Walking with style

This past week I went on my first proper backpacking trip. We went to the Dolly Sods wilderness in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia. This area is called Dolly sods after a German guy named "Dahle" who used the open meadows or "sods" for livestock grazing in the 20's (after it was logged quite a bit). In the 30's the CCC worked to reforest the area and prevent erosion. In the 40's the area was used for army artillery practice. Because of this, there are warnings at the trail heads to be on the look out for remaining unexploded rounds. Slightly disappointingly, we did not happen upon any of those.
I am not sure where the attraction is in hiking miles into the wilderness, carrying a heavy load on your back, sleeping in the woods, and then hiking back out, but I like it. I gathered a lot of satisfaction in carrying everything we needed on our backs and "surviving" in the wilderness for a couple of days. It was a fantastic intro trip, I think. We hiked about seven miles in and although it was tough in places, I felt really good all day. We had to cross a creek (more like a river) and ironically I really didn't like this part. I think that although I love the water, I fear falling into moving water, and it seems so easy to do so. Even if I didn't drown, I would surely hurt an ankle or a wrist. So, aside from a few instances of being precariously perched on a rock in the middle of the water looking and feeling hopeless, it was a lot of fun.
We came upon the huge, expansive meadows about 3000' up, filled with wild blueberry plants. The novelty of eating something right off the plant in the wild was not lost on me. We collected a bunch and put them in out oatmeal in the morning. I don't know if it's all the burned calories or the smell of woodsmoke, but it always seems that food I eat while camping or hiking is always delicious. For dinner we grilled up some chicken sausages with peppers and onions and it was awesome. Of course, I made room in my pack for a few marshmallows. Ironically, as I hate fires and hot things in general, I love building and lighting campfires. I get a ton of satisfaction out of keeping a little fire alive, and my new rain jacket is official now that it smells like fire.

In total we saw one snake and one deer. I was fully expecting to come across a bear enjoying the blueberries as much as I had been. Happily, we did not. I saw more stars in one night than I had in years, and equally enjoyed and feared the absolute silence of being in the literal middle of nowhere.

The second night we car camped in the shadow of Seneca Rocks in West Virginia. It was lovely. I was happy to be back in civilization and after a good nights' sleep, ready to be back in the wilderness.

The neglectful blogger

Readers, it appears that it is time for my semi-annual summer blogging slump to come to an end. I have had a busy last few weeks, between work, sleep, and playing outside I haven't had much time to blog.
I have been on a few "good" calls recently, somehow having a black cloud over my head for about two weeks. The calls were equal parts interesting and depressing, which is probably what has kept me from writing about them. A lot of ideas have been floating around for the last few weeks, so hopefully one or two will come to fruition sooner than later. I feel like I need to do them justice.

I had another few days at camp which were actually a lot of fun. I didn't do anything more exciting than give out tylenol and I mostly had repeat customers. The girl whom I gave unnecessary bandaids to came back with a mysterious pain in her thumb. I poked and prodded and examined it thoroughly and unsurprisingly found nothing wrong with her. On the verge of just giving in and putting a bandaid over it, sudden inspiration struck and I gave her a carrot stick. Behold the wonders! She giggled like crazy, took the carrot, and later came up to me proclaiming that it had done it's work and cured her painful thumb.

Next up, river crossings, backpacks, bears (or lack therof) and rain!

Date Check

Now that the WAP is going to happen, every day when I hear the date, I say “Holy crap is it really July 19th? All-freaking ready?” I’ll look at my own calendar to confirm it as a small burst of nervous adrenaline seizes me for a moment or two.
I’m afraid that this is going to happen every day until I leave, only the doses of adrenaline will become larger and larger until I am walking around in a bug-eyed completely panic stricken state.

After two days of panic, today I knew it was time to make a list. I have a few minutes to gather my thoughts at work today and tomorrow, before setting off for a full week of work and playing camp nurse. Oh, the comforts that a list can bring. The feeling of having a complete list (not to mention one with things crossed off of it) is always stress relieving to me. Items one and two are buying a plane ticket and applying for housing, two things that require me to be at home for longer than five minutes.

Camp Nurse

Last week and next I am acting as camp “nurse” at my local summer camp. I went to the same camp as a kid, and was even a counselor once. I walked in on Monday for day camp last week and proclaimed, “Ah, smells like camp!” It’s not a bad smell, just a mix of sun tan lotion, bug spray, campfire smoke, and camp food. A few more memories came back to me of my time at camp, but mostly it’s all pretty vague, a different era of my life where I’m pretty sure I was an idiot.
We have to keep track of the campers’ prescription meds, dole them out, and make sure nobody dies. I have been official band-aid giver-outer which is a pretty sweet job. One girl came to me after falling off of a swing. She was giggling like a mad person and had a tiny cut on her knee. Once she calmed herself she was able to give me the hilarious (to an eight year old) story, as I cleaned off the dirt and gave her a band-aid.
“I need one there too!” she proclaimed, pointing to a blank spot of skin.
“Where?” I asked, leaning far over her knee, my nose practically touching to illustrate my skepticism.
“There,” she pointed again to the blank spot.
“Oh, that thing?” I said squinting hard at the nothing on her leg.
She giggled uncontrollably again as I bandaged her non existent cut.

Later in the week, one of the female counselors sidled up to me and loudly asked, “Do you have any girlie stuff?”
If you mean nail polish, a blow drier, and a copy of Seventeen magazine, the answer is no, but if you mean (big air quotes) “girlie stuff,” then yes, we have some of that.

Next week is the overnight camp, but sadly I am only able to stay one night due to ‘real’ work. It should be more interesting though, as I know that we will have at least two campers with anaphylactic peanut allergies, woot!

The people you don't meet

There are many people in this world who have had or will have a huge impact on my life. But actually, I will never meet many of these people. From politicians and celebrities, to the people who invented the equipment I use everyday at work, right down to the people who assembled my car to keep me safe. Last week a group of people helped me set out on a new adventure.
Someone who I will never meet or know approved my entrance into the UK. Someone else scanned my photo into a computer program. Someone else affixed the visa to my passport and sealed it with a fancy consulate stamp. I don't know them, but I'm so happy that they do their jobs. Like so many times, it's the people you don't meet that matter.
I came home from work and saw the overstuffed, battered envelope that I had meticulously filled with a ridiculous number of official documents waiting for me. I had received no word from the expediting service, only found that they had charged my credit card their fee. I hadn't even gotten tracking emails from the shipping service.
Not knowing what to expect, I pulled out my knife and carefully opened the envelope without even taking it into my apartment. I dumped the contents out on the floor and sifted through, looking for something official. I picked up my passport and gave it a quick flip through. Something caught my eye, and I went back to the completely random page where THE VISA is affixed, or rather, my "UK entry clearance." Aside from the shiny sticker and official stamp, I think I could have printed this out from my home computer. But I don't care. This is the golden ticket, and now I can really freak out.
I didn't come with any explanatory documents which I found kind of surprising. But thanks to the power of the internet, I still don't really understand the purpose of visas. I can come and go from the UK as much as I want in that year period, much like I could now. But I have to be gone from the country by the first of November 2010, sadly a few weeks before graduation. But when can I return? Could I leave the UK as a student on October 31st, and return on November 2nd as a vacationer?
I'm sure that all these questions will be answered. Today I applied for a credit card without foreign transaction fees. Next week I have to tell someone official that I got the visa, apply for housing, and buy a plane ticket! Woah, that is real.

Not a problem

When the BLS crew turned him over onto a backboard, they noticed his left leg flopped languidly, bending at a joint that hadn't been there ten minutes ago.
When I got there he was relatively settled onto the litter, although he couldn't lay flat due to a shoulder injury. He also had crepitus in his upper chest; but for a big guy with no helmet and a high speed motorcycle crash, he appeared to be very lucky.
One thing that was strange was when he told me that he couldn't be sedated because his throat would swell shut. I asked him what kind of drugs he was allergic to, and he insisted it wasn't an allergic reaction. That puzzled me, but I moved on as it didn't appear that I would be sedating him anyway.
The helicopter crew got there, and I had him describe this throat swelling issue to them. He said, when he was sedated, his throat went closed, and they also asked him about allergies.

pt.: I don't have an allergy, but I can't be sedated because my throat closes. I forget what it's called.
me: Sir, have you ever been sedated?
pt.: No, just when I go to sleep, my throat goes closed.
me: Oh, you have sleep apnea!
pt.: Yeah, that's it!

If you have sleep apnea, please don't be worried about if a paramedic has to sedate you. If that happens, your throat will be held open by a tube. But it is good to know you're probably difficult to intubate.
With that mystery solved, we sent him off to the trauma center.


We went to a trouble breathing call and the patient felt a lot better with oxygen and then did not wish to be transported. I suggested that it was not exactly normal to suddenly feel short of breath and he should probably be checked out further at the hospital. Even after we gave him a few minutes to think about it, he was still pretty hesitant. Usually people would have made a decision by then. When his wife appeared at the doorway, I asked her opinion.

Me: "I don't think that he wants to go to the hospital; maybe you can convince him?"
Wife: "Well, I think you should go."
Patient: "Okay."
Me: "Well, that was easy."

In case you forgot.

This is probably illegal to post, but I live dangerously and it's pretty funny. The visa application is all online for US citizens. It's pretty handy and the only quick and straight forward part of the whole process. You can save it half way through and finish it later. This section asks "Do you have any children?" Underneath it states "Don't have the information on hand? Click here to save your application."

This just struck me as funny as it implied that you might have to go check somewhere to see if you have any children or not. Well, I was amused. And it was a lot of effort to get the picture of the question on here; totally worth it.

The lap of luxury

I am now the proud owner of the greatest sleeping pad known to camping kind. Well, that's just my opinion. The inflatable, insulated 2.5" thick, 22 oz, partially recycled Big Agnes insulated air core sleeping pad. An early birthday present from C in honor of our pending backpacking trip. It rocks. It's only about a million times greater than the one I had before. I am even tempted to sleep on it tonight even thought I'll be at home.

Again, or for the second time

Well, the visa application is again out of my hands and currently on its way to the expediting service in Chicago. To keep the visa gods happy, I'll say no more. For now I'm off to work for the next million hours. This is also my 500th post.

A good lesson

Last week I spotted this amusing warning painted along my bike route. Strangely, I had never thought of being sabotaged by a groundhog before. So, be warned, bikers!