I’m going to start a series right now that will detail an 8-day session out here in the Great Basin. The series is called “10 Days of Archaeology” because the day before and the day after the session are just as important as the actual session days. The temperatures are supposed to be in the mid- to upper-90s(F) this week so I might not have the energy to post every day. I’ll try, though. Also, the internet at this hotel leaves a bit to be desired.
My goal with this series is to give someone an idea as to what it’s like to work in the Great Basin. Keep in mind, though, that experiences can vary widely from crew chief to crew chief, from project to project, and from company to company. Also, a number of companies do 10-day sessions, which would make this the “12 Days of Archaeology” and would be slightly different. However, I don’t work for one of those companies.
So, be prepared for some drama, some possibly short posts because nothing really happened that day, some complaining about the heat, and maybe, just maybe, some archaeology. Enjoy.
It’s Monday and I have a busy day. My company starts 8-day sessions on Tuesdays since our pay week ends on Friday and we squeeze 40 hours of work into four days. That means that Monday is a packing day. Sometimes Monday is a day for cooking food, dehydrating fruit, and preparing camping gear. I should probably clean my gear at the end of the previous session but I usually don’t feel like it. What usually happens is that the gear goes in the gear room in my house and I forget about it for six days. If the session was rainy or something then I’ll pull out my tent and clean it. Otherwise, there it sits.
For this session, however, we’re staying in a hotel. So, the gear I take has to be completely re-organized. Sometimes, when I’m feeling particularly motivated, I’ll bring various types of cooking gear, including, a water heater, an electric skillet, or various other items. This time around, I’m not feeling that motivated. I’ve got enough food that I can cook with a microwave or that doesn’t need cooking so I’m just bringing my water heater and my French press. Gotta have good coffee in the morning, otherwise, what’s the point of even getting out of bed…Also, my wife is visiting this weekend and we’ll likely eat out. So, I only really need food for about four nights. Since all I eat during the work day are various types of bars and oranges my lunches are covered too.
To go off on a tangent for a minute...you can cook a surprising variety of food in a microwave. There are all the standards, such as crappy frozen food and leftovers, but there are other things that some people don’t often think about. For example, you can cook pasta in a microwave if you turn the power down just a bit (to avoid boil over) and if you let it cook for at least 15 minutes (depending on the power of the microwave). I stop it a few times to stir, but, otherwise, the pasta cooks well. You can also cook certain meats in the microwave, although, if you aren’t mixing them with something they can taste a little weird. I think that’s mostly the psychological effect associated with cooking meat in the microwave, though. I wouldn’t cook chicken in a microwave unless you have a way to check the temperature. Chicken needs to reach 160 degrees F to kill all the crap that normally exists in it. Also, bringing a selection of spices can improve just about any dish.
OK. I’ve got my food thought out and my kitchen utensils figured out. Now the clothes. In the Great Basin you have to be prepared for anything. At some point I stop bringing cold weather gear and just take a chance that I won’t get cold. Out here, though, you can have a seven o’clock start that is as low as 35 degrees this time of year and an afternoon high of over 90 degrees. That’s life in the high desert. Now, though, I’m expecting high temps for most of the day and will just enjoy the cool air in the morning. Rain isn’t even a consideration and is usually welcomed with open arms if it does happen.
I always struggle with what “civilian” clothes to bring. As compared to most CRM archaeologists, I don’t really “go out” much. I also don’t like to wear the same thing after work everyday. So, I bring a few shirts and a few pairs of shorts/pants and call it good. This time out I brought biking clothes too. I’m getting really ambitious now!
So, after getting my field bag sorted out I’m pretty much ready to go. At least, in my head. My actual Monday was a bit more chaotic. I started out waiting for a phone call that was supposed to come at around 9 am. I received the call at about 9:30 am. It was from the operations officer at my Civil Air Patrol squadron. We got clearance to do a training flight for the afternoon. That flight ended up taking up my day between about 11 am and 5:30 pm. There is a bunch of time taken up on both ends of the 2.5 hour flight that includes pre-flight briefing and post-flight debriefing. When you are practicing for a real search-and-rescue mission it’s important to get it right. You just might save a life the next time you go up.
My packing didn’t really start until about 7 pm since I made dinner for my wife (Chicken Marsala...tasty!) and a friend of mine that was spending the night. I was able to get everything ready to go within a couple of hours. Since I didn’t have to be at the office until 10 am the next day I still had some time to play with in the morning if I needed it.
I finished out the evening spending time with my wife. Being surrounded by so much death and sickness this past year has caused me to treat all moments as gifts of time. Don’t take anything for granted because it could all end in a heart beat. That point was driven home on Day 1.
Come back tomorrow for the next post!
Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the field.