yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: Mary Bay

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My field partner and I had fantastic luck this year with finding the unfindable. Seriously. Just like the salamanders hanging out in the Observation wetland, Mary Bay was even more of an unexpected surprise. There are only a handful of wetlands in the Park that have all four amphibian species and we were able to add Mary Bay to that list…it took us a few tries though.

The bottom portion of Mary Bay is filled with small thermal pools that dry up quickly and one very large pond that is so mucky around the edge that you can barely survey it. It’s actually pretty gross in there because it’s all filled with animal poo. The geese (as you can see in the photo above) and swans fill the wetland up. In fact, everything likes to poo in there. I’ve never seen so much tadpole poo in my life. I was scooping up large clumps of it. Heck, I even had to take a station break and go in the trees nearby. That never happens. Hailey’s Comet is more common.There’s just something very bowel releasing about the place. I’m not sure if that has anything to do with the fact that one scientist in the Park is convinced that if Yellowstone erupts, Mary Bay will be ground zero. Coincidence? I think not!

This is our annual July 4th survey. It’s usually scheduled for a half day and always takes a full day. Oh Mary Bay… The smaller sites were finished quickly because most had already dried up. The puddle-sized ones were bursting forth with tadpoles, adults still calling and attempting to lay even more eggs and metamorphs pouring out onto the dry ground. It was glorious. By the time we hit the Bay of Poo, the sky opened up and completely drenched us. Not the best way to begin an 1.5 hour survey! Because of the quicksand shoreline we were both only able to survey a small portion of the wetland. Despite this, we were convinced that we had seen spotted frog tadpoles, a load of chorus frog tadpoles, two fleeting salamander larvae and no toad tadpoles.

Later on, I spoke to Deb about what we’d seen and she mentioned being surprised that toad tadpoles are never found there because it’s thermal and they dig that scene. I began to question my amphibian identification skills at that point because, in retrospect, the thousands of small, dark tads clumped together along the shoreline seemed like they could have been toads. Toad tadpoles love to hang out in large congregations and are very curious. They won’t swim away when you approach them. In fact, they’ll usually swim right over to see what’s up. Other species definitely don’t act this way. At the time, we just couldn’t get that close to really tell for sure. So since we were returning in a few days to survey the dreaded upper sites, I agreed to give Poo Bay another looksee. Well, low-and-behold after much heated debate, we determined that the clumps of spotted frog tads were in fact, toads. By the hundreds! Thus, we were able to add Poo Bay to our small list of sites containing every amphibian species in the Park.

Surveying in Yellowstone is definitely like a box of chocolates…just not as tasty.

yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: Solfatara

Yup, still working my way through Yellowstone pics. These ones will not disappoint! No way in heck!

Solfatara is another fun site with tons of wetlands which are not too far from a trail. The trail is an absolute godsend because the forest is all downfall with sparse regrowth from previous burns so there’s a fair amount of hurdling involved. It takes about four days to survey the site so it’s gargantuan but extremely manageable.

Adding to my already impressive list of animal encounters this year, I saw the one creature I’ve been completely dying to see and it was waaaaay better than I’ve ever imagined it could be. Right at the start of the field season, I declared that if I saw a single, solitary river otter, even from a distance, than I could immediately go home a happy camper. That was my absolute #1 bucket list animal. And actually the second animal on my bucket list was a moose and you know how that turned out. (If you don’t, well, shame on you and then click here. Actually, click there anyways because I updated the photos.)

This was my third year surveying Solfatara and I’ve never seen an otter there but I heard through the Yellowstone grapevine that they’ve been hanging around those parts so my fingers were crossed. About halfway through our third survey day we got to a rather large pond/small lake. I began surveying first and about 1/4 of the way around a large brown creature plopped into the water only a few feet ahead of me. As you can tell from other posts, when I’m surveying a wetland, I’m not doing a great job of staying aware of my surroundings. That’s definitely something I need to work on because as you’ve read from the moose post, it’s gotten me into dangerously stupid situations.

Once I heard the plop, I froze and just waited for a second because whatever it was sounded rather large. As I stood at the waters edge, the adorable heads of not one but two river otters popped out of the water right there at my feet. I should have known something was up because I kept seeing spots where something(s) had been sunning itself along the edge and leaving behind half-eaten salamanders. I decided to start my surveys back up again so that I could give them some distance, but much to my surprise, they swam alongside me as I walked along the edge. Then my field partner got into the mix and they had to split their time between us.

Eventually, they found us boring and slid back on to the grassy edge to pose for pictures, perform their obviously well-rehearsed circus routine (which included laying on top of each other and then moving their heads in unison) and tying themselves into a knot and falling asleep. At the end of my survey, I decided to be a bit brazen and see how close I could get to them before they’d actually wake up. Well, it was only about ten feet. They poked their heads up at me, yawned and went back to bed. Its pretty sad when even an otter twosome finds you completely harmless.

Enjoy the pics! Aren’t they something!?!

River Otters at Solfatara OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA River Otters at Solfatara 2 River Otter at Solfatara 1

yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: Blacktail Plateau Drive

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Welcome to Disneyland people! This site was another first for me and I certainly hope it’s not my last. Honestly, as soon as we parked our car and started hiking, we had elk bounding across our path and birds were perched on our shoulders singing Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah. I felt like I was in a cartoon. We followed a great horned owl flying from tree to tree along with its tubby two fledglings. This blew me away because I’ve never encountered an owl in the daytime before and a great horned at that!

Our first wetland was occupied by a bison herd so we had to work around them as best we could. They were less than thrilled so they begrudgingly decided to move on about halfway through my survey. This was a bummer for me because everything is better with bison, including field work. As the mass migration was taking place, a few folks on horseback came down into the valley to chat with us while we surveyed. We must really be a site for people to behold. Here they are in the backcountry taking in the beautiful rolling hills of Yellowstone, never expecting to see another human soul, and two little girls with nets and waders pop out from the middle of a bison herd grazing in a wetland. Surprise!!!

Not only was the hiking and the wildlife viewing spectacular, the surveying wasn’t too shabby either. A few of the wetlands were absolutely filled to the brim with salamanders. No complaints there. The last wetland was an extremely large wet meadow comprised of tall, sharp grass which sliced my skin with every net swipe. Not cool. That’s a lot of pain just to find nothing but that’s how the job goes sometimes. The one rather neat thing about that meadow was that the substrate was comprised of itty-bitty fresh water clams. I kid you not. I’ve never seen anything like it in Yellowstone. Until further inspection, they looked like small pebbles. I told my field partner to examine the substrate and she agreed that I wasn’t totally out of my mind. Later, I told my supervisor what I’d seen and in all of her decades working in the area she’s never heard of anything like it. Thus, I’m not sure if someone slipped me some crack or not but at least my field partner was right there with me.

As you will discover from my blog, we survey a lot of Blacktail sites: Blacktail Pond, Blacktail Plateau, Blacktail something-or-other. These areas are in the northern part of the Park which includes a harrowing, pants-pooping trip over Dunraven Pass to get to. Usually, I’m frazzled and in need of medication and new pair of undies by the time we arrive at our destination. It’s certainly worth the trip though.

In all seriousness, this is where the rubber meets the road for climate change. Here, wetland loss is measurable and can be witnessed from year to year. People can argue the causes all they want but unless they have their head completely in the sand, they can’t deny that climate change is happening. This year Andy, Kenda and crew installed some data loggers in a few Blacktail wetlands to measure how rapidly this is all taking place. Time will tell but for now the future remains uncertain for the amphibians in this area. If only it was as easy as gathering them all into a large knapsack and releasing them somewhere safe. One can dream…

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The adult great horned owl in the trees.
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A garter snake sunning and eating all my tadpoles…jerk!
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This fawn and its mama were hanging out on the road as we drove to the site. Look at it scamper. So darn cute! I just want to pinch it! Pinch…Pinch.
yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: Storm Point

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From Indian Pond, to forest, to meadow, to dunes, to lakeside and back again. Storm Point is a super slice of heaven.
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A glorious view of the mountains from the shore of the largest high-altitude lake in the lower 48, Yellowstone Lake.

Storm Point is my absolute favorite hiking trail in Yellowstone. It’s short, non-strenuous, easy to get to and the views are breathtaking. Additionally, I always have interesting animal encounters here. Last year it was an overly-friendly squirrel doing vaudeville, complete with a top hat and cane, right there at my feet. This year was no different. I witnessed a nail-biter of a marmot squabble during my walk. As I approached the rocky cliff pictured above, an older couple warned me that there was a marmot scuffle in progress so I grabbed some popcorn and pulled up a seat (or stump in my case). There was indeed an argument of some sort taking place and I caught the tail end (oooh no pun intended). The triumphant winner is pictured here:

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Sorry for the animal scavenger hunt here. I promise, if you look hard enough, you’ll see the critter peeking out through the dead limbs on the ground…with a satisfied smirk on its face.

The other marmot was sent packing and scurried up the dunes to nurse its pride on a large rock.

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Can you see the pouty face on the rock there?
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Here’s a closer look at the little fella. That, my friends, is the look of defeat. Poor thing. We all win some and lose some, in seemingly equal measure.

Then I literally ran into a rabbit. Yup, tripped right over it. Apparently, it has the right-of-way on the trail? Is this a rule I was not aware of?

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Yet another animal scavenger hunt! Camouflaged against a tree, you’ll see the little scalywag when I’m not running over it.

Then as I approached Indian Pond, right at dusk, I watched the deer graze around the edges and even saw one swim from one end to the other. Ahh… the wonders of nature never cease to amaze. We are all blessed to live in a world where we can witness such things. Don’t take any of it for granted.

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yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: Dunraven

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Dunraven is another favorite of mine. It has beautiful old-growth forest with lots of small, manageable wetlands to survey. Even better, the hike is super majestic and downright enjoyable. You honestly expect trolls and fairies to pop right out and strike up a conversation. Despite its awesomeness, this year was a bit of a mess when it comes to Dunraven. It was intended to be a one-day survey that turned into a two-day depressing event. To make matters worse, all this went down on my field partner’s birthday. Not good.

All was smooth sailing and we were more than halfway through our survey sites when we happened upon my absolute favorite wetland. I was so psyched to get there and I was telling my field partner all about how awesome it is and how it’s usually packed with tadpoles and such. As I approached the wetland, I was surprised to see that it had shrunk in size compared to previous years. I mean, it was half the size. This was a bit unusual, especially since this year was considered to be fairly wet. I was disappointed but not too floored by this because I have a theory about Dunraven being extremely dynamic and that it’s becoming thermal (no one seems to agree with me on this though). So I was bummed to see my favorite wetland had shrunk but not totally shocked.

Another thing I noticed as I approached was that the water was moving and hundreds of little tails were breaking through the surface and splashing about. This is the kind of stuff that makes a herper jump for joy. So although the wetland had shrunk, the frogs didn’t get the memo and they were still doing their thing. Aces! Just in my first few net swipes I had more spotted frog tadpoles than I could count. This was going to be a fantastic survey! Well, you can guess what’s coming next…

About five minutes into my survey I began to discover that something was very wrong. I netted a dead adult frog, and then another. I stopped and took a good look at the water around me and I saw many dead or dying tadpoles. They were swimming in circles, sometimes upside down, and then just dying. It was extremely eerie. I abandoned my survey, told my field partner that we had ourselves a problem, and then instead of counting the living, we began counting the dead. We searched that wetland with a fine-tooth comb and found two dead adult spotted frogs and about thirty dead spotted frog tadpoles. This is of course not accounting for the hundreds of tads whirling around the surface doing strange stuff.

We both agreed to cut the day short instead of contaminating the other wetlands with our equipment. Being the amphibian lovers we are, all we could feel was dread. Any creature that even so much as walked through that wetland could be spreading something awful throughout the ecosystem.

That night I was able to contact my supervisor, who then contacted the disease specialists for the Park. That crew went out to take samples and either they went to the wrong location or they need eye exams because they couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary.

A few days later we resumed our surveys of Dunraven and on our way out we collected samples for the disease crew. We needed to collect a dozen dead tadpoles, slice their bellies open and place them in vials of alcohol. Since I love blood and guts, I was the slicer and my field partner was the wrangler. She had no problem finding dead things, to the point where I couldn’t keep up with her and we had our dozen within minutes.  The place was certainly in worse shape than we had left it the first time.

I am sad to report that as of right now, months later, we still don’t have any answers. It could be chytrid or it could be something new for all we know. Amphibian die-offs are not a priority in the Park. And even though they are considered species of special concern, that seems to be just on paper. It’s extremely frustrating. You risk life and limb to gather data for absolutely nothing. It all seems so futile at times. As with any job, you have to find your own meaning for doing it or you’ll be miserable and in this case I’ve found it, thankfully.

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yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: Lewis Lake

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Lewis Lake is in the south end of Yellowstone Park so you can actually see the Grand Tetons in the distance, or at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself all these years.

I love Lewis Lake. It’s like working at a luxury resort and if they ever try to give it to another field crew I’ll go all Cuckoo’s Nest on them. Sadly, many of its wetland sites are permanently drying up. That’s the bittersweet part of surveying here. Still, I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

This is a site that I know better than the back of my hand and I rarely need to consult the GPS to locate even the most remote wetlands. There’s just something about this place that’s become a part of my mental geography over the years. We have a good history. In 2006, my field partner and I swam the river with our survey equipment attached to our heads because we thought we had to survey everything. Needless to say, the sites across the river were dropped in 2007 and our soggy adventure was totally unnecessary. Still, I get lots of street cred for that maneuver. Since then, it’s all been an uphill, positive experience. I’ll note that this year, the biting insects were the worst here than anywhere else. Even the fishermen in the dorm agreed. Luckily, my homemade insect repellent worked like a charm. My field partner refused to try my concoction so I saw the opportunity for a little science experiment–a little compare and contrast between all-natural oils and DEET. Everywhere we worked she was being absolutely devoured and I was barely touched (and usually I’m a dream buffet of tastiness) so I was hands-down the winner. The only drawback to mine was that I had to apply it a little more often than her DEET.

All this writing about my repellent reminded me that while I was out surveying this site, I received a text from Shenandoah at O.C. Local Mojo telling me that she had basically sold out of most of my products. They had just opened on June 11th and it was only mid July! I remember walking on air for the rest of the day. Plus, I was feeling eager and excited to get back home so I could fill her store back up again. Trust me when I say, I never feel excited to leave Yellowstone after the field season (I’m mostly heartbroken) so this news was a gift.

Lewis Lake was also the location where I righted a terrible wrong. I realized that my field partner did not know who Hall & Oates was. She only knew one song: I Can’t Go For That. In her defense, she grew up in very rural Wyoming where all they played was country music; she never had a chance. And therein lies the travesty of it all. Now, if you’ve made my acquaintance, you’ll know that to me, a life without Daryl & John is absolutely not worth living. No can do! Needless to say, I wrung my hands and shed some tears over this but I was also quick to remedy the situation. In the field that day I provided an exhaustive karaoke primer and then let her hear the real thing on our next trip in my car (and the next trip, and the next, and the one after that…you get the point). I was worried there for a second that she may have grown too accustomed to my expertly sung, stripped down versions of their songs and would be disappointed by the real thing but duh…these are my boyz we’re talking about…they don’t disappoint! She was blown away and floored (at the same time, which is totally confusing) by their musical prowess. She even began requesting them on trips and humming their jams during our surveys. I was so darn proud of her! My mission of preaching the Hall & Oates gospel was complete. I could go back to New York right then if I wanted to, knowing that I had done right by the world. I didn’t, of course, but I could have.

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This little hellion is a predacious diving beetle larvae. They have been nicknamed “water tigers” for very good reason. I’d rather wrestle a bear than one of these.
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A group of Silvery Blue butterflies. Here’s an interesting tidbit: if you ever see a group of butterflies congregating on mammal poo, they’re actually males. Yup, it’s true. The males need the extra nutrients that the poo provides. Ahh… so many awful sexist jokes could be made but I’ll refrain because I believe in being sexy, not sexist.
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One of our survey sites is along the river. I never find tadpoles but there are tons of minnows and trout fry. I’m really good at netting them. You have to be lightning fast and I am…sometimes…on a good day…almost never.
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I took this picture with the idea of texting it to my mother because she fancies herself to be god’s gift to kayaking. Those are kayakers in the far distance but by the time I was ready to take the shot they were too far away to discern. Nevertheless, it’s still a lovely photo. What I wouldn’t give to kayak or raft there. Instead, I’m standing on solid ground netting for tadpoles. It’s a little weird and unconventional but I can’t complain.
yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: Crawfish Creek

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Read on…your burning questions regarding Mississippi Mud Bugs in Yellowstone are about to be answered!

Although I enjoy crawdads (or crayfish to us northeasterners), I do NOT enjoy Crawfish Creek. Remember the fire swamp in The Princess Bride? It’s just like that. It’s fun to watch in a movie but not fun to experience in real life. One minute you’re tromping through the forest and the next you’re being swallowed whole by thermal, mucky quicksand. For a few minutes I was sure that I sprained my ankle and I had no idea how I was going to be able to walk to the car through several miles of dense, uneven forest rife with ankle-breakers and non-stop stream crossings thrown in there for good measure. That’s my worst nightmare scenario. We took a break for a few minutes and luckily once the pain subsided I decided that it could bear weight. Sometimes I think that humans are built so inefficiently. I mean, ankles are just silly. Why? All they do is strain and sprain, twist and break.

So although the sites and the hike were hellish, one good thing came out of it. Just as my field partner and I were wondering if crayfish inhabit the cool, high altitude streams of Yellowstone, I looked down and there was my answer. It was at my feet, right there on dry land. Another critter must have plucked it out of the water and left it for some reason (the reason being to answer my question, of course). That’s the beautiful blue Mississippi Mud Bug you see in the picture above. I love it when the world cuts the crap for a second and answers a question in a very clear, concise and unexpected way. I wish that would happen more often.

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My field partner trying to figure out how she’s going to get across the stream. I just plow right through.
yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: Winter Creek

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I’m all geared up a ready to go. This was still at the beginning of the hike, when I wasn’t tired and grumpy!
Campsite at Grizzly Lakes Winter Creek
Our deluxe accommodations! It actually was the nicest place I’ve ever backcountry camped.
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One of the many toads my field partner whispered to.

Welcome to Winter Creek, just past Grizzly Lake! This site was a first for me. I’m not sure how after all these years I’ve managed to avoid it but I finally got a taste. It was a little more than a three mile hike to our campsite but it felt more like ten with our packs on. Nevertheless, it was beautiful! And just like the area promises, we saw some grizzly footprints and some wolf footprints on the way in. That never sets me at ease when it comes to backcountry camping (especially after Gibbon Meadows).

Our campsite was glorious! Deluxe, four-star, glorious. It was the nicest backcountry site I’ve ever been lucky enough to camp in. We had a great view of Trilobite Peak which I found to be a little slice of home because we’re all about the trilobites in New York. There was a stream with crystal clear water running nearby, elk grazing in the valley and a trail leading to an old tiny Forest Service cabin. And I of course took a zillion photos of the adorable tiny structure and proceeded to lose them. Sorry, lovers of all things small and quaint, I let you down.

We quickly set up camp and then hiked to our first survey site so we could take some of the burden off the next day’s workload. The hike was AWESOME! The “trail” started literally right at our tents and it consisted of walking up a dry streambed between two mountains. It was like hiking in the Ithaca gorges but uphill and dry. This kind of terrain is in my DNA. This was my jam.

We surveyed this enormous lake and halfway through it began to storm. I was in such a frenzy to finish that I ended up blowing past my field partner who started 20 minutes before me. And right at the beginning and the very end of my survey I apparently found the one and only salamander in the entire lake. It was right where I had left it from a few hours back so I was able to count it. Then we decided to cut our day short and head back to camp because the weather was threatening to get even worse. It’s a good thing we did because we were hit with a hail storm as soon as we entered our tents.

We started early the next day because we had a lot of bushwhacking and sites to hit and then we had to hike all the way back out before dark. We utilized our trail again and found most of our sites to be small and easy to survey with abundant tads. However, there were a few remote sites that were absolutely treacherous to get to. The, it-took-us-more-than-an-hour-to-walk-a-quarter-of-a-mile, kinda crap. This was even using every dry, semi-clear stream channel we could find but it was still rough going. This several-hour-long walk between wetlands was when I discovered my partner to be the toad whisperer. It seemed like every second she was finding one at her feet and I never discovered a single one. They were absolutely flocking to her. That’s okay though, I didn’t take it personally, I’m the salamander whisperer so we’ve all got our gifts. There’s actually more truth to this than one would expect. Each field biologist seems to be more adept at finding one specific species. It may be that our eyes are better at seeing certain movements or color patterns. There’s something to it though…there’s a master’s thesis hidden in all this somewhere.

When we arrived at the remote sites, they were bone dry, of course. These moments test your patience and acting skills. You’re mad at this point because you’ve gone all that way, through hell, for nothing. On the other hand, you’re also relieved because you’re exhausted and the last thing you want to do is trudge through a wetland with your heavy waders for an hour. So you have to slap on your best game face and pretend to be absolutley devastated.

The hike back to camp was a bitch which involved sliding down the side of a steep mountain on our butts and then realizing it was totally unnecessary after the fact. Oh well, you live, you learn. The hike back out to the car was easy and long but beautiful. We met three girls who were staying at our site and while we were crouched down looking at fresh grizzly tracks, a group of hikers snuck up behind us and scared the absolute crap out of us. We thought they were bears so we screamed bloody murder and jumped into each other’s arms. Needless to say, they got a kick out of us. Adding to that, there was a stream crossing and I was so tired that I didn’t even bother changing into my waders. I just plowed through the water with my sneaks and long pants on. Well, the hikers probably thought I was out of my mind but at least I was memorable…maybe.

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For reference, we surveyed and camped in the top center area of the map.
yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: Gardner River

Gardiner River with Electric Peak Gardiner River 1 Gardiner River 2 Gardiner River- Electric Peak Gardiner River 4This 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.