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Tree Planting Is Really Awful

Tree planting is a popular summer job in Canada. You can make a lot of money quickly, you spend a lot of time in the great outdoors, and it’s a paid way to lose weight while you dig holes in the hot sun over and over and over. It’s the perfect job, if...

Tree planting is a popular summer job in Canada. You can make a lot of money quickly, you spend a lot of time in the great outdoors, and it’s a paid way to lose weight while you dig holes in the hot sun over and over and over. It’s the perfect job, if you love very difficult jobs. Once you add in the shitty motel room you have to live in, with a complete stranger for a whole summer, you end up with a super bizarre experience that’s largely unenjoyable.

I spent two and a half months living at Sportsman's, a notoriously crappy motel in Merritt, British Columbia. It’s a go-to spot for planters, crackheads, and tourists who forgot to read the reviews for this “run down and filthy” motel. To put it into perspective, Sportsman's has no heating, no air-conditioning, limited hot water, and a drained pool. The stinky rooms accommodate two people, and each comes stocked with a toaster, microwave, two cups, two plates, and two sets of utensils.

In short, tree planting sucks. No matter the weather, you will spend long days hiking up hills, shoveling grass, and putting trees in the ground. At the end of the day, you’ll feel pain everywhere that you have nerve endings. Eight hours of sleep seems to last two minutes. Before you realize it, you'll find yourself under heavy rain the next morning, still half-asleep, with 40 pounds of trees hanging on your hips.

Since the job is so fucking tough, every fourth day you get a day off. Your muscles might appreciate it, but if you don't have a car, you're just going to spend it in a crappy motel. After a few weeks, you get to know every spot of dirt on the carpet and  every flattened mosquito on the wall. If you intend to make it through the extent of your contract, turn your brain off and get used to the dirt, the smell, the spotty internet, and the overall shittiness of your temporary home. Alcohol helps.

Anyway, these photos of mine are not so much about tree planting itself. They’re about living in terrible conditions and fighting off boredom. The parties that tree planters have on their days off tend to be very photogenic. As you’ll see, planters are experts at finding new ways to “escape.” We’re also very adept at setting pools on fire.

Jean Philippe Marquis is a young Quebecois photo journalist whose work can be seen here.

Léa the dog, keeping her head out of the warm weather.
Jean-Philippe Marquis

Laundry day for Andrew. The only washing machine in the motel was so shaky and noisy that we could hear it run from inside our room. It had to be screwed to the floor so it wouldn't wreck everything.
Jean-Philippe Marquis

Getting a new haircut by the tool shelves.
Jean-Philippe Marquis

The burning of the pool became a go-to for partying on our night off. The ritual ended once our neighbours called the firemen and the city gave us a huge fine. Then we turned the pool into a skate park.
Jean-Philippe Marquis

Tree planter and skateboarder Francois, skateboarding in the motel pool.
Jean-Philippe Marquis

This poorly written contract served as an agreement between us and the motel that we wouldn't sue them for our skateboarding injuries.
Jean-Philippe Marquis

On St. John's eve, unknown planters traded the Canadian flag for a moose skeleton. The motel managers weren't pleased.
Jean-Philippe Marquis

Metal artist Loren chugging a protein shake after a long planting day. He says he has a pick-up truck worth of tattoos on his back.
Jean-Philippe Marquis

The Carrico sisters, both awesome planters, heading out for grocery shopping on their day off.
Jean-Philippe Marquis

Tree-boxes are covered with paraffin, so they make perfect fire starters.
Jean-Philippe Marquis

Cloé sunbathing by the empty pool.
Jean-Philippe Marquis

Planter and first-aider, Brandon, going for a ride with his father's bike.
Jean-Philippe Marquis

Getting all dolled up for the tree planter's ball, a long-awaited show that gathers 500 planters from all over BC in a local bar.
Jean-Philippe Marquis

DJing and dancing in the pool after the ball wrapped up.
Jean-Philippe Marquis

Watching the sun rise on the roof, the morning after the long-awaited ball.
Jean-Philippe Marquis

Jean-Philippe Marquis