Summertime and the Living Is….
I have spent time in the wilderness in almost every condition imaginable and what I have learned over time is that every season and every element has its pros and cons. Its challenges and beautiful moments. As I begin to mentally and physically prepare for an upcoming field shift this summer, I am reminded of the unique experiences that summer in the desert brings.
When I first came to work for Evoke and learned I would be living in the desert, I imagined it was going to look and feel a lot like the Sahara Desert, which is a little embarrassing to admit. To my surprise, there were many Juniper and Pine trees in our field area that provide prime shade spots in most areas on the hottest days. Still, the heat can be extreme at times and finding other ways to cool off is important. Because we have backup drivers that bring water to the field almost every day, there is ample opportunity to call out additional water for cooling purposes. Foot, arm and face washes take on a new meaning and you quickly learn that the only correct answer to the question of “warrior dunk anyone?” (filing your sunhat with water and then quickly putting it on your head) is, “Yes!” While wind is typically my least favorite element, I found appreciation for it in the summer, especially after a warrior dunk. I quickly learned to love getting up early to complete a hike while it’s still relatively cool outside. As with everything in the wilderness, the summertime forces you to be flexible and work alongside the elements. We welcome monsoon rains, but work hard to dig trenches around shelters fast enough to keep up with the torrential downpour. And when it all subsides the fragrance of the desert is invigorating. If you’re lucky the sky will light up with a steamy rainbow.
I’m the type of person who can handle bugs when they are out in their environment, but they are not my favorite. The summer is when we have the most bugs in the field, which can be especially irritating at night. Early on, I learned the trick of using the red light setting on my headlamp to attract fewer bugs. This is surprisingly helpful for evening paperwork sessions or while helping a student fix their shelter. And, the beauty of the summer is how late it stays light out which sometimes means you don’t need your headlamp at all.
Food is different in the summer as well. You learn to eat your cheese quickly so it doesn’t become sweaty and you learn to hang your food bag in the shade of the trees. It’s also the season of golden kiwis, watermelon, and mangos. Summer fruits are delivered almost daily and much like a warrior dunk, provide a much-needed refreshing sensation. We cook on stoves instead of fires, which makes camp breakdown and set up much easier. Some of my favorite memories from my time as a field instructor are the early evenings during lightning drills when staff end up cooking dinner for the students because everyone has to stay spread out in their shelters. There is something powerful about cooking for someone else and then delivering their food to them while they listen to raindrops on their shelter overhead.
Summer can be challenging, and it’s also everything wonderful… but I guess that’s true about the wilderness always.