Edmund Bates: Last Day on the Job: 2023 FPAC Green Dream Internship Program

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September 11, 2023

Around a week ago now I turned in my gear, cleaned out my place and got on a flight home to Nova Scotia. The week before my departure was busy, we had a long weekend so the entire crew took a trip up to Yellowknife where we camped, jumped into lakes, and nearly got trapped due to wildfire shutting down the only highway back to Alberta.  Luckily I made it back to High Prairie to wrap up one last week of work. There always seems to be a big expectation for the last day to be a big send off or for something crazy to happen but really it was just an average day at work.

We drove into an area to do layout, the roads were particularly wet and slippery that day and my truck spun out once or twice (User error as usual). Nonetheless we made good time getting to where we needed to be. I parked my truck and stepped out to immediately sink a few inches to the clay ridden mud which I have not escaped all summer. I walked around to the back of my truck listening to the suctioning sound my boot made with each step I took. The thing with clay is that the weight of your boots increases with each step because it cakes on and is impossible to get off. So I go and open the tailgate of the truck and climb in to take off the ratchet straps cinching down my atv. Wet clay also filled the bed of my truck which my atv always tracks in. I almost felt as if I were rolling around in a muddy pig pen, however instead of a pig there was a Honda Foreman. Once I take off the last cargo strap I get out my ramp which attaches to my tailgate so I can unload the atv.

On the ride in I already knew I would be soaked before I even got into the woods to start work. It rained the night before and everything was still wet. The wet bushes and puddles were unavoidable as we navigated the narrow trails. I became increasingly wet with every turn I took.

When we came onto a section which was more swamp than trail I was the first to cross. I put on my four wheel drive and switched to a low gear. I was almost shivering, I could feel the heat being sucked out of my body as my soaking wet shirt and pants clung to me. By some miracle my feet were still dry under my leather boots so I raised my feet up to avoid submerging them in swamp water during my crossing. I made my way across slowly with no issues. “Nice” I thought “I didn’t have to get my feet wet.”

I always look behind me once in a while when we are in groups riding because if someone gets stuck you would never hear their call for help over the sound of your engine so before taking off I turn around to make sure my co-worker makes it across. He is slowly making his way when I notice his atv is no longer in motion but his tires are still spinning. This guy is as stuck as ever so I raise my feet back up and re enter to tow him out. I made my way to the middle of this swamp and stopped a few meters from him. He winched to my bike and pulled himself out but once we got him unstuck it was only a few moments before finding myself stuck.

I sat there for a moment cursing under my breath and finally got off and stepped into the knee deep water to pull out my winch. I was officially soaked head to toe and it was barely ten o’clock in the morning. We make it out of the swamp and as I drive along I think “at least the swamp water rinsed all the clay off my boots”.

Eventually we arrived at our cut block and we split ways to walk off alone into the woods.

Everything is bleak in all directions, the plants on the ground have all burnt, trees have no leaves left and all I can walk on is a bed of ashes. On a clear day this colorless landscape contrasts in some oddly beautiful way with the bright sunny sky but on a cloudy, rainy day like this one it seems to be more of a painfully lifeless scene painted on a gray canvas, a desolate wasteland if you will. Walking through here feels as if you are walking through nature’s version of a graveyard. I look straight up into the sky, I feel as if I am staring into an endless abyss which surrounds every ounce of my existence. While staring off the edge of planet earth into a space too big to comprehend I try grasping the idea of what it all is. I feel the odd raindrop splash gently on my face and all I can see is the gray sky. I can sense the vastness of what is out there but it all looks grim and empty. As the rain falls I look back down and wonder if Mother Nature is crying for the loss of her children or if I am witnessing an attempt made too late to put out the fire. I wonder to myself if Mother Nature is a real thing, or is it an idea we made up to try and understand the world around us.

In coming to my senses I look more closely at the ash covered ground to see a tiny little green plant sprouting up through the ash. One tiny green speck in a barren landscape turned out to be many tiny green specks covering the forest floor. Barely noticeable to the human eye but as I kneel down I can see them all. I soon notice there are tiny little toads and frogs hopping around. I can feel the clouds parting revealing the blue sky and I realize all the little bugs come out and I hear birds chirping in the distance.

I look around as if I am purely an observer but I soon realize that I am just as much part of the ecosystem as anything I can see right now. All the animals use resources in a different way, birds use twigs and mud to build nests, bears dig into the ground for a den and now here is a human, walking through the woods to cut down trees and eventually use them to build houses for its own species.

I have now gone full circle trying to put a label on something we do not understand so I decide that I am just a part of nature and get on with my job.

Once more I tune into how wet and cold I am but it is irrelevant. I spend the rest of my day mapping the cut block as I would any other day and once it gets late I head back to my quad so I can go home for the night and do it all again tomorrow.

This submission marks the end of my FPAC Internship and I would like to thank Tolko and FPAC for this opportunity. I never considered myself a writer but I had a blast exploring something new.

As well I would like to extend a thanks to those who read my submissions. If you already work in or study forestry I hope you found them entertaining and if you are someone who is considering this career path I hope my work may be a source of insight or inspiration.

For more information contact:
Kerry Patterson-Baker
Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs
kpatterson-baker@fpac.ca
(613) 563-1441 x 314
Follow FPAC on Twitter: @FPAC_APFC
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