See You Later Colorado

Today was my last official day of work at Deer Hill! Al gave me a small task to refill and check the spice kits that the staff take with them on trips. After that was done, I was assigned to the fun task of creating name tags that were color coordinated with the boats and I printed out all the boat names and then laminated them. These boat tags were a small legacy I was able to leave Deer Hill with becuase they will use them long after I leave.

At around 10, it came to my attention that one of the girls on the San Diego trip was having too much anxiety and she decided to opt out of going on her trip. I was asked by Amy if this girl could “shadow” me all day until her aunt could pick her up. I said I didn’t mind at all and she helped me with my work all day. We sorted repair kits that go on trips and I helped return her rental items that she got the day before. After, Al walked me to the store and let me pick out a Deer Hill shirt as a goodbye gift. Right before lunch, the girl and I put some dirty sleeping bags into the washer and I gave her a small tour of the camp while we sprayed most of the door knobs down with bleach as a safety precaution. After lunch, we washed some dirty sleeping pads with bleach and soap. Al then brought us up to the shop where I cut rope and melted them together to make bucket buffers (which help keep the buckets from sticking together when wet). 

After finishing up my last day, I was so appreciative that I got to work with such kind-hearty and amusing staff for the past few weeks. This experience was eye-opening in the sense that I was able to learn about how the inner workings of an outdoor adventure program works.

Oh Sticks…

Today was an interesting day to say the least. I started the day off by watering the new patch of grass. Afterwards, I began a task that took me almost all day: picking up sticks. It seemed like an easy task, but there were sticks covering the two field in front of the store and the main kitchen/ house. I put my headphones in and listened some music which helped me make this job more enjoyable. I worked on the stick project from around 8:30 till 12. I felt exhausted and almost felt faint from walking around and bending down to pick up sticks for 3-4 hours, but being outdoors all day was relaxing. 

After lunch, I finished picking up all the sticks and placing them in piles. After I was finally finished, I used the company’s small European Truck they call “El Toro”. I loaded the five different piles of sticks I created into the back. That in itself was a difficult task because I had to pick up an awkward sized pile of sticks. It took a few attempts to get all the sticks from each pile in. I finally packed up all the piles into El Toro and I drove past the bathroom building and found the “road”. I drove El Toro thought the field, which was a bumpy ride and I made it to the burn pile (which is where Deer Hill puts all the wood scraps they find). I opened the side of the truck and pushed all the random sticks off of the truck.

Once my main task for the day was complete, I walked up to Ilikea and helped her finish pre-tripping two vehicles. In order to pre-trip, we have to check all the lights, wheels and a lot of random things that a driver would want to work while using a car/truck. Once we finally finished, I drove the van with a trailer forward and parked it in next to the shop. 

River Adventure Part 2

I woke up at 6:20 today because Ilikea and I are driving out to Swasey’s Beach in Utah to pick up the field staff and help them unpack all their river gear. It is always exciting to be able to view the beautiful landscapes that we encounter on the road from Colorado to Utah.

We made it to Swasey’s Beach right on time at 11. At first we were a bit concerned that it was the wrong boating dock, but I hopped out of the car and asked a woman and she confirmed that we were at the right place. I then walked around the crowd of people, searching for the Deer Hill staff, and low and behold, they were hiding behind a stack of three boats. I let them know where we were and they advised me where Ilikea should park the truck/trailer and we began to carry the gear to the trailer. I helped put the life jackets into a large mesh bag and carried any materials I could find to the trailer so the staff could pack it up. I helped Ilikea and the field staff deflate and fold up the three boats, which required us to sit on the boat to release the air and fold it up. We tied them up and carried them into the back of the truck. The packing only took about 1 hour so we were out of there by 12:30 so we began our journey back to the basecamp.

Once we got back to camp, Ilikea and I helped the field staff unpack the trailer and take out the boats. I helped carry tables and coolers to their destination and I helped wash all the the PFDs (life jackets) in a bucket of simple green. I then hung them all up on a rope so they could dry overnight. We worked until around 6 pm, just in time for dinner. I helped Ilikea and Alex finish cleaning up the gear and we walked down to dinner. We had salad, chicken, potatoes, bread, fruit and brownies. This was my longest work day, working from 7am – 6pm.

Attending the Fire

While all the interns left at 6am, I did not start work till 1pm today. I was working solo at basecamp today because the interns were on their way to help pick up the group from Chicago because their trip was ending that day. As I walked into Al’s office, she was nowhere to be found. JP was in his office so he let me know the plan. He told me that Al would most likely be near the sweat lodge fire. I found her by the fire pit and we began work. My main task for the day was to help tend the fire and help work the Sweat Lodge today. I started by collecting kindle to be used to start the fire. Afterwards, I walked to a water hose, connected a long hose to it, and walked it down to the fire pit. I had to water the grass around the edge of the rocks as a precaution for if a spark flew onto the grass. Al put me on fire duty all by my self which was a bit nerve-racking, but I was ready for the challenge. I began working by collecting the largest rocks I could find and throwing them into the fire either with my hands or with a shovel. At the beginning none of the rocks were very hot so they were not too hard to handle. Whenever the fire began to die down, I threw more firewood into the pit. I kept “recycling” the hot rocks in the pit so they would all heat up evenly. Once the group was ready, I brought some of the hot rocks into the lodge. As a safety precaution, I had to say “hot rocks!” every time I walked in which got very repetitive. I carried the rocks and piled them up in the center, where Doug (the sweat leader) told me to place them. Once the sweat began, I was able to relax until the group was ready for me to bring in some new hot rocks during the second round. One of the girls has asthma so she had to leave the lodge to grab her inhaler and another girl could handle the heat any longer so they both waited outside of the lodge with me until the group was done. Although the sweat lasted around 2 hours, the time flew by with me recycling the hot rocks around in the fire pit and finding little tasks to keep me occupied. Once the sweat was complete after two rounds, the group crawled out with the little energy left in them. It was nice to see how they group transitioned from being very nervous and almost resistant about completing this sweat to feeling energized and excited that they were able to experience such a powerful event with each other. The group jumped into the pond to cool off and I made my way to the Chicago group (who arrived while I was helping with the Sweat) to see what was happening. 

I ended up being on Kitchen duty today because whenever groups are present at basecamp, a home cooked meal is made. I was hoping to be able to chop up some ingredients, but they just had me cleaning dishes for the most part which was slightly disappointing, but I was happy to help. 

My Experience with Linseed Oil

Today was a normal work day. I woke up around 7:45 to get ready and start work at 8:30. Both Sam and Michael were in Moab because they had the day off. Ilikea, Alex and I went down and debriefed with Al. Our biggest project for the day was to roll/ brush linseed oil on all of the wood in the trailers. We had to sweep the dirt off the trailers before we started. This oil was extremely unpleasant to smell and it took a lot of effort to spread it over the rundown wood floors on these trailers. We listened to music to make this tedious job more enjoyable. By 11:00, I went into the office and talked to Amy, who is in charge of hiring Deer Hill staff, about the inter-workings of Deer Hill. Her biggest job is to keep in touch with all the staff that have worked with Deer Hill, hire new staff, fire staff that aren’t working and planning out which staff goes on which trips. It was interesting to see how much planning goes on because it is her responsibility to pick staff who have the right skills for different trips. For example, she sometimes needs a member with great climbing skills or backpacking skills.

By 11:30, I made my way back down the the trailers to help Alex and Ilikea finish a first coat on the rest of the trailers (Deer Hill has about eight). It was finally lunch time and I could tell that Alex and Ilikea were burnt out because they haven’t have much time to rest. After an hour lunch, we made our ways back down to meet with Al. For the rest of the day, we finished the last of the oiling project and then moved on to other projects. The oil ended up completely staining my pants and my shirt. I realized how much I didn’t enjoy working with this oil.

Alex and I helped “pre-trip” the Escape so that the four main interns could use it the next day to help pick up the Chicago group. I filled up two 20lb water jugs while Alex gathered a few other items the field staff requested. After this task, I chilled in the office for a little bit while Al gave Alex a rundown of how the group pick-up would work the next day. The interns were going to have to drive on a road called the Moki Dugway which is a very dangerous, curvy road. Once the debrief was over, Alex and I took on the daunting task to organize the “back stock” in the store. We needed to organize all the extra Rental Items that were stored in the back room of the store. JP gave us a rundown of what he was looking for and then we got to work. This task took the rest of the day, as we needed to walk to the recycling bins and grab cardboard boxes to use. Finally after organizing the bulk of the items, Al came in around 4:30 to let us off the clock.

River Launch

After a week of doing random tasks around the basecamp, I was lucky enough to be able to go on a river launch today (May 21, 2017). Michael and I walked down to the truck and we took off at 7am with two field staff. We were on the way to “Mexican Hat”, a boat loading stop on the San Juan River. It took around three hours until we took our first step in Utah. Right before we got to the river, we made a pit stop to fill up all the water jugs the group will use on the river. Once that was all packed up, we hit the road one last time and we finally made it to our destination. As we arrived, I realized that I began my rafting trip with Deer Hill two years ago at “Mexican Hat”. It was exciting to come full circle and make it back to the location where my experience with Deer Hill began two years ago. Today was a very physically demanding day because we had to unpack the whole trailer, blow up the five boats and transport all the equipment from the truck to the boats. Most of the equipment was very heavy so it required two sets of hands to transport them all. The water jugs themselves were 20lbs each. I helped blow up most of the boats which I was happy with because it didn’t require anyone else to tell me what to do. For a lot of the activities at Deer Hill, I often feel a little lost and I’m not completely sure how I can be helpful so I often found myself having to ask how I could help.

We had a bit of trouble figuring out which coolers went on which boat because the coolers were bigger than normal in order to accommodate enough food to feed around 26 people. It was very hot out there in the sun so after two hours I was fairly drained. After around 2.5 hours, the vans full of kids, the three other field staff and all their clothes arrived at Mexican Hat. We still had a bit of work to do, but having three extra sets of hands helped us finish up the rest of the work shortly after they arrived. Finally, the kids loaded all their dry backs onto the ore rigs which gave us time to eat our lunches. We all brought the vans and busses up to a parking lot .5 miles away from the launching zone to store the extra vehicles. After checking with the staff, Michael and I packed our stuff and the extra equipment into one of the cars that was brought with the group and we began our journey back to basecamp. Today was a different adventure and it was nice to change it up from the average work we have been doing at camp.

Another Day, Another Task

The Wednesday during my first week outlined the randomness that took place in this internship. Everyday, the interns and I were assigned to random tasks, depending on what the staff saw necessary. We all walked to Al’s office (my official mentor) at 8:30 to receive our duties today. I started the day with Sam (an intern from Alaska), setting up some of the sleeping pads and bags for students that were arriving from Chicago at the end of the week. Once we completed that, Al helped refresh our memories about how to work the stores computer system. Sam, Ilikea and I went into the students cabins to sand down the bed frames because the health inspector that arrived on Monday complained about the amount of splinters she found. This was a bit ironic because while the students are on their river/mountain/service trips, they encounter numerous of dangerous activities, but we wanted to make sure the inspector was pleased :). After this small task, we walked down to the shop and helped Alex test the blasters and stoves for upcoming trips. I personally had no idea how to help and what to even do and I was freezing at this point because it started to lightly snow/ drizzle, so I watched over them all. I helped roll up some of the flat ropes which are used to tie down the equipment on the rafts. My final task of the day was to take out the rocks from the sweat lodge. This lodge looks like a little hut, which Deer Hill uses at the end of the students trips. The students go into this lodge and the leader uses hot rock to create steam. This lodge symbolizes change and Deer Hill uses it as a way to let the students reflect on what they learned over their trips and discuss anything that was brought up. Today was a half day so we got off at 12. Luckily, a few interns and I drove to Mesa Verde National Park and spent a few hours looking around and going on a hike.

Balancing Work and Play

Over my first few days of work, I have started to get the hang of how things work at Deer Hill as an Intern. The company I am working with is called “Deer Hill Expeditions” and they lead Wilderness Adventure and Native American service trips for groups in the Southwest and Costa Rica.  I am technically a volunteer because interns have to work for a couple of months at a time, even though I have almost all the same responsibilities as a full time intern. I wanted to explain what my work consisted of so you all can have a bigger picture of why I am in the “middle of nowhere”. The main job and ultimate goal that interns have is to be the working arms and legs that set up the actual materials and equipment for the groups that come in. We sometimes help prepare the food for campers when they spend a night at base camp, set up rentals that groups will be using, help prepare the all the materials that a group will be using (although that is primarily the field staffs responsibilities). Interns help unpack vans and trailers as groups return and simply keep the base of the camp functioning so the rest of the planning and trips can flow smoothly. One interesting thing I have learned is that for Deer Hill (and I’m assuming other companies) functions by going through multiple steps in order to make sure a trip runs smoothly. For example, it’s starts with one administrative member to receive a call from a potential client where they talk about what they are looking for in a trip and, of course, what Deer Hill can offer them with those requests. After that initial call, a spreadsheet is created and a summary of what will take place on their trip is developed, which then trickles down to other people who deal with financial issues and specific dates of the program. There are many steps that take place, and if one of the steps is missing, a lot of the process simply hits a wall and can’t continue. This shows how companies rely on each other to complete their own work and they rely on each other to complete the big picture/ project.

On a normal day, we work from 8:30-5. The tasks on each day varies drastically because it all depends if a new group is arriving soon and what maintenance tasks the Deer Hill faculty feels is important to complete that day. Some struggles I have been learning to deal with is figuring out how to use my free time after work. All of the other interns have their own cars, so they are able to leave after 5 pm if they please. After work on Tuesday, everyone kind of went off to do their own things for the afternoon which left me stuck at the basecamp with, seemingly, nothing to do. After work, the camp is very quiet which sometimes amplifies my miss for home. I am learning how to use my time wisely and go for walks, read a book, listen to music or be proactive with any work I should complete for my project. Luckily, many of the interns have invited me to go on adventures with them so i can explore the nearby beauty that lives within Colorado. A few interns and I drove to Mesa Verde National Park and hiked through the park and got to view the well-preserved Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings hidden within the park.

One other thing I am learning to deal with is the food situation at the base camp. If no  groups are present at the camp, us interns have to use what we have available. This often consists of eating leftovers from past trips and cooking with what every products we have stocked at the moment. This is teaching me how to go with the flow and just except that I will have to eat what I can day by day. I am doing my bed to look on this in a positive light and see the adventure that goes along with eating random types of food. Alright, I have talked a lot and I will keep you updated with other jobs I get assigned next.

PS: Luckily, all of the interns got the day off on Thursday because it’s snowing!!!

Middle of Nowhere!

My senior project began as I departed LAX on Mother’s Day (May 14, 2017).

As I departed on Mother’s Day, I was sad to leave my family. I was on the way to Colorado to work at Deer Hill Expedition’s base camp for the next three week which was an exciting, but daunting task. As I arrived in Durango, Colorado, I was met with a 17 year old intern named Lilah. She is a junior at a near by high school who has been assigned to a similar project as me. We talked about Deer Hill and where we were from and made it to the base camp in Mancos, CO within the hour. (For those who don’t know, Mancos is a very small town in the southwest corner of Colorado. The town’s population is around 1,336 people.) As I met the full time interns at camp, they were all very warm and funny so it was easy to talk to all of them. I was given a base camp tour, which re familiarized me with the camp I stayed at for one night two summers ago. (I stayed at the base camp one night with a group of around 12 Vistamar students after our own Deer Hill trip, which is how I made my connection with the company). I was very tired from traveling, but I had a difficult time falling asleep the first night, due to a mixture of being in a new place and developing a small cold.

For the first official day of work on Monday, the interns and I were all assigned different tasks to complete around the camp. Some of my activities included cleaning the base camp bathroom and help organizing the base camp store. I talked with my senior project mentor and she talked to me about the logistics of working in Deer Hill Expeditions. At around 3 in the afternoon, a group of students returned to basecamp after finishing up their expedition, so the interns and I helped unpack and clean all their gear. That brought a fun, new energy into the camp.

The interns and I were able to go see a band perform at a nearby town which helped break the ice between me and the other staff at Deer Hill. Still with a slight cold, I wasn’t feeling 100%. But on my drive back to base camp with Ilikea, she assured me that if I ever needed anything or needed anyone to talk to she would be available, which made me feel better. I’ll keep you all up to date next time. I have limited internet access here, so I will try to post again when I have an opportunity.