13 June 2008

Everything I need to know in life, I learned on geo field trips

Posted by Jessica Ball

Can you tell I’d rather be in the field than at a desk right now?

Maybe in a few weeks. But in the meantime, because it’s Friday and it’s fun to make lists, I thought I’d go through some of the useful things I’ve learned in the field – mostly through personal experience or helping bandage up someone else who didn’t learn them fast enough. (Fortunately none of them required hospitalization, but considering that I’ll be working with active Guatemalan volcanoes next year, it’s only a matter of time 🙂

  • Dry streambeds are great for hiking in. That said, if it rains – even for just a few minutes – get the hell out of the streambed.
  • Don’t jump over something (log, rock, etc.) if you can’t see the other side of it. You could land on a snake/beehive/marmot/other grudge-holding critter.
  • Don’t hike on volcanic rocks while wearing shorts.
  • If you’re hiking on fresh lava flows, always wear heavy gloves unless you like picking volcanic glass out of your hands.
  • Scotch makes a pretty good anesthetic when you’re picking volcanic glass out of your hands. (Taken orally, of course.)
  • If you’re on shelly pahoehoe, you’re going to fall in sometime.
  • Don’t wear synthetic clothing when you’re going near active lava flows, and don’t stand or leave your pack too long in one place.
  • Duct tape can be used for backpack, shoe, car, cooking pot, clothing, and occasionally skin repair.
  • Don’t EVER go out into the desert on a 110-in-the-shade-day with a single 20-oz water bottle and then ask your hiking partners for their extra water.
  • Hammer tent pegs into the ground with the points TOWARD your tent.
  • Liberal use of Febreeze can almost counteract the effects of a week with no laundry facilities. Use it on the vans too (the rental people will thank you).
  • Don’t eat pink snow.
  • If your professor is capable of running marathons, don’t try to beat him at capture-the-flag.
  • Don’t put water in a hot pan (especially if there’s fat or oil in it), and don’t put a hot pan into water.
  • Honey can be used in place of antibiotic cream. If getting the honey requires subsequent application of antibiotics to bee stings, don’t bother.
  • If a moose wants to eat your Hint-of-Lime Doritos, let it.
  • Tarantulas can move pretty damn fast if they want to.
  • That cute, innocent looking cactus is perfectly capable of putting a spine through your boot into your big toe.
  • Cactus tastes like kiwi fruit.
  • Don’t listen to your adviser if he says “You should ford the river there, it looks pretty shallow.”
  • Spam should only be eaten in an emergency.
  • Store-brand Spam tastes better than name-brand.
  • Bits of ash fall deposits explode beautifully on impact.
  • Nighttime swimming in sea-urchin infested waters is bad for your feet.
  • Duplex cookies are second only to fresh blueberry pie as the ultimate field trip dessert.
  • Tuna fish and Duplex cookies do not mix.
  • Don’t let inebriated underclassmen run off with the satellite phone, even if it does have unlimited minutes. (Especially if it has unlimited minutes.)
  • Sitting directly on top of a hot spring usually results in A) burns in inconvenient places or B) bruises from people trying to shove you off the source of warm water.
  • In some places, it’s good to be a wine snob, because it’s cheaper than the beer.
  • It is possible to get excellent phone reception while standing on top of an erupting volcano.
  • Field clothing is not really appropriate for traversing the lobby of the Bellagio.
  • It’s not really an illegal border crossing if you’re only there for a few minutes.
  • Trout is excellent breakfast food.
  • Real men don’t wear “pink” – they wear “desert rose”.

So let’s have em, everybody. What are the pearls of wisdom you’ve picked up from fieldwork? (If you’ve picked up actual pearls, that counts as well.)