After planting for 13 seasons, nothing surprises you anymore. When things happen you just laugh it off and roll with it. In the end its another awesome/ridiculous story to add to the list. A list you don’t realize you have until something happens and it makes you think of another story that starts with “this one time tree planting…”.
I wouldn’t trade these stories and experiences for anything in the world. It’s hard to say what’s the best and worst of tree planting until you go back for another season and are reminded of all the things you hated about it. It’s like you block out all the bad stuff and then it just hits you. I always tell people you have to try tree planting at least once in your lifetime. You think you know, but you really have no idea.
Everyday you wake up and wonder “What am I getting myself into today?”. You never know what you are going to experience, run into, come up against, face or be faced with.
I have come across birds, snakes, frogs, mutant bugs, an owlet, bears and their cubs, stray dogs (that sometimes get adopted by planters), bees nests that get punctured by shovels forcing you to run for your life, a sleeping baby deer curled up in tall grass, newborn mice, dead rotting animal carcasses, bloated beavers, and deer casually strolling by as if you don’t exist. My two favorites however, are being followed around by a baby moose for two days thinking I was its mother and encountering a bear sitting on the bus like a human eating a guys lunch.
While your planting, you run into lakes in the back of your land (that you usually always end up swimming in) or waterfalls hidden in tree-lines. And while planting in the foothills of the Rockies, we found meandering streams running straight from the mountains that had drinkable icy cold water. There is also the bad kind of water. This consists of strategizing your way through crazy swamps that make you feel like you’re in Lord of the Rings, all while trying not to get your feet wet (which you always end up doing).
I have seen a lot of planters lose boots in quicksand-like mud but the worst was a girl last year getting stuck waist deep (up to her planting bags) in a sinkhole. She fell in with her feet pointing downwards and it took the supervisor a couple hours to dig her out.
4. Random Junk
One time I was planting around some old beaten up trucks when I found a shotgun in a plastic bag. The only thing that came to mind was that I had found someones murder weapon.
Lightning can be a scary thing when you are out in a clear cut area carrying around a metal shovel. Sometimes you have to stop planting and take shelter. One time a chicot (dead tree) got struck by lightning and ended up starting a forest fire!
When I was planting in the Rockies we experienced hail so big that we all had to run under the tarp to protect ourselves and some people had tree boxes over their heads. When we got back to camp my tent looked like it had been cut to pieces.
Last year we helicoptered ten minutes into our campsite. It doesn’t sound very far, but it was in the middle of nowhere. Somehow there was a guy living beside us like it was no big deal. I’m pretty sure he stole food from us.
8. Wild Fruit
Around July and August everything turns from brown to green and fruit starts growing on shrubs in your land. This can be the death of planters, since we always want to stop and fill our faces with blueberries, strawberries and raspberries. I have taken my hard hat off and filled the whole thing up with berries!
There are those awesome days where you plant your way through some dense gnarly stuff and end up on the edge of a cliff or in a field full of wild flowers. There are deteriorating shacks, tree-houses and old bridges. I love when you come out to a plain view of the mountains.
There are days when you might forget to bring a key piece of equipment to work with you. This is what I like to call “make-shifting something from nothing” or what you have to work with around you. Through the seasons I have come across a couple gooders. One was a rookie forgetting his shovel on the truck and being too scared to tell his crew-boss so he found a stick and planted 800 trees with that all day. Another was a guy forgetting his planting bags so he took his day bag and strapped it around his waist and planted trees with that. He had to bag-up a million times. The last one actually happened to me. I lost a boot on the way to the block so I had to duct tape the moccasin I was wearing to my foot. I planted three grand that day and highballed the other four people I was with.