Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Long Day

So this Wednesday instead of having my day off like usual, Colette asked me if I wanted to work overtime.  I said "sure."  As many of you know, I'm not one to turn down a chance for extra money.  I asked her what I would be doing and she said I would be working with Rachel as swiftwater rescue at the Lamar road closure.
Let me explain a bit.
 About a week ago I went to the Northeast to hang with Howie.  I drove through Lamar Valley and the road was fine.  The river was a bit close to the road and running high, but it didn't concern me much.  About 3 hours later when I drove back the river had washed out the dirt from under the asphalt and a 20 foot section of the ENTIRE eastbound lane had fallen in with bits of the westbound land hanging off into this new section of the river.  Yea, I got to drive right by it before it closed.  It was pretty cool. 
Anyways, this got the road completely closed for about 4 and a half days.  And the day that Colette offered for me to work was the 4th day.  Now when we have maintenance workers working so close to a very high and dangerous river, there will be a swiftwater rescue team on standby.  For the two days before I worked Rachel and Scott had been the team on standby.  Being a rescue team on standby mostly consists of just waiting and sitting. 
Scott got freed up from this duty because they needed another law enforcement ranger.  Rachel is one of the only rangers in the district who has had swiftwater rescue training, so she stayed on the rescue team. 
What I would be doing that day is taking Scott's place on the swiftwater rescue team.  Being completely inexperienced in swiftwater rescue, I had sort of an unofficial mini training session and 4-1-1 on swiftwater rescue.  Rachel told me we had to wear our PFD's or 'personal flotation devices' at all times, and then we worked on how to throw, aim, and re-stuff our rope rescue bags.  These are bags full of rope that the rescuers throw to anyone in the water.  The people in the water then grab on to the ropes and can hopefully get pulled back in.  She then had me read the "Swiftwater rescue" chapter of the Search and Rescue book that the ranger station has.  So the whole time I was there, it was pretty much just sitting around.  Nothing happened.  Which is good; I wouldn't want any of the maintenance workers to have to fall into the Lamar River right now.

They were able to finish the initial road by noon or so.  Rachel and I headed back through Lamar Valley to the ranger station.  Lamar Valley seems so much nicer when the road is closed and you don't have any cars passing by you.  We saw one of the yearling wolf pups on the way back hanging about 20 ft from the road.  That was a treat. 

We then did bear jams for a couple hours, and right as we were about to get off shift, a very large Gale-like windstorm came through and knocked down a few trees.  Rachel and I were put on tree-clearing duty since she has chainsaw experience and I....well, I was the muscle that pulled all of the trunk pieces and branches off the road after she cut them.  We had a couple of big trees, one at a place called Gut Road, and another one on the road to canyon.  We were then called to a tree on the Tower Falls campground road, but that one was pretty small.  As we were heading up and out of the campground road, we found that another one had fallen, a large 22 in in diameter perfectly healthy tree that got knocked down because the winds were so strong.  This one took almost an hour to clear.  I was thoroughly scratched up by the time we were done.  And using that chainsaw for almost an hour was TOUGH work.  But Rachel was very impressive with it. 
After another 2 trees at the actual campground we finally got off work 11.5 hours after we had started at 6:30 that morning.
It was a long day, but fun.

About 3/4 of the way through the bigest tree
My arms got all scratched from moving the branches.


Anonymous said...

Look! It's my chain-saw wielding cousin. Sounds like Yellowstone is keeping you busy Claire. We'll be happy to have you back with your arms in one (two?) pieces.


Anonymous said...

You mean i never taught you how to use a chain saw. Bad father!

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Myself in my uniform from a couple of years ago. I wear normal clothes to the office now.