There I was, skipping through a blackberry field, filling my wicker basket with berries to make a voluptuous pie. It was as if I walked into the Narnia wardrobe, but the only things around me were blackberry bushes. My mind was filled with the aroma of pie, muffins and scones. The opportunities were endless.
I came to the realization that none of these blackberry bushes were in season. And their merciless thorns were stabbing me all over my legs. Not only that, but I couldn’t think about anything but the rain clouds stalking my every move. My drenched shoes wanted to run away and abandon me for a Caribbean vacation and I didn’t blame them. It was pouring, I was absolutely freezing, and I was having the time of my life.
Let me introduce myself. I’m from Old Saybrook, a small town on the Connecticut shoreline. My town boasts beautiful beaches, winding roads through the woods and a whimsical main street. Like the majority of my town, I didn’t appreciate its sheer beauty until I left and moved to Boston. Now that I’m in a city, I cherish every grass patch that I can find.
On June 3, I arrived in Boston to prepare my summer journey with Boston University’s Ecological Forecasting Laboratory at their research site in the White Mountains in Bartlett, N.H. I was met by three other field technicians and noticed that I packed twice as many bags as everyone else. I guess I accidentally got the email that we were supposed to pack for a yearlong trek on the Appalachian Trail, not a three-week field excursion in New Hampshire — my apologies.
I began to mentally prepare for a strenuous game of Tetris: Extreme Packing Edition with plastic containers, vacuum bags and field equipment that cost more than my car.
A three-and-a-half hour car ride with strangers sure seemed daunting, but as college students, we are all more conversational and open than we should be. Talks about Japan, classes, Chipotle and sports filled the car, and whenever the conversation went dull, we just commented on the mountainous scenery. Who cares about meteorological-themed small talk when you have mountains?
Bartlett is home to the world’s best cider donut shop and the best scenic overlooks located across from a Subway sandwich shop that I’ve ever seen. If that’s not the weirdest combination that you’ve ever heard of, then you should visit it for yourself.
My Subaru Outback was one of the designated field cars and every morning, it would huff and puff its way up Bear Notch Road, the main road leading to our high and low elevation research plots, to the swinging tunes of the local radio stations that seemed to be forever frozen in the 1980s.
After unloading the car and hiking to the site, it was time to get down to business. From the moment we stepped into a research plot, we signed our lives away to those trees. So, of course, we might as well get on a species-name basis with them. And if we were really lucky, we’d spend the next four hours identifying and measuring more than 100 American Beech trees. If you don’t think everything starts looking and sounding the same after that, then you should probably do it again. If you do it again and a hypnotizing Madonna song from 1984 pops into your head, then you’re doing it right.
As a field technician, my job entailed hugging every tree, all the time. The tree measurements for the census consisted of getting the diameter of the tree approximately at breast height (1.4m). Not only that, but we had to sit down next to the saplings to count their bud scars. I often found myself repeating numbers and even getting to the point of desperation by talking to trees. Having mini tea parties with baby trees became my forte.
I really do love the environment, but you couldn’t tell from my pictures. I was covered head to toe with a mosquito net, sweatshirt, thick pants, embarrassingly long socks, hiking boots and an aura of bug spray. It’s funny how eager we are to escape the city life and immerse ourselves into a pristine environment — one we are so quick to put up barriers against.
That being said, the rush of being in the woods is a story in itself. I had the opportunity to treat a national forest as my office and love what I was doing. I’m not saying that going to New Hampshire turned me into Thoreau, but getting away from the city is the best thing that someone can do because it reminds you to enjoy the simple things in life: scenic overlooks, cider donuts, ‘80s music and the great outdoors.
Jennifer Ruth is a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences studying environmental analysis and policy. She can be reached at email@example.com.