the animal's journal

Where are you and where are you going?
jacob
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by jacob »

STEM gradstudents get paid. 25k/year is about normal. That's what I got too. It's a pretty good deal for the university to hire MSc's at that rate (1/3 of industry pay) given how you will TA a class or two per semester while your research will hopefully result in a handful of papers(*) during the course. Other fields like humanities, business, and law typically pay their own way/get insulting stipends. OTOH, they're not expected to treat it as a full-overtime job either and are allowed years to finish. As with anyone contemplating grad school, I always recommend/insist you read through http://phdcomics.com/ from the 1st post to the last.

(*) Thus keeping the professor's grant going/preparing for the next grant. That's what's paying for the grad students. Postdocs are more expensive (35-45k) but they also tend to be more productive, so ...

PS: I guess I'm not challenging you to another burpee competition. I'm still struggling with Asylum and Asylum 2.

Seppia
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by Seppia »

Please keep us posted on the podcast, can't wait.

Viktor K
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by Viktor K »

Started out like it was going to be a depressing post where I'd feel bad for you and offer comforting words and then it 180'd and left me impressed and wanting to offer congratulatory words.

trailblazer
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by trailblazer »

Wow. But curious why not pursue special forces? You are already doing their training in your free time for fun. In many ways it would be the opposite of total freedom, but you seem like an ideal candidate. They would throw you into the most unique problem-solving situations imaginable and bring lots of the meaningful human camaraderie you are seeking.

theanimal
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by theanimal »

@Jacob- I'll check that link out. Most of my friends now are in or have recently completed similar programs to what I'm interested in doing. I think that has given me a decent insight of what to expect. You may still win the burpee competition. My endurance is up but speed is not much different than what it was before. A few weeks ago I did 1 min max expecting to crush my numbers and come on here and brag about it. I did less than what I did in my last post... :oops:

@Seppia-Will do!

@Victor- Yes a bit more introspective when I intended. But all is good on the home front!

@trailblazer- It's still on the table. However, my swimming ability isn't where it needs to be to pass/be competitive in screening tests. I've been working on that intensely this winter. My parents made me do swim team when I was a kid, but I hated it. I wasn't any good and was somewhat scared of the water. So I knew how to swim, but I sucked, both technique and endurance wise. A year ago I was in top shape but out of breath after swimming 100 meters. That's changed big time. Now I'm up to 2500+ in one go. No breathing issues. But I'm still too damn slow...Otherwise everything else is where it needs to be. We'll see. I'm running up against some time limits (age) too, so if I want to do this it needs to happen relatively soon (within 3 years).

theanimal
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by theanimal »

April was indeed as fun as I thought it would be. The month started off with the ski race. Nerves were heightened at the start due to a deep snow year and nasty conditions. 20 started and I trailed behind the trio in front for the first couple days. Towards the end of the second day, I was descending from a pass when I crashed, triggering a small avalanche. As I floundered in the snow trying to move out of its path, I heard a large boom echo from higher above. The large face above had opened up about 300 yards wide and came roaring down. There was nothing for me to do but wait and see if I'd be caught in its path. Thankfully, its path veered below my position, filling the gully about 50 yards distant from where I sat. If I was in its path, its unlikely I'd be writing these words here today. The three out front came up to meet me from the valley below, fearing the worst. I was a bit shaken up and the incident plus conditions were enough to persuade everyone to change their route and head back to the road or a different finishing point. Instead of racing, I skiied the 60 miles or so back to the road with a group of 8. Outside of the avalanche, it was a very enjoyable experience. I wrote a post on my blog if anyone is interested in reading more. There are also more pictures there.

After the race I hung around my cabin, venturing off on the various winter trails throughout the area with my fatbike. I had a blast travelling through familiar areas via different means. I was able to see a lot of country in a little time. After a few days of this I joined two good friends of mine who were performing field work in the area. We spent the rest of the month chasing bunnies and great horned owls. The great landscape paired with even better company arguably made for the highlight of my year to date.

I started my new forestry job this past week. We have 3 weeks of training before heading off into the field. So far it has been just the fun stuff: shotgun training, wilderness first aid, bear safety, and helicopter safety. We transition into botanical info/data collection practices this upcoming week.

I bought a car yesterday. A 2000 Subaru Outback for $4k. The car has a new engine as of a few years ago and other new parts where these models are known to fail later on. The car is in remarkably good condition. I don't even feel like I have to add the qualifier "for it's age."

I spoke with a professor at the University this past week about graduate school and he was telling me of some of his projects that were in the works. Most of it I found very appealing. Two examples are figuring out how wildlife responds to drones and seeing how animals respond to human/industrial soundscapes in areas that may see change (like ANWR). As of now, I think this is a path that I will pursue.

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The avalanche. Picture taken by someone else and the panorma distorts it so I'm not sure what's where. But the big avalanche is apparent. I was somewhere to the right side of it.

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About to bike through a canyon on a local river

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Travelling along a slough in search of a trail camera

Kriegsspiel
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by Kriegsspiel »

It's cool you didn't die in an avalanche.

2Birds1Stone
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by 2Birds1Stone »

Glad you made it out of that alive. I recently found your blog(s) and I have to say, Alaska is now one of my top places to visit for an extended period of time.

If someone were to hypothetically want to spend 8-10 weeks up there exploring the state, is there a route/areas you would suggest specifically? Part of my ERE plans involve pulling a small camper or a slide in camper on a pickup and exploring most of North America.

theanimal
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by theanimal »

@2B1S

Yes. Here's a rough outline of what I'd do. Presuming you are driving up…

Enter AK/US and head towards Tok. From Tok, take the Tok Cutoff towards Gakona. This route will take you through a section of the Alaska Range. You’ll be driving through narrow valleys with the Delta Mountains on one side and the Wrangells/ Wrangell St. Elias National Park on the other. Before reaching Gakona, you’ll pass the Nabesna Road which is a gravel road that goes some 40 miles into Wrangell St Elias NP. There are plenty of options for camping, hiking, fishing and more along the road. There are also a few Park cabins available not too far off the road.

From Gakona, I’d head north to Paxson, where you’d hang a left and hop on the Denali Highway. This is a ~130 mi gravel road that travels parallel to the Alaska Range. Big wilderness and recreational opportunities abound. You could probably spend a week or more just on this section.
Upon reaching the other side you are about 30 miles south of Denali NP. Outside the park is very touristy, catering mainly to cruise ship passengers and their ilk.

You could head north from Denali into Fairbanks. For visitors, Alaska’s cities don’t offer many attractive options and most don't seem to enjoy the cities. The cities are planned poorly, leading to massive sprawl and congestion (a problem mainly found in Anchorage). If you like museums, I would highly recommend visiting the Museum of the North at UAF. Creamer’s Field is a nice spot to watch for migrating birds and offers a nice array of trails. There are also plenty of hiking trails located just outside of town.

I would highly recommend going north of Fairbanks to the Brooks Range. Very few Alaskan residents travel north of Fairbanks and even fewer visitors. Most don’t see the northern half of the state, but it is just as beautiful as elsewhere. It is a decent drive to the beginning of the mountains ~6 hours. From there, the road travels 100 miles through the mountains before emptying out onto the North Slope and the Arctic Coastal Plain. There is a good chance of seeing caribou and musk ox if you head north of the mountains.

There’s only one road through the north, so you return how you arrived. Heading back to Fairbanks. From there, I would head down to Valdez. The north side of the Alaska Range will be in view for the first half if the weather is clear. You’ll go through the Alaska Range once more and find yourself where you entered the Denali Highway. 3 more hours brings you down into Valdez. The town receives A LOT of precipitation but if the weather is clear, it’s hard to find a more beautiful spot. Big mountains, glaciers and the open ocean tower above the town. You’ll likely see more wildlife in this area, both on land and sea.

On your way in or out of Valdez, you could head east to McCarthy and travel the McCarthy Road. Like the Nabesna Road, this is a gravel road that travels through the heart of Wrangell St. Elias NP. You'll see big mountains, old mining equipment, the Copper River, glaciers and more..

Depending on timing and how much driving you wanted to do, you could head west from there towards Anchorage and venture south to the Kenai Peninsula. There you’ll find more glaciers, mountains and wildlife. I haven’t spent much time down there, only travelling as far as Seward. Homer sounds like an Alaskan utopia from what I’ve heard.

You’ll have traveled about 2,000 miles around the state, spent a couple months and will have hardly seen any of it :P If you have any other questions, don't hesitate to ask. Let me know if you come up. It’d be great to meet up.

theanimal
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by theanimal »

Well I figure I'm probably due for an update.

I had a wonderful summer for the most part. I really enjoyed my job and the people I worked with. The work took me to many places throughout the Interior and Alaska Range that I hadn't spent much time in before. The combination of being outside everyday, somewhat stimulating work, and good people for the most part made for good times. The pay wasn't bad either. I don't know the exact number off the top of my head but I think I pulled in something like $20k for 4 months of work. The schedule was 9 days on 5 off leaving me plenty of time to get around and do stuff in my off time. I moved out of the place I was staying for the summer and ended up doing outdoor trips or staying with friends in my off time. I did two hiking/packrafting trips and one hiking trip all of which were very enjoyable. I also flew back to the Chicago area in July during one of my breaks for my mom's wedding. which was also nice.

On the food acquisition front- for a while it didn't seem like I'd get any fish this year as the runs were really low to start and any openings happened during my work shifts. In August there was a brief window where I went down on a whim and was able to catch 17 salmon. In the beginning of Sept. I went moose/sheep hunting with a friend but turned up empty. Last week I went down to Montana and joined a group of friends for a bison hunt in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness area. That was EPIC. One of the coolest things I've done. We hiked 6 miles in, my friend shot a lone old bull and we processed it/packed it out over the next couple days. I brought down two coolers and was able to bring them back with about 115 lbs of meat. Both of the above should get me through a decent portion of the winter. There are winter moose/caribou hunts which have picqued my interest though so I may be adding more to the freezer within the next couple months.

The winter ahead seems to hold a mix of seasonal employment and trips. I'm currently working as a technician for a forestry project for the University. This job will end within a couple weeks. It gets me outside but is extremely monotonous. I have a friend who offered me a position doing data analysis later on this winter that I'll probably take. Otherwise I'll try to get more writing published. Another of my essays got published in a decently distributed magazine and another will be published in February. At home, I'm in the process of building a hydroponic tower. The design is set to have roughly 20 plants. I'm thinking I'll plant mostly greens to start. I was accepted into Lambda School and initially decided to do it but ultimately I decided it was something I don't want to do. Sitting behind a screen and indoors for much of the year does not jive well with my personality. I tend to lean more towards the thinking of former Navy SEAL David Goggins in that "becoming civilized is the worst thing you can do."

As of now, I think I'll do the same job I did this past summer. I also have some other things in mind on the self employment/small business front. I think I'll do a business up here that I've run in the past elsewhere, a friend and I are discussing a foraging style business based mainly off morels and berries, small scale commercial fishing on the Yukon has seemed appealing lately as well as harvesting birch syrup. How many of these I'll end up doing remains to be seen. It would be quite the busy summer if I was to do all of that and still get out for my personal trips/regular summer stuff.

Things I'd like to work on this winter
-Becoming better at being content by focusing on internal rather than external. My history has led me to seek external events/people for satisfaction. I'd like to change/minimize this. Any advice is appreciated.
-Find a girlfriend
-Get back to ridiculously fit level

Hope everyone's well!

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We flew 95% of days for work. The views from the helicopter were outstanding

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Caribou sheds in the Denali area

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Hiking back to the LZ from a day at work

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Can't beat the light in AK. A late summer sunset

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An alpine valley from one of my personal trips

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View of Denali and Foraker. We spent a month working/living in Denali and had great views. Our base camp was about 30 miles from the mountain, which allowed for great views daily

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My friend with the bison
Last edited by theanimal on Mon Oct 01, 2018 8:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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C40
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by C40 »

Thanks for the updates! I'm so jealous of all your salmon and bison meat. I imagine it's pretty tough finding a girlfriend up there(?)

theanimal
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by theanimal »

Hunting and fishing is the way to eat like a king while still following ERE principles.

Yeah, the market is limited and very tight. There are more males than females and very few of those females are single. Anyone who is single and at least reasonably attractive gets snatched up quickly. A couple of my friends and I joke that the only way to have success is wait at the airport and find a woman after she gets off the plane... I haven't made as much effort as I should have over the past few months but nonetheless the number of women I've met over the past 8 months or so who I find attractive and are single could likely be counted on one hand... It doesn't help that the area is pretty transitory for many in their 20s and 30s.

Viktor K
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by Viktor K »

Sounds like an awesome summer! I'll have to do something like this in the next few years

Seppia
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by Seppia »

Still the #1 most kickass journal on the internet.
Thanks for the update

Mister Imperceptible
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by Mister Imperceptible »

Your journal is like Jack London updated for the 21st century.

Someone told that you’ve got to import a woman from the Lower 48 if you’re up there.

Colibri
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by Colibri »

@the animal
I am in your geographic region, more precisely in the Yukon Territory. If you want to write, there is an arts and entertainment newspaper here that is constantly looking for new writers, they only have freelancers. I wrote a few articles for them, they are easy to deal with and very open minded on subject. We get articles about Alaska pretty often, mainly about Skagway and Haines or Fairbanks. Anyway, check this out if it sounds interesting to you

https://whatsupyukon.com

Jason

Re: the animal's journal

Post by Jason »

With that pic of you standing on top of the world looking all Jeremiah Johnson and shit, I would think you would have a march of the penguins line of indigenous girls following you back to camp.

In any event, I can only suggest the typical outlets: mail order brides and penitentiary girls.

7Wannabe5
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

I can check and see if my sister would be willing to pay to ship my beautiful-but-living-in-the-basement niece up to you. She's definitely a city girl, but very fit due to years of dance training, so could make for an interesting youtube series.

RealPerson
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by RealPerson »

Those are really badass pictures, especially the buffalo. I spent 10 days backpacking in the Montana wilderness this summer. Beautiful country. I always thought of hunting as a hobby more than part of FIRE, but I know Alaska is very different. Is it cost effective between equipment and licenses to hunt in the lower 48?

prognastat
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Re: the animal's journal

Post by prognastat »

@RealPerson

Definitely a topic I'd be interested to hear about too. From what little I've heard it can get very expensive very quickly if you need to go on private land to do so.

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