Battling the Elements

August 2, 2009 § 3 Comments

This week, I experienced the dynamic effects of weather in the New Mexico forest, and lived to tell the tale.

It started out like any other week.  Monday we drove down to the Gila; my boss, a student employee, and me; met up with the rest of the crew from Silver City, and headed off to our respective mapping areas.  The afternoon was short and uneventful, and we returned to the hotel to rest and prepare for tomorrow.

Tuesday we drove down a dirt road in search of the site I had previously mapped out.  The crew was my boss, Nessa and myself.  Some minor navigational errors occurred but eventually we found the site and began working.  By lunchtime, one site was done and a second almost complete when it began to look like rain.  We finished up quickly and sat down under the trees to eat lunch.  That’s when the thunder and lightning came.  I put on my rain jacket and prepared for the storm.  But nothing could have prepared me for what happened next.

It hailed on us.  And when I say it hailed, I mean it HAILED.  In New Mexico.  In July.  It started out small, just a few little circular pellets of ice.  Then a few more.  And I thought, this isn’t so bad, and remembered the times when we were kids and, from the safety of the garage, watched the hail fall like little pieces of raining fertilizer bouncing off the pavement.   After that, it started to get nasty.  And it hurt, as rapidly falling pea to marble-sized ice crystals being pelted into your back are bound to do.  It was also really REALLY cold, and I was soaked.  I thought it would never stop, but when it finally did, I looked up from under the dripping brim of my hat and saw the land covered in ice.  It looked like it had snowed (which I might have preferred, actually).  I headed back to the truck tired and freezing but still managed to get one more site in before the day was over.  I honestly thought it couldn’t get any worse than that.

The next day began fresh and full of promise.  The weather looked clear and I felt optimistic.  But then things started to go wrong.  I won’t go into all the details because I think some decisions were made that I did not exactly approve of, but I often neglect to speak my mind for fear of being wrong in front of other people.  This usually ends up causing some problems.  Long story short, we went the wrong way a couple times and by the time we got to where we wanted to be, I was exhausted.  As in heat exhaustion.  I felt nauseous and lightheaded, collapsed under a tree, and did not dare to even stand up for quite some time.  I must have been dehydrated, though I honestly thought I had been drinking water pretty much constantly, so I finished one water bottle, drank another, added some of Nessa’s to mine, and drank that too.

I felt better after that but still had a headache that didn’t go away for the rest of the afternoon.  We stopped work an hour early and I proceeded to pass out in my room for half an hour.

Hiking in the woods can be very physically demanding and potentially dangerous, and I cannot emphasize enough the importance of being well prepared for whatever may happen.  I may have a degree but I still have a lot to learn.

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