it was pretty fun, although I’ve definitely met my camping quota for the year and I still maintain that fighting bears is a completely appropriate course of action.

July 13, 2011 at 12:58 am Leave a comment

I’d like to preface everything I say with a disclaimer: I do not have a fish fetish.

I feel the need to clarify this point right off the bat, because I spend a lot of time talking about salmon and I don’t want anyone to think I have any strange delusions about procreating with them or genetically engineering a half-fish-half-human hybrid or anything, because I don’t. Seriously.

Fish are my job, and since the US government pays me to care about them I try very hard to pretend that I do. This is often difficult as most of the salmon I see at work are already dead and missing various body parts by the time I come across them, and somehow rotting, headless corpses tend to be more vomit-inducing than awe-inspiring, but still. I signed on to be part of a program that restores salmon habitat and most of the friends I’ve made since I moved my ass across the country to do this are involved in fisheries restoration in one way or another, and that is why it’s completely normal and not at all weird for me to think about things like river whales and mutant fish eggs on a regular basis. Probably.

So, to reiterate, I do not have any strange psycho-sexual disorders about fish. There’s no need to be alarmed by my expansive knowledge of their reproductive habits, because I’m a professional (sort of) and that makes it okay. ish.

July 11, 2011 at 5:32 am Leave a comment


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