Its has been over seven weeks and we are in a solid routine of early wake up calls, long runs and full days of cutting on our thinning unit. The days here seem to go slow, sometimes, and the weeks go fast. It helps being in a routine knowing what tomorrow brings to be able to mentally prepare for it. I am learning that this job is seventy percent mental and about thirty percent physical. We train and train and try to prepare for the season ahead but I feel like once on a fire, it is going to come down to pure determination. It will entail working in terrible conditions with poor sleep and working long arduous hours. I have only heard stories, some may have been embellished, but they all have something in common and that is that all the training isn’t going to fully prepare you for what is to come.
The highlight of our week I would say is Thursdays PT. We usually hike, and it is usually some heinous ridge that’s straight up a 100% grade for a mile or so with fire line gear and chainsaws. The hike is usually the hardest part of the day on Thursday. After we muster what energy we have left to get through the day we coast into the long weekend. Getting to the top of these ridges is quite stunning and knowing that the weekend is only hours away makes the juice worth the squeeze every time.
The weekend comes and the crew scatters to their perspective interests for the three days. Having four-day workweeks and three-day weekends is pretty incredible. Some take time to rest, some go home to visit family, I take the three days to keep my mental game strong and feed my passion for rock climbing. What happens in a single pitch rock climb is what I feel like we go through on a daily basis at work. Getting off the ground and starting is usually one of the hardest parts and then you just have to keep moving until you reach the anchors. The same can be said about our daily grind, those first steps at 0600 starting a 6 mile run is the hardest but once you get going you have to keep moving until your cleaning your saw at the end of the day. The crux of the climb demands you to slow down mentally and breathe through it. The fear of falling, having your foot slip while your clipping your rope into your next piece of protection, wondering when the next good hold is to rest, questioning if you even like climbing anymore and why the heck did you voluntarily put yourself in this terrifying situation are all things running through your head. It isn’t until you are clipping the anchor and rappel from the route that you think, “well that was fun”. The same can be said about our days out here in Ukiah, OR. You wonder why you signed up for this in the first place, and then get to the top of some ridge and realize that it’s actually fun and not so bad.
For me, having three-day weekends helps me to reset and prepare for the next week. Climbing and working to keep my mental game strong helps me to perform at my best during the week. I love leaving to climb at new areas and traveling to different spots but when Sunday comes, I love knowing I have a full week ahead and its only making me more ready for the season to come.