I had been looking forward for this day. After 11 days of hiking and stressing out with the assignments, a day off was something to look forward too. I did not have any plans that day. Probably just relaxing at the camp site but Husna and Wani had different plans. They had planned together with Kim for a trip to town. I immediately agreed to join. Since my fever had already subsided, I might as well leave the site to enter civilization. Besides, I needed to do some laundry.
Alyssa and Courtney had different plans, so they had left earlier with the car. So, I jumped into JD’s car which occupied by Brad, Kim and Erin but Erin was nowhere to be seen. The car was livelier and they were so cool and treated us amiably. I wished we had chosen this car before the whole trip began.
30 minutes later, we arrived at Pinedale Town. It was a small town and the kind of town that I had seen many times in independent movies. The pace was slow and there were more people walking than driving. We stopped at laundromat and did our laundry there. To my surprise, most of the students were already there finishing theirs. After completing the laundry, we went to the nearest gymnasium to take a shower. I was quite impressed because in a small town like this, the facilities were convenient. The gymnasium was also quite huge to accommodate whole town population.
Finally, a nice hot shower. It was the best shower ever. After not taking proper bath for 11 days, I really appreciate the moment. I shaved my beard and mustache for the first time since day 1. (I should have kept it until the end but it was irritating) After taking shower, I went to swim at the pool.
We then went straight to the center of town and had lunch at one of the restaurants. Finally, a proper meal! I ordered fish and chips and it was the best fish and chips I had ever had for obvious reason. We finished the lunch quite early and decided to went separate ways for a while. I walked along the row and stopped at a park next to a stream. It was very relaxing and wish it would not end.
La Barge and Salt River Range
After packing up tents and stuff, we drove straight to a location called La Barge. It was quite a long journey and we made a few stops in between. This time around, we were asked to map independently and it was led by Barbara. We were given a time limit and being a slowpoke, I could not reach back at the cars on time. However, Wani was much later than me, so I was not feeling that bad. After submitting the assignment to Barbara, we hopped back into the car and drove all the way to an exit. The cars turned into an unpaved path and stopped at an open area not far from an interstate. I could hear the loud noise coming from the traffic at the interstate.
The location was in the middle of nowhere so obviously there was no toilet too. While setting up the tent, there was a small brown scorpion sneaked out next to my duffel bag. I jumped in shock and immediately move to different location and set up the tent there. It was my first encounter with a scorpion.
After mapping the area, we had to move our camp site to different location. It had become a routine for me. Living nomad like this had taught me to appreciate even the smallest thing with gratitude. This routine had also taught me to be stronger not just physically but also mentally.
The cars made a turn to an unpaved road and it was a long journey in. We passed through few small farms and stuck at the road to make way for the herd of cows. It was a fun scene and much needed after stressing out with the assignments. We eventually reached a narrower track to a greener area. The cars stopped at an open area located next to a a stream. The water was so cold but I forced myself to wash my feet there. We were surrounded by huge pine trees and were told that it was a bear country. And there was no toilet too. No…
That night, we received the results from previous mapping work and to my surprise the result was really bad. I got a D for the mapping at Sheep Creek and failed Barbara’s assignment. I was very angry because it was not easy and we did our best. To receive such result, it was really demotivating.
It was very cold last night. In order to sleep, I had to wear extra layers inside another two layers of sleeping bag. When I woke up, I was shivering and refused to step out of the tent. The morning was extremely cold but I was determined to prove that I was not a failure. After receiving the results last night, it made my motivation grew stronger. So, I managed to leave the tent and wore jackets and socks to the kitchen to prepare my breakfast and lunch. It was not comfortable at all but at that point of time, I was already used to it. So, I did not complain even to myself and just got ready for today’s mapping.
We returned to the same area and were set free to map. Another gloomy day I guess. It was still cold and cloudy. As usual, I went out mapping with Wani. At first we followed a group of students but eventually went separate ways because of course each geologist have different geoimagination. Spooky feelings engulfing us where tall pine trees barricading the hills. At first, we avoided entering into thick forest and followed Xen’s lead. I was glad because it was really fruitful to follow him because he managed to score As for most assignments. He might be quiet but definitely gifted with geological mind. I tried to ask as much as possible and he had always been very nice to share his insight.
Xen was quite chilled and too focus so eventually, me and Wani got separated from him too. Wani decided to hike down all the way to the back of the hill. I realized later that we might had been mapping outside the mapping area. I was not sure at first but seeing how thick the forest was, we were convinced that we were lost. It was so dark because the canopy had blocked the sun light from entering the forest. Moreover, the sky was still gloomy. Since we were in the bear country, we were under the threat. That made us very nervous and we prayed hard that we would not encounter any animals at all. Yesterday, we saw a black bear with her cubs but luckily they were miles away. But now we were right in the zone so, it was possible to encounter the bears. The nervousness had led us to believe in our intuition to just went along the hill. We forced ourselves to believe that we would make a big U Turn around the hill and returned to where we parked the car.
It was a long hike and the clock ticked at 3pm. There was no clear track to be seen. Sometimes, Wani would try to use her Brunton Compass to check for the direction but to use a complicated compass like Brunton would not be easy or even reliable. Moreover, we were not even sure which way was north. The sun was not up and the forest was too thick. I told her to be positive and just hiked along this track and ensured that we hiked around the hill. What made the hike even more nerve wrecking was when we saw footprints huge enough to fit the bear paws. There were also dried poops that we encountered occasionally. Since we did not have bear spray, Wani remembered Jay’s advice to make a lot of noise to warn the wild animals. When the bears hear how loud we were, they will avoid us. I was not sure if it was the correct ways but we did it anyhow. “hoot! hoot!”, “woot! woot!”.
After being lost for about 2 hours, we finally escaped the thick forest after completing the circle around the hill. There were more grass now and we sighed with relieved. We came out alive, safe and sound back to the car. Alyssa, Courtney and Husna were already in the car waiting for us. I wondered how long they had been waiting for us. We apologized and told everything to Husna and she verified that we went outside the mapping area. It was definitely an experience that I would remember for the rest of my life.
Little Muddy Creek
We left the green area and returned to the desert. It was great to be away from the cold but at the same time, I wish we had more trees around us so that it would be a good place for toilet hideaway. However, I did not complain because after 15 days living like this, I was already very used to it. It was not a big deal really.
When we arrived, we were in the middle of nowhere. There were no trees could be seen except shrubs. Not far from our camp site, there was a very small creek and muddy. I guess that is how the creek got its name. Definitely not appropriate for drinking and showering. The last time we had shower was 4 days ago. They tried to set up a portable shower but I did not remember anyone using it.
The wind was quite strong too. I had trouble setting up tents initially. After finishing up, I hung up my wet clothes at the rocks and shrubs. Then, I was caught in an embarrassing situation. My tent was blown away by the strong wind for about 100 meters. I heard the girls laughing and I bet many of others saw the incident too. I composed myself and ran to catch the tent before it went too far and once I got it, I nailed it so hard so it would stay at the location.
The sunset marked the beginning of the holy month of Ramadan where Muslims around the world will start fasting. However for Husna, Wani and me, we would not be fasting for safety. That was a melancholic moment for me because it would be nice to be with family and friends to celebrate the day. And there were three of us observing the sunset and remembering them thousands of miles away from us.
Since the area was so open, the wind blown hard that night. I woke up by the strong wind. My tent almost collapsed and I tried to maintain it with my hands. However, I realized that the tent would not collapse because of its durability. It was just a reflects. Eventually, I got bored and tired of holding the tent and returned to sleep. If there was a tornado, then it would be a different case.
The day was our independent mapping day. We went up to a hilly area on our own. At first, I went up with Wani but eventually we got separated because she wanted to be alone. I realized that I should be independent too. It was not easy and I sat few times dreaming and imagining things again, as usual. It was not that hot but the direct sun was not pleasant. Moreover, I had to hike up and down and up again. It was mentally tiring.
After a lot of measurements, I believed I had went too far outside of the mapping area. There was no one around, so I returned and went downhill. There were only 2 cars and the rest had already left. Alyssa, Courtney and Husna as usual had completed their mapping confidently and waited in the car. I was already soaked with sweat and covered with dust and just wanted to take off my clothes but we still had to wait for Wani. We waited for an hour but Wani was nowhere to be seen which made Husna and I worried about her well being.
She finally appeared and quickly came near to the car and apologized. There was only our car by that time and we were the last to reach the camp. That night, we gathered around the camp fire and talked about many things while I just listened.
We continued the mapping to another location. This time around I tried catching up with the professors so that I would not miss any important information because I did not want to fail again. I was very worried because the Green River Lake exercise did not turn up well neither even though better than the previous exercises. Maybe Pete was slightly lenient than the other professors.
Finally, another day off! I could not wait to get a nice hot shower. It had been 7 days and we could not smell each other anymore because we were all stink. We went to Kemmerer with JD, Brad and Kim and did our laundry and took a shower at the gym. However, the town was not as nice as Pinedale.
When we had breakfast, we ate at a cowboy restaurant. I wonder what was good there but nothing was edible for us. So, we could only ordered scramble eggs and bread. I ordered pancakes too because I needed to release myself from the stress and hunger. At the table, we discussed about a lot of things. They had also complaints about the grading and apparently they were not doing that well neither. JD told that the final grade would not reflect the exercises grade. We would be graded based on our efforts. I hope the professors saw how hardworking I was. Fingers crossed.
Then, we had late lunch at town center. I had fish tacos and JD asked how we were able to resist the temptations of not eating meats. We could not answer. When we told about our tofu being taken by others, he felt sympathetic and understood our problems. They were definitely the best and nicest of the bunch. In the car, we had a discussion about us moving to his car and we immediately agreed. We accepted with open heart. I believe it was for the best.
Early in the morning, we moved all of our stuff to JD’s car and started our journey with a blast. It was much more happening and we talked about many things. They even asked me to play my songs in the playlist. Brad and Kim was surprised to discover the variety of songs on my playlist. Sometimes, they questioned my songs selection. It was difficult to say because I only listened to songs that I feel nice to listen to.
When we finally crossed the border between Wyoming and Idaho, they joked about how there were many potatoes in the state. They called Idaho the potato state. I remembered vividly, the bag of potatoes sold at the hypermarket and it was always tagged as Idaho potatoes. We arrived at a town called Paris. Oddly we were in Paris but it was in Idaho. There was definitely no Eiffel Tower here.
After crossing the town, we turned to an unpaved road and stopped to map.