This outing took two teams to accomplish because of the five mile walk to the wetlands and the potential for sketchy wildlife encounters. A few years ago, my field partner was almost attacked by a grizzly mother with two cubs during the hike in. The mother literally swam across the river, with her cubs in tow, to charge the crew. Luckily, she was a good mother and swam over to save her little ones from being swept away instead of continuing her pursuit. Despite frequent bear sightings in the area just days before, no bears were seen on our trip…just tracks. However, we did see a lot of elk, which is always a welcome treat.
It was a glorious day and hike, with beautiful views of Electric Peak and the surrounding mountains. I’ve always wanted to climb Electric Peak (and Avalanche Peak) but I’ve never felt fit enough. Maybe next year (fingers, toes and eyes crossed). During our surveys, a few not-so-lovely storms missed us by a mere few feet. I’m not even joking. I was sitting on the edge of the wetland, completely dry, and it was raining in the wetland. There’s nothing worse than being in a severe rainstorm five miles from shelter. That’s just a hop, skip and a jump away from hypothermia. Luck was certainly with us on this trip.
The wetlands were full of chorus frogs (including adorable little metamorphs), adult toads and salamanders which remained just out of my reach. Salamanders enjoy deeper waters and I’m just too short to get to them, even with my telescoping net. Because of this, they tend to make me feel like my surveys lack in accuracy. Yes, yes, basically salamanders make me feel inadequate (paging Dr. Freud) but I forgive them just on the basis of their awesomeness. Luckily, Dr. Andy Long Legs was with me to easily wade into the depths so I could rest easy knowing all bases were covered.
This trip also marked the downward slide between me, my field partner and the other field crew. I will not go into details on this here blog, but let’s just say that the relationship began to sour due to misunderstandings originating from this trip. Sad but true. Things happen and field work is inherently stressful which can bring out the very best and worst in people. I will say for the record, despite all of our differences, I enjoyed each and every person I worked with (and met) this field season and wouldn’t change a thing. It was just a shame that some things went down the way they did.
The hike out was arduous and bloody. I took some bad advice from someone who told me that the entire hike was on-trail so I wore shorts. Big mistake! Either that person clearly wasn’t remembering correctly, or they hated me (probably both). It was 80% off-trail through sagebrush which sliced up my legs with every step. By the end, my legs were on fire from being rubbed raw, whipped and repeatedly stabbed. To make matters worse, I had a few bloody slices across them that were taking the brunt of it all. Every stream crossing was an absolute blessing because I could find relief in the cool water. I didn’t make one peep of complaint though until we got to the car and my co-workers were able to get a good look at me. They were a bit horrified and I was embarrassed that I had made such a rookie mistake. Shorts and field work are not a winning combo. Everyone knows that…except for me…but I certainly do now.
From the pictures above, I wanted to point out the beautiful gentian plant being admired. That particular gentian takes 40 years to reach maturity and flower. Wow! That plant is older than me! That seems like an extremely daring life strategy.