Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A vision of the future

Tonight I was thinking about where I am and where I am going, following all the threads that seem to be coming together and felt good about the pattern that is emerging.

When I was little, I vaguely remember wanting to help people when I grew up (you know, the firefighter, police officer, or EMT) but yeah, that angle didn't pan out. Though I still enjoy helping people, but more information based. I love sharing knowledge and learning about this desert I call home.

I'll admit that the romantic image of Indiana Jones sparked the interest in history and archaeology, but yeah, the whole school thang to become a *real* archae never appealed to me. So I do the next best thing, headed out and visited petroglyph and prehistoric sites throughout the Great Basin. That's fairly easy as there are numerous sites!

Then one day while I was working three folks walked up to the Club Booth all wearing shirts with the same icon. In an over-eager puppy pounce, I learned about the Nevada Rock Art Foundation and so walked into the second day of volunteer training class, taught by Alanah Woody. I still remember working on my first drawing, going back to double check a line, and hearing Alanah tell me in no uncertain terms that I had no choice, I would be out at Lagomarsino. Here was my chance to be an "archaeologist" at least as close as I thought I would ever be.

When the volunteer sign up form came out, a question at the bottom asked about GPS experience. This was 2003, GPS wasn't all that common, it had only been two years since Selective Availability had been turned off, and so I actually needed to do research on what in the world GPS was. Imagine my surprise to learn that there was a game based on this little device! Within a few days, I read an article by Richard Moreno in the Nevada Appeal who went out with the Wild Nevada crew to a small ghost town called Davytown outside of Winnemucca, all with the intent of geocaching. Talk about timing, I'd never heard of this game and here within a few days of each other, I am seeing numerous references to it! So, with a few more searches on the internet, I end up with my very own GPS and an amazing adventure had begun.

That thread has pulled some interesting changes into my life, the largest of which is the path that now lies before me. Allow me to explain how a chance meeting 7 years ago set in motion a sequence of events that finally illuminated the answer of what I want to be when I grow up.

  • My passive interest in petroglyphs introduces me to Alanah Woody, and NRAF.
  • A questionnaire leads to becoming an active geocacher.
  • That obsession creates a sharp spatial awareness, a sense of place in my home state.
  • An aptitude for computers and GPS experience over the years prompts Alanah to suggest I learn GIS. I ask how, and she simply says "Go back to school."
  • By returning to school to learn about GIS, I begin to believe I can eventually become an archaeologist.
  • Geocaching introduces me to other activities: off-roading, hiking, backpacking, biking, spelunking, kayaking, camping, bouldering, etc.
  • One day in 2009, I find myself on a 20 mile bike ride, followed by a 3 mile paddle. I realize I can become "that outdoorsy person".
  • I realize that the last seven years have given me the confidence and skills to pull all my interests and passions into one focused goal.
And a vision came to me, a vision that sharply defines a moment in my future that I want to obtain, a vision that extends beyond "I want to be a ...." and actually gives me a concrete point to fix upon and work towards. I already figured out what I wanted to do, but it was very vague. This is more specific and tells me the skills I need to work on to put everything on paper and say to the Universe: "This! This is what I want! This is my dream, my goal, and my life as I will live it!"

My vision: I am an archaeological technician for the Forest Service (or BLM, or whoever will hire me). There's reports of a potential site somewhere that's virtually inaccessible. I pack up a weeks worth of supplies and set out along a river in a kayak to a remote landing spot. After setting up camp along the edge of a clearing, I hike further to the base of a cliff. I am able to scale the rock face to climb into a narrow opening of a cave. From the opening, I can see a ledge where it is possible, if precarious, to walk along the face towards the top of the cliff wall. Donning my helmet and headlamp, I enter the cave and see signs of pictographs along the walls and scorch marks on the ceiling. I take photographs and sketch a basic layout of the location before carefully exiting and returning to camp. There is much to discover here and care must be taken that it is protected and preserved for the future.

I will get there. I may never be lucky enough to make a discovery on my own, but I will gain the skill set needed to be ready and able to go anywhere and do anything that is needed on a site. The PhD can have the glory, I will be there to ensure that everything they need is documented, analyzed, and recorded properly.

Bring it!