Here are two updates from this summer in Colorado that I wasn’t able to post to the web. I seldom had access to electricity during the 3 weeks I was there, so I wasn’t able to update much. I should probably go back and change some of this as my opinions have changed, but here it is in its original and unedited form:
Advanced Camp Blog
July 8, 2005
I’m writing this in the far back seat of a 15 passenger van as we drive through the plains region of Colorado. Its about 10am MDT.
In my time, I’ve done a lot of driving across the US. I’ve basically driven the entire west coast from Settle to LA. From the midwest I’ve driven to the east coast, Mid Atlantic, Florida, Texas, Toronto, Winnepeg. I can say with confidence that driving through the Great Plains is fundamentally different than any other type of driving you can do.
At times I wish I could stop and take photos or video of some of the sights you see while traveling across the plains. Unlike, say, the Pacific Coast in California, there are not dramatic sights while driving through Nebraska. You see a train carrying corn or coal which extends across the horizion, grain elevators in the distance which tower over everything else in view, occasional pockets of cattle, and endless, endless flat stretches of land, a lonel truck stop in the middle of nowhere.. Even the occasional hill which is only a few feet high will casue you to take notice.
The great plains, in particular the westers parts of the plains from North Dakota down through Texas is depopulating. People are leaving, and I can’t reallyl blame them. There is nothing here other than farming. No lumber, no mining, no industry, no tourism, nothing. It is fly over space in the most literal sense of the term. To combat people leaving, the states in the Great Plains are offering incentives for people to move and stay there for a few years. Its doomed to fail. Human history is one of people moving to cities. I don’t think tax incentives by the State of North Dakota will change that.
The fact is, farming isn’t a glamorous life and we don’t need as many people to grow crops as we did 100 years ago. Demography is destiny and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it. Trying to stop it is a fool’s errand. The trends are bigger than anything which can be influenced with a reduction in student loans or a tax bill.
Let the people go and let it work itself out. You will end up with very sparsely populated counties in these areas with very large farmss, most of which will eventually be automated. If areas go unfarmed, let it return back to prairie.
July 19, 2005
I’m really sick of camp. There is only a week left, but it is draging by. I have bruises all over my body. The skin on my hands and arms is so dark I’ll have to list another racial category on the census. I’m tired of sleeping on the ground every night. I have no idea what is going on in the world. What gets me the most is the hours and hours of hiking every day just to get somewhere to look at rocks. I’m not cut out to be a field geologist. No way, no how. I have no passion for sitting in a tent for six weeks by myself in the summer writing a paper on some obscure patch of rock in some remote area. Not for me.
I’ll be back a week from today and we only have 4 days in the field from now until then. Day off tomorrow and 2 travel days are also part of the mix.
Any fantasies I had about living in the mountains have been dashed. I have come to grips with the reality that I’m a creature of comfort. By that I mean I really want electricity, hot water, a soft bed, and an internet connection. If that makes me soft and a pussy, so be it. I don’t see the joy in camping for the sake of camping. I have no problem sleeping in a tent, but there is a limit to how long you can do it and staying in one spot day after day is no fun. Doing it a few days or doing it while traveling is no big deal, but three weeks with no destination will drive you mad.
This is also not a normal class. In addition to spending 24 hours a day here, there is nothing really to study. There are no books to read, there is no homework to do. All there is, is your logbook and your map. Once you got the concept of geologic mapping down, its just grunt work to do it.
The grunt work for this map includes climbing over 2500 feet every day on very steep slopes. Having grown up in the midwest, I don’t think it really dawns on you how much 2500 feet is. That 2500 feet is just the vertical. I spend 3 hours yesterday getting to our location. I was dead last in getting there.
That’s another frustrating thing. I’m the kid who’s picked last in dodgeball now. I’ve never been the one who is physically the weakest link, but here I am. It sucks. The only upside is that I’ve been eating only one meal a day, and I’m quite sure I”ve lost a great deal of weight. 8 hours a day hiking in the Rockies + limited caloric intake = weight loss. It could be the altitude which is limiting my appitite too.
I’m writing this in my tent on what I have left of battery life on my laptop. I’m wearing clothes I haven’t changed in a few days. I fell down a slope a few days ago and landed on a dead tree with branches sticking out. I thoght I was impaled, but I “only” wound up with 5 pretty big bruises around my body and 2 bad cuts.
When this is done, I’m sure I’ll be gald I did it, but right now it sucks. I’m able to see things that are only discussed in lecture which is nice, but this sort of work is not my calling. I’m a computer guy.
The last two months I’ve been through something which few people do. It has given me a great appreciation of the modern world and how good we got it. The next time I hear someone talk about how great it was 100 years ago and how things are always getting worse, I’m going to punch them in the face…..with a keyboard.