At present, my friends are planning the million ways to spend their tax refunds. I’m here wondering why I decided to volunteer over winter break when I could be basking in the post-tax-refund glory. I might have started off break in bed eating pizza and binge watching all of the new shows on Netflix, but by the end I was hiking up the White Mountains of New Hampshire with visions of frostbitten toes floating around in my head.
Last winter I earned my keep making AutoCAD drawings for the VA. Before that, I studied abroad in Turkey. This winter, try as I might, I couldn’t find anything meaningful (or paying) that would help me pass the time. So I emailed my old lab manager and grad student to see if they needed help. Then I showed up, actually eager to start testing samples. Boredom can make people do amazing things.
There was a lot of work that had to get done. I bustled around washing bottles, prepping and testing samples, and reviewing test results. After two weeks, it was time for the monthly trip to the mountain for sample collection. The grad student was overjoyed that I wanted to go. I already knew how to pump the lysimeters for groundwater because of my summer research there. Besides, it was winter break. Who else was going to help?
We reached the cabin after a full day of driving. The “cabin” was a three story house bordering Mirror Lake with a nice kitchen and a cozy sofa across from a wood-pellet stove. The bird researchers we call birders stayed there over the summer. Those students had to wake up at 6 a.m. everyday -including occasional weekends- to hike the mountain and track bird activity. Now that’s passion! Anyway, we began our trek up the mountain the next morning, but definitely not before the sun came up.
Without my snowmobiling certificate, we were forced to take this very slow but very combative-looking ranger up the mountain. It felt like we were riding on the back of a giant spider, with the treads being its wobbly hairy legs.
Once we got to the site I realized I overdid it with the double coats, double pants, and double socks. The hat and gloves were unnecessary too because snowshoeing up the mountain really warmed me up! The ski poles as walking sticks truly helped, especially on the steep watersheds. Weird fact about New Hampshire: They use sand on the slippery roads instead of salt because the temperatures are too low for salt to work!
In the end, I made up my mind to never go winter hiking again. Together, we collected over forty bottles of groundwater from various locations on the mountain. I wanted to give up many times, but thankfully I made it through to the end. Have you ever volunteered for something? What’s your take on it? And let me know if you’ve ever gone winter hiking! It was a completely new experience for me. 🙂