Thankfully, it was an easy hike in to Tanger Lake. It’s just outside of the south entrance to the Park and the trail begins just behind a horse corral at the South Entrance Park Ranger Station. There’s no way we would have found the trail had I not remembered surveying this site in 2006–it’s way too random of a location for a trail head. First thing, Andrew and I tackled surveying Tanager Lake which was a complete nightmare. It took us both just shy of two hours to survey the perimeter and it was downright unpleasant. Most of the water’s edge was concealed by brambles so you had no idea where you were stepping and one false move would leave you stuck in waist-deep muck–requiring your partner to come pull you out with a rope. Andrew fell in and filled his waders so he was soaked and miserable for the rest of the day. I fell down a million times in the brambles and nearly filled my waders on several occasions. I even took a pine tree to the face during a stream jump while simultaneously getting one wader stuck in the muck. We both laughed at my mishap and then quickly realized that had I not remained loose, my ankle would have snapped in half. To add insult to injury, no tadpoles were found in the entire freaking lake! All that work and physical anguish for absolutely no pay-off. The rest of the sites were relatively small, the largest one taking us maybe 20 minutes to survey. There were so many nearly metamorphosed spotted frog tadpoles and a few adorable chorus frog tads in the wetlands, plus some adult spotteds and a wandering garter snake to boot. I’m so thankful when we find something at a site. Several of the sites had tons and I mean tons of moose poop in them. That’s so freakin’ cool that I don’t even mind wading around in it! We made quick work of the surveys we planned to do for the day and headed to the trail just as a huge storm rolled in. The wind was whipping through the trees so hard that we were both extremely nervous about one coming down on us. The tree situation in Yellowstone is actually more dangerous than one would expect. They have such shallow roots that high winds can easily cause blow downs and many of the trees are standing dead from the 88 fire which makes them even more prone to falling at any moment. We hurried to the trail and just as we were almost to the horse corral we saw a pine tree with huge bear claw marks running down it’s bark. That was certainly cool but seeing that and hearing the trees creek (which sounded a lot like angry bears at the time) definitely encouraged us to step it up several gears.
During the hour drive home a sub-adult cinnamon black bear jumped out into the middle of the road right in front of my car. It looked like it had been clipped by the Honda Civic ahead of me but Andrew assured me that it was just surprised and safely ran back into the woods. The Honda didn’t seem to even know about the bear so I’m going with Andrew’s take on it. I certainly hope it wasn’t clipped. We returned to an empty dorm but it didn’t stay that way for long. Andy came to download data and bond with me over Def Leppard. He’s such a light-hearted guy. Plus, he was all matchy-matchy today which cracks me up. His lime green shoes just had to match his lime green shirt. Someone like that, who has a position of power, could choose to be a real jerk but he’s genuinely a really nice guy. I guess his team had lost one of their expensive PDA’s when we were all out at Nez Perce. He was desperately hoping we had it but to no avail. So if anyone wants an expensive piece of equipment and is up for the 15-mile hike, go to Nez Perce via the Mary Mountain Trail and poke around.
Our Wisconsin friends are car camping in a forest north of the Park until Thursday so I won’t be laughing as much until their return. We did, however, get a new dorm-mate and I got acquainted with her while Alex (one of zee Germans) fed me his delicious leftovers. Amy is a bubbly young gal who adds even more sunshine and enthusiasm to this already fun dorm crew. She’s working with the sociologist for a few weeks, interviewing people at bear jams. Off to bed now and back to Tanager again tomorrow to finish it up and teach this catchment a lesson!