Andy Goodson: How I Lost My SPOT and Learned the Truth about Blisters: FPAC 2021 Green Dream Internship Program

Andy Goodson
July 27, 2021

When you start your first job in forestry, there is a lot of preparation required: the first cardinal point of advice is to buy good work boots and wear them in before you start. Foot issues can develop quickly, especially when your job is hiking in the bush all day—so don't skimp on the boots!

Ah, advice that's easy to give, but seldom understood. This I had to learn the hard, painful way.

I had a pair of steel-toe boots recommended to me by a friend. While they were comfortable in the store, I found myself treating blisters after my first hike. Of course, by then they were non-refundable (and cost a small fortune) so I committed to wearing them and using every trick in the book to prevent further blistering.  

Duct tape, moleskins and liner socks worked surprisingly well. I was sure the wily boots had been tamed. That is, until one day where things did not work out as planned.  

On my first timber cruise, I was with two others doing some recon on a block on the northwest edge of the Porcupine Hills. We were expecting to hike roughly nine kilometres connecting with ATV trails along the way, but were inevitably stuck doing the breaststroke through an ocean of beaked hazelnut, which was well-known in Hudson Bay to cause fits of rage and frustration in even the most mild mannered of foresters.  

By noon the heat of the day was beating down and, despite my best efforts to wrap my feet in a web of tape, I could feel the tape slipping and hotspots were beginning to form on the edge of my heels. We stopped for a lunch break under a shady patch of spruce next to the trail, a good time to check-in with my supervisor and send an 'OK' message on my SPOT emergency beacon. A SPOT device sends a short message with GPS coordinates to a preset list of contacts and allows communication in remote areas. We were expected to use it to periodically check-in when working remotely, or use the distress beacon in case of emergencies. It typically worked better with an open view of the sky, so I removed it from my cruise vest and placed it beside me while I re-applied tape on my feet. Minor blisters had developed, but we were halfway done the hike and the remainder would be on trails, so I was not too concerned.  

We left our lunch spot and hiked a little over a kilometre down the network of trails before I realized I dun goofed.  

I checked every pocket in my cruise vest and the SPOT was nowhere to be found. I briefly considered keeping this information to myself, but I confessed to the crew and insisted I go back and find it myself. They followed, but I outpaced them, powered by my bruised ego.

I was sure I could find my way back to the SPOT, but doubts began to crop up as I gained distance. It occurred to me the landmarks I thought I recognized – a squishy patch of grass or a funny lookin' tree – might not be ideal for navigation. But I was determined to retrieve the device so we could get on with our day. I started walking faster.  

When I got to the road where we had stopped for lunch, I hurried toward a shady patch of spruce, which turned out to not be the spot at all. It must be further, I thought. So I kept walking down the road until the next corner, the next spruce patch, but nothing. Everything still looked familiar. I kept walking and walking until I could no longer deny that I had either walked right by it or gone the wrong direction. I still dread knowing how far I walked before finally realizing this.  

I gave up and turned around. Now reality set in — I had left my team, who did not know where I was or how far I had gone. I was away for longer than anyone anticipated, and I was nearly out of drinking water. The situation in my boots was now also much, much worse. I felt hot with embarrassment and began making my way back, heels stinging with every step.  

I rejoined my team, who were understandably worried. They also managed to find the SPOT I had missed only a few feet away from where I turned on to the road. I apologized profusely for the trouble, clumsiness and all, however I now had blisters that were painfully severe. When I took my boots off, some blisters were open and rather raw-looking. Thankfully we had antiseptic, gauze and medical tape between the three of us.  

The plan was now to find the nearest trails and limp the Hell out of there. But true to the day’s theme, nothing worked out as planned. We found no trails, only more bushwhacking through hazel, paired with a brief thunderstorm for some drama on the side. The total distance we covered ended up being over 15 kilometres, much of which was hiked in a pair of weighty ill-fitting boots.  

I spent the weekend trying to recover in time for work, reading Internet advice on blister care and growing increasingly paranoid I was going to die of blood poisoning. But I was okay, and few weeks later I got to share my story and lessons learned at our office's monthly safety meeting.

How to Treat Blisters

  • Keep clean and dry — try soaking in lukewarm water with Epsom salts
  • Do not cover open blisters and avoid wearing shoes/socks while healing
  • Apply antibiotic cream or Polysporin to prevent infection

How to Prevent Blisters

  • Wear light-weight work boots or check your company's policy to see if regular hiking boots are acceptable when not around heavy machinery.
  • The right fit should be neither too tight nor too loose. (My boots were just a touch too wide, allowing for side-to-side movement that caused problems over long distances. They were also made for construction, not hiking. Beware.)
  • If using tape, use something that can withstand moisture and heat (I use Leukotape now).

And one last word of advice: Under upset conditions, try to maintain a cool head. Otherwise it could be you speaking at safety meetings and writing a blog story about it.  

Happy hiking!

For more information contact:
Kerry Patterson-Baker
Vice President, Communications and Public Affairs
Follow FPAC on Twitter: @FPAC_APFC
September 20, 2021
Canada’s Forest Sector Announces Awards of Excellence Recipients, Celebrating Its Best and Brightest
As National Forest Week is celebrated across the country, Forest Products Association of Canada (FPAC) is seizing the opportunity to announce the recipients of its annual Awards of Excellence program – which recognizes the outstanding men and women across Canada who have made exceptional contributions to the forest sector and to forestry communities.
Read This
September 20, 2021
PEI Senator Diane Griffin & Marc Joron of Timmins Honoured as Community Champions by Canada’s Forest Products Sector
Today, FPAC announced that Senator Diane Griffin and Marc Joron of EACOM Timber Corporation have been honoured with the Forest Community Champion Award.
Read This
September 20, 2021
Fabian Glowalla of Mercer Celgar Pulp in Castlegar Receives Innovation Award from Canada’s Forest Products Sector
Today, FPAC announced that Fabian Glowalla of Mercer Celgar Pulp in Castlegar, BC is the recipient of the 2021 Innovation Award.
Read This
September 20, 2021
Janet Lane of Dryden, Ontario & Marc Bédard of Montreal, Quebec Honoured with Lifetime Achievement Award from Canada’s Forest Products Sector
Today, FPAC announced that Janet Lane of Domtar Corporation in Dryden, Ontario and Marc Bédard of Resolute Forest Products in Montreal are recipients of the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Read This
September 21, 2020
Lisa Raitt Honoured As Community Champion By Canada's Forest Products Sector
Forest Products Association of Canada recognizes former minister Lisa Raitt's leadership in the forestry sector with Forestry Community Champion award
Read This
November 13, 2019
The Search for Canada's Greenest Workforce
Canada's forest industry is a top employer and global leader in sustainability, forest management, clean technology and innovation
Read This
March 21, 2019
Standing Tall with Canada's Forest Workers on International Day of Forests
Forest Products Association of Canada celebrates forestry communities, workers and world leading forestry management for International Day of Forests
Read This
February 20, 2019
Opinion | Workforce Diversity - Canada's Forest Sector Branches Out
Forest Products Association of Canada embraces diversity and encourages women and indigenous to join the forestry workforce
Read This
September 5, 2021
Aurelia Jas: The Forbidden Site Prep Tool: FPAC 2021 Green Dream Internship Program
I got a set list of blocks that were to be sprayed, and I needed to walk them to ensure that all waterways had 40-meter buffer boundaries flagged off and check to make sure that all other ephemeral streams were either dried up or not flowing. The last thing we want is to get chemicals into a waterway!
Read This
September 5, 2021
Aurelia Jas: Summer Came and Went: FPAC 2021 Green Dream Internship Program
I was hired as a Woodlands intern with Weyerhaeuser Grande Prairie, which meant that I would be working within silviculture, operations, and planning in a split role. My summer was filled with all sorts of different jobs, such as boundary layout, block re-ribboning, drone flying, road maintenance, and many other jobs that continuously kept me on my toes.
Read This
September 4, 2021
Aurelia Jas: Drone Flights and Road Reclamation: FPAC 2021 Green Dream Internship Program
I’ve seen firsthand the effort that is taken to ensure that harvesting is done in the most sustainable way. Recent cut blocks are surrounded by multi-age stands, varying from 20 to 60 years old, ensuring that a large span of land is never cut at once. Having multi-age stands is important in ensuring that wildlife and biodiversity still have room to grow while we fulfill our wood needs.‍
Read This
September 3, 2021
Emma Schlosser: My Final Blog: FPAC 2021 Green Dream Internship Program
I wanted to use this blog to reflect on my summer and share some of my experiences. As you all know, this summer I worked at Alberta Newsprint Company, however, one thing I did not tell you in the beginning is the many different departments I worked in! So here is a fun little timeline from my summer:
Read This
August 30, 2021
Aurelia Jas: Paving the Way for Forestry: FPAC 2021 Green Dream Internship Program
It is an uphill battle to repair roads that are constantly under heavy use from logging trucks, oil workers, and recreational vehicles, but without our roads division, we wouldn’t have access to our forests, and with no access we wouldn’t have wood products. Always appreciate your roads division and the hard work they put in!
Read This
August 23, 2021
Andy Goodson: Souvenirs from my Summer in Forestry: What We Did and Where We Went: FPAC 2021 Green Dream Internship Program
There’s a rhythm to life in the sticks that I am going to miss. There’s a sense of excitement from not knowing exactly how each day will turn out. I’ve also gotten accustomed to my team, with whom I experienced things none of us will soon forget.
Read This
August 20, 2021
Arianna Loogman: 10 Lessons I’ve Learned Since my First Summer as a Green Dream Blogger: What I Did Not Know I Needed to Know: FPAC 2021 Green Dream Internship Program
Most are simple things which may not seem like big lessons but have been important parts of the journey to where I am today and that I had not given much thought prior to starting at UAlberta.
Read This
August 19, 2021
Andy Goodson: A Forestry Student’s Perspective on Maintaining Stakeholder Relationships: FPAC 2021 Green Dream Internship Program
My takeaway from our conversations was that, for real engagement to take place, both parties needed to be willing to actively listen to each other. Being able to accept someone else's views, regardless if they conflict with your own, was key to fostering a constructive dialogue.
Read This