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29 June, 2002

A day off - and well earned I believe! After 8 hard days and many miles (and many found nests!), we all agreed to take at least half the day off. We figured by afternoon we'd be restless and want to do a little - guess we were wrong!

Nobody really slept in this morning - we had coffee and "bannock" around 7:45, but it was raining a little and pretty cool, so I went back to my tent and read for awhile. It got a little nicer - I walked back to the group tent, drank a little more coffee, listened to the rain begin and then went back to my tent for a little more rest and relaxation.

As many of you reading these journals know me, you'll know that sitting around for long periods of time have never been something I've enjoyed - well, today was different! It felt so good to lie in my tent, under a sleeping bag reading a little of "The Lord of the Rings," writing a letter, uploading pictures, and best of all, just laying and listening! I do believe I needed the day off - both mentally and physically. - my feet quit pounding, my ankles allowed free movement, my quadriceps (thighs) actually relaxed - and by the end of the day, the trips up to the group tent felt free of all discomfort. I almost felt like my legs wanted to get out and do some walking by the time I came back in here for the evening to journal!

Actually, the most enjoyable part of laying in the tent was listening. As always, the weather was dynamic all day long. It was dominated by moisture, wind at times and short bursts of sunlight. The moisture came in different intensities throughout the day. While laying inside the tent, the sound of the droplets hitting the tent wall is very soothing. The changes from sprinkles, to small droplets of drizzle, to a downpour, and then to feel the sun penetrate for short bursts of warming - I don't know that there is a better way to spend a day off from field work!

Oh, and to top it off - late this afternoon, I did get a little restless, so I grabbed my 9 iron, a couple of wiffle balls, and spent some time working on my short shots! It was quite fun to play a pretend round of golf on the arctic tundra! There are a couple of challenges - both involving the tussocks. First, no matter how well I'd watch where I hit the ball to, I had to search as they would roll down between the crevices of adjacent tussocks. Not only that, but some of the lichen and wildflowers are white, so there were many false sightings of golf balls! The second challenge - which may end up as a good thing - is that no matter where the ball lies, you never get a good solid stance. Creativity in the shot is a norm - look out Tiger Woods! Anyway, it was a nice way to stretch the muscles and rest the old eyes.

Now, a weird thought that has been developing in my brain, lately. As I've mentioned, I have been reading (and enjoying) J.R.R. Tolkein's books about Hobbits and their adventures. As I'm walking around the tundra, many times I feel as the Hobbits and elves felt while walking through forests filled with trees and rocks that were working to get them into troubles. For example, I've stated that I end up "lost" at times. I am beginning to blame this on the life forces of the tundra, collectively working to make me go where they want me to go. It seems somedays, no matter how hard I try to move a specific direction, I get pushed and forced another. As I am trying to head north, a pond will appear that I must walk around - and the best way around is always to the right. Pond after pond appears and I keep moving a little more to the right (or west). Then when I think back on how I ended up in such a mistaken area, I recall tripping and stumbling over tussocks - all of which s!

eem to roll and topple me to the right (or west) even more. I remember that all possible birds or nests that I wanted to check out became visible in that direction. Or depending on the day - either the wind is blowing me that direction or the mosquitoes are chasing me that direction. No matter how hard I try to get myself turned to go North, I still end up heading west. I do believe the tundra has a collective life - directing all us "others" to places they want us to be!

OK, maybe a little too much freedom of thought out here, huh? It does make me laugh (and wonder at times), how, with a map, a GPS, a visual of camp, and now a little familiarity of the land, that I can still end up in places I don't intend to be! Maybe "Frodo" and "Gandalf" can help me find my way?????

I would like to end by thanking all of you that have been emailing me - your thoughts, questions, comments, etc. have been a great motivation for me and a pleasure for me to read. You better be ready for tomorrow, as my legs won't want to stop exploring!

This is a look at me ready to tackle a typical day of nest hunting on the North Slope. Remember my description on an earlier journal - packpack, equipment in specific pockets, binoculars attached to front .... Yep, I am ready for the day!

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