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Long Time No Post

November 4, 2011

Yes, I know it has been a very long time since I last posted, and there is really no excuse for it. Since my last post I did a roughly 20 mile hike over a roughly 12,000ft mountain in two days, had non-stop marathon days of data collection starting at 5am and ending at 10pm, narrowly missed a snow storm, got caught in a wind storm, and went to St. Louis for a little break. But, let’s start with the hike…sorry no pictures.

I had to meet with the second of my two Fall semesters, and instead of going in with the horse re-ration, I had to hike in. I, two NOLS instructors, their dog, and a friend of those instructors were expecting a 3 day two night trip to meet with the group. Fortunately, the friend of the instructors brought along a pack horse (and her two dogs) which definitely lightened the load which became extremely important when our 3 day hike turned into a hike over two days but really only covering about 30 hours. We were supposed to leave at 6am for this trip, but we didn’t actually set out for the road head until noon. At the end of September, a NOLS course suffered a tragedy in India. A student participating in the semester course in India fell over 300ft into the Ganges river, his body still has not been found and he is presumed dead. Here are the two NOLS blog posts on the matter. As a result of this accident, NOLS called in all of their instructors with experience in India to send there and be part of the search and rescue team. One of these instructors happened to be working with one of my courses at the time. He was immediately evacuated out of my course, and my little research expedition was asked to delay our departure until a new instructor could be found and prepped. That new instructor hiked in with us to join the course.

We anticipated a 2 day hike in given it was over a mountain pass; however, once we were over that pass we were able to see the tents of my course a couple miles off. This was a delight! They were closer than expected, and I was able to get my work with them done the next morning. Why is that so exciting? Well, the instructors’ dog got in a fight with the friend’s dog, wounding it. Also, our stove broke and we only had enough cold food for one dinner and one breakfast. This meant a dinner of slices of cheese and summer sausage and a bagel and peanut butter for breakfast. We would have been royally screwed if we had to stay the entire 3 days. So, the research part went well, and the timing worked out super well to offset the bad luck in other areas. Also, that excruciating hike up and over the mountain pass on day one is SOOOO much easier on the way back down, I basically ran down that mountain.

After that, I had a couple of days until the first Fall semester course came back into town and I had to perform treadmill tests and resting metabolic rate tests starting at 5am and ending at 10pm. This was not a pleasant time. I slept in shifts from about 12am-5am and then from 10am-1pm. All time around that was dedicated to collecting data or analyzing data. I can’t remember a more unpleasant schedule, and there were multiple student infractions during this time which made things incredibly difficult. Despite all this, it got done. Fortunately, the second Fall semester group proved to be champs and all of that data collection went off without a hitch. It was seamless and beautiful!

When all of my subjects had completed their tests, I then had about a month and a half until I was to see them again and collect more data. I decided it would be nice to spend some time in St. Louis, relax a bit, and work on a hiking treadmill test I have needed to do. I left Lander extremely early in the morning on October 7 to avoid an incoming snow storm. I did manage to miss the snow, but ran into a massive wind storm in Eastern Colorado and Western Kansas. I faced 50 mph sustained winds, my car was pelted with tumble weeds, and I had to drive through walls of dust. When the tumble weeds flew over hill sides they reminded me of tribbles…kind of adorable and hilarious.

Tumble Weeds...I mean Tribbles

Anyway, things got so bad that the highway was shut down. Aaron had to guide me through about 40 miles of country dirt roads. I happened to make a wrong turn towards the highway and by sheer dumb luck it seems they forgot to close this entrance, or had not closed it yet. I fly onto the highway determined not to get off until I was forced by cops. I made it to Salina, KS a little before 8pm and got one of the last hotel rooms left in the entire town. Because of the highway closure, everybody headed west was stopping in Salina and the hotels were jammed. Fortunately the trip from Salina to St. Louis was completely uneventful.

While home, I was able to spend lots of time with Aaron, see friends, got to lots of haunted houses, have a great Halloween, spend over $1,600 on car repairs (you would not believe the damage mountain roads do to a car) and really appreciate my life here. My time home is just about up. I head back to Lander on Tuesday. They have been getting walloped with snow, so should be a fun trip and should provide for some interesting and challenging research conditions!

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