When it's cold and rainy outside, it was easy to decide that this summer I would not spend much time in the field. So I filled my summer with teaching, writing, and side projects (see previous post). But there is a certain amount of field work that must be done, and so today I went out to check on my sites and download data. And right now I'm kicking myself for not just committing to another summer in the field. I can think of nothing better than spending hours everyday in woods and water. Hiking in the woods, wading the streams, gaining insight into the landscape.... Of course it doesn't hurt that in the evening I'd come back to a relatively plush field station, to take a hot shower, cook a simple dinner, hangout with fellow graduate students, and even check my email via the new wireless internet hookup (as I am at the moment).
I'm helping another grad student get started in my field area, and I am realizing how much I've learned about about this place...who to talk to, what roads to take, where to get a good burger, and what the places look like at all times of the year. And it's a little sad to realize that my time in the field is drawing to a close, and that from now on its going to be just a few days here and there and not the full scale immersion that it's been the past two summers.
I know that the work I really need to do these days is mostly in front of a computer, and there's no reason for me to spend this summer in the mountains. But I don't want to become one of those scientists who gets into the field only a few days each year. I'm not ready for that yet. So I think what I should do this summer is spend time in the field when I can -- doing work when I need to, and finally getting to those hikes that I spent the last two summers wishing I had the time to do. Maybe on those hikes I can draw inspiration from the landscape that helps me make sense of the data on the computer. And then I can call a hiking trip to my wilderness paradise a good day at the office!