Much of my job for this first season of natural resource work entails working in a float tube. What is a float tube you ask? Imagine an inner tube meets a lazy boy, and you are sort of dancing around the edge of it. I put in a photo to give better definition to the vessel.
To do work in a float tube you can choose to just be wet. I, however, always choose to wear waders. Why?
1. I am always cold. When the rest of the world is warm, I am cold. When the water is going on 70 degrees, I’m still thinking about whether or not I really want to get my head wet because maybe that will keep me cold for longer than I can stand (pansy, I know). So, waders are a layer of warmth for the taking. “To wader or not to wader?” is not a question. There is no question for me.
2. Waders are handy. They have a chest pocket where you can store sharpies, pencils, notebooks, a measuring tape, and anything else you might need to keep record of biological data you are collecting.
3. Waders are comfortable. Yes, tis true. And though some of you naysayers out there may think that wearing waders is a fashion faux pas, it is most certainly not a comfort mistake. I could quite happily stay in them all day, sleep in them even. A waterproof marriage of the Snuggie + overalls. They are great.
Now, once you have the waders on, before you cast off in the float tube, you slip your feet into flippers. These flippers have the benefit and downside of being adjustable. The benefit of adjustability is that you can adjust them to fit anyone’s foot in your crew, meaning you only have to pack in one or two pairs in stead of a pair for each person. The downside of adjustability is that, over time, the straps grow tired of you changing their size, and decide to loosen quite easily on their own after you’ve been using them for a half hour or so. You make it work though (insert Tim Gunn voice), and for the most part you have a friendly and not antagonistic relationship with them.
Once outfitted as outlined above, you are good to get in the float tube. To propel yourself, you sit up in the float tube as you would in a chair and flipper yourself backwards, turning your head over your shoulder every-so-often to ensure you are going, more or less, in your desired direction. Technique of flipping is up to you: some choose fast, short strokes, but I opt for slow and long strokes.
At one point this past field work week, after working in the lake in the float tube for a few hours, I began to fatigue a bit. So, I leaned back because doing so actually made my movement more efficient. And in this angle of repose I was enlightened into a new perspective.
Here I am in the middle of an alpine lake on a gloriously sunny June day. I am surrounded by an amphitheater of granite and volcanic rock, with a scattering of fir and pine trees so aesthetically placed on the hill sides that it almost makes you feel you are at a theme park (my personal Truman Show?). And the breeze is just enough to be refreshing, making ripples over the water appear like gems, causing the sun to reflect in a way that can only be described as “dazzling.” And there are a multitude of song birds adding to sounds of the wind creating a glorious conversation you can’t understand but do understand somehow. And I am in the center of all that, reclining in a vessel that lets me defy gravity, floating on water. This. This that people do for recreational enjoyment. This. All this I am paid (!) to do.
Is this real life?