Treeplanting as a summer job is intense. You work for about 10 hours a day, walking in clear cut forests, carrying bags of tree seedlings on your back, manually planting anywhere from 1500-3500 trees in the dirt. Then you go home to your tent, sleep for a few hours, wake up and do it again.
So yeah, as far as jobs go, it pretty much sucks. Why would anyone do this crazy tortuous work, you might ask? Well, the answer is simple: you can make large sums of cash very quickly. Needless to say treeplanting attracts a lot of students looking to pay tuition, and a lot of hippies looking to make money for weed and essentials during the year.
I am a city girl. There’s no getting around it. Although I grew up in Africa, and spent every summer at camp, as a rule I tend to enjoy an air conditioned apartment, an overpriced vegan cupcake and a glass of wine as a standard of living. I live for yoga classes and nice clothes and complaining about the TTC. How could a gal like me end up in a clear cut forest with a wolf running 40 feet away from her?
I’ll tell you how, it’s all quite simple- it was a combination of a boy, and a desire to go to Montmartre and reenact every scene from Amelie. I was dating a former treeplanter, and in an effort to finance a European adventure, we decided to both work a summer in the great Canadian wilderness. So without further ado, in the words of a soft city slicker, here are five of the worst things about one of the toughest jobs in the country.
1. Second Winter
When you’re going up to northern BC in May, it’s like being in Toronto in January. Aka freezing. So, so cold. Sometimes there’s snow. Maybe this is just the African in me talking, but suffering through one winter is horrible enough. Suffering through a second one is…near debilitating.
2. You have to dress like a lumberjacky vagrant
Pretty self explanatory, but the thought of bringing back my fourth grade cargo pants look was almost too much for me to bear.
Hell hath no fury like a swarm of mosquitos in the middle of a secluded forest near the Rockies. And Black flies. And No Seeums. You get the picture.
4. Little To No Outside Communication
This one is actually kind of awesome. You get three months where you don’t spend hours on Twitter and Facebook, can’t keep up with your reality shows, and generally don’t care about all the bullshit society makes us care about. But spotty internet and no cell reception can also mean missing friend’s birthdays, not being able to talk to your famjam and I’m sorry, but a lady needs her Perez every once and a while. I’m not proud.
5. Your Body
There is no way to predict what Treeplanting will do to your body. People assume that because it’s three months of strenuous physical activity, at the end of it you will look good. Well, I can tell you from personal experience, this is not necessarily true. Chris (my then-BF, now husband) has pretty much wrecked his knees and back from four summers of planting. My fate, however, was that in three short months I gained about 15 pounds from the carb heavy, fat laden food they feed you to keep you alive. And that, coupled with the food of a four month European adventure, led to a whole lot of salads for the next year straight. So planting made me fat, and I was also afflicted with a condition known as “The Claw,” that involves one’s hand involuntarily clenching in a fist that is extremely hard and painful to open. Yeah, it can take a toll.
There are also great things about planting. You meet great people, you get to see some of the most beautiful remote forests and mountains in Canada, you get to ride in helicopters and make a large amount of money. Which explains why, although I’ve hung up my planting shovel, I continue to put up with second winter and swarms of bugs every summer as the head cook for my old planting company. As Hannah M. would say, where summer gigs are concerned, I truly have the best of both worlds.
~ Kristy LaPointe