Saturday, October 13, 2007

NPR - My Nickname

Which was? A friend of mine at work nicknamed me Pathfinder. Why?

When I worked in Arizona for the USGS, I had several areas for my routine field trips. The areas were assigned to each fieldperson for periods of time and rotated occasionally as field people left or the area(s) were hard to work beyond a year. And yes, while the desert is nice, some areas are simply pure hell to work for 1-2 weeks every month. When I arrived in Phoenix in 1982, I was given the northeast, or White Mountains, field trip which included the area from Globe east of Tempe, north to ShowLow in the Mogollon Rim and east to the New Mexico border.

Most of the consists of the Apache Indian Reservation, which consisted of about half a dozen different Apache Tribes within the Apache Nation. There are many other Tribes in the Apache Nation, but they have their own reservation elsewhere in the Southwest State. The field trip area was predominantly the Salt River basin and its many rivers and creeks, but also included some creeks which flowed into the Little Colorado River. After coming from Western Oregon, this was a really cool area to work.

I had the trip for over two years because no one else wanted it. All of the rest of the field people hated winter and this area was cool to cold six months of the year with rain and snow. And it was a long field trip, over a week with nearly three quarters of the time driving. It started two and half hours from Phoenix with one-week plus stays in local motels. No one wanted to be gone so long. But I loved it, and learned to really appreciate the desert.

The Southwest US has nine different general desert zones. The White Mountain trip has seven of these zones, only missing the zones unique to southwest Arizona and southern California, from Tucson to Yuma. I eventually got the southwest field trip, from Phoenix to Gila Bend and into the surrounding desert. It is the pure hell of field work in Arizona. But that's another story. I enjoyed in the winter but not other times.

Anyway, during the accommodating weather we would do our routine annual maintenance on the streamgages. This required two field people (note.--field trips are 90+% solo). During those times, since few other field people had been to these gages, I often had lead the other field person to the gage. Well, one time, showing a new field person who transferred from Kentucky, I ended up getting off the trail several times. At the end of the week, he started calling me Pathfinder.

You see some of the gages are at the bottom, deep in box canyons, and to get to them, you have to either hike upstream from the mouth, or hike along the rim to find the trail down into the canyon to the gage. For the latter gages I would invariably miss the signs - which are usually worn tracks in the dirt or faded signs on bushes - there few if any real trees in most of the area, just the upper elevations.

I often walked by the turn to the gage when I worked by myself but showing the new fieldman, I acquired the nickname. We're still friends, and I'm still Pathfinder. I have to stay on the trails in Mt. Rainier National Park, or I easily find myself not in the right place or going in another direction if and when I don't. And I'm a geographer too. I have absolutely no sense of direction unless I can see the sun, easy in Arizona but not in Western Washington.

I've learned to like the nickname because it describes me in a tongue-in-cheek way. I like wander around life and the world, like this blog. I'm a fringe person and like the wanderings wherever they go, and leaving the leading to others.

No comments:

Post a Comment