Travel, yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: July 14th, 2013

DSCF2504DSCF2502Not much to speak of today. I read a book on Matrix Reimprinting–which is basically a more in-depth version of EFT and tapping– almost cover to cover. I was completely sucked in. I would love to try it on someone besides myself. I hate being my own guinea pig, but more than that I guess I feel like other people would benefit from and are deserving of my skillz more than I. Messed up, I know. Then I headed down to Leeks Marina in the Grand Tetons to meet Deb for pizza and to pick up our work assignments for the next week. The view from the marina was gorgeous. It’s amazing how vastly different the Tetons are from Yellowstone, although the ecosystems are right next to each other. The mountains are so high and jagged and extreme while Yellowstone is more gently rolling–if that makes any sense. The pizza was okay but wow, did it mess with my stomach! I’ve been out of the cheese game for a week or two and it’s amazing how happy my body is without it. Regardless, I’ll never turn down pizza. On the 1.5 hour ride back to the dorm, I suspiciously eyed all of the lakes and rivers, wishing I wasn’t so disappointed by my recent fishing excursions. As soon as I got back to the dorm I read some more of the EFT book and then stayed up talking and laughing with Andrew and Janine until 1 am. Most of the conversation was spent swapping field work adventures, talking about Janine’s job as an endangered sheep biologist outside of San Diego, hearing scary stories of Yellowstone’s Pelican Valley, and then the conversation turned to relationships and the differences between men and women. We dropped some important knowledge on Andrew that night that will serve him well in his, hopefully, long years of husband-hood.

Travel, yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: July 4th, 2013


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Oh Mary Bay…what can I say. This was the only wetland so far to have completely turned my stomach. Mary Bay is a large pond/lake that is just filled to the brim with waterfowl turds. Each year it gets a little smaller and I know why: it’s being filled in with poo. We could only survey a small portion of the perimeter because the ground was so unstable. When we did manage to dip a net, it was always filled to the brim with bird doo-doo (and also few chorus frog tadpoles and one dead salamander larvae). The rest of the sites around Mary Bay were thermal and completely dried up. Since we were close to the road and a prime internet spot, people parked in the pull-offs and watched us survey. This included the Wisconsonian-forest ecologist-trouble-makers who relished the opportunity to heckle us from their truck. Jerks! Since most of the wetlands were dry in previous years, we had assumed that we would finish quickly. Hah! Hah…hah! Well, you know all about how our assumptions turn out by now. I had a self-imposed end time of 2 pm because I had to drive to Jackson Hole to see the 4th of July fireworks. So we finished the bay sites within two hours and hustled up the ridge to survey the other sites. Oh, I should mention, right before our ridge hustle, I literally came four feet from running head first into a solitary male bison. He was hanging out in a thermal area just over a little hill. I was running to catch up with Andrew, crested the hill and there was big boy bison standing right in my blind spot. We were literally face to face. He seemed delighted to see me and was not alarmed at all. I, on the other hand, nearly shat myself and ran away. I looked back and he seemed disappointed in my reaction, like he was lonely and looking forward to sharing his little thermal pool with me.

I caught up with Andrew and it was onward and upward. On the map and gps there seemed to be an obvious trail to the sites but that was soooo not the case when we crested the ridge. The trail looked like tornado alley. It was a never-ending sea of mature downed trees that we had to climb over. It took hours to get to and from each wetland and it was painful. Here is what I want to write in the field notes for future surveyors: Upper Mary Bay–You will get shived more times than a prison yard scuffle. No joke. My legs are now a cut-up, bloody, and bruised mess. Every step through that site was painful. A rainstorm rolled in during our last few surveys but it was a welcome reprieve from the brutal heat. And our last few sites were rather pleasant. We followed well-traveled game trails to the wetlands and the lush forest suddenly felt like we were in the Pacific Northwest. A few of the wetlands that were dry in previous years, were the size of small puddles but they were overflowing with near metamorph chorus frogs. They had tiny little arms and legs but still had their large tadpole tails. They were adorable! Once our last site (which was dry) was finished we followed a game trail out and it was easy-going. What took us several hours to hike on the way in took us only a few minutes to hike on the way out. Let that be a lesson to you, always take the game trails. You may end up in a bear den or exactly where you want to be, either way, it’s better than being in a jail yard situation.

Luckily, I was finished by 2 pm and was on my way to Jackson. The fireworks were great. The company was great. I couldn’t have asked for anything more. The one thing I learned from my weekend though was to never, ever, try to find a spur of the moment campsite or hotel anywhere near Yellowstone, the Tetons or Jackson Hole during the 4th of July. You either have to plan way in advance or just give up. The rest of my weekend was spent with someone I absolutely adore. He drove over seven hours to come visit lil ole me, which was way more than I would have ever expected from him. I played tour guide (which I failed at for the most part) and the weather was absolute crap at times but it was a lot of fun.

Travel, yellowstone national park

Yellowstone: July 3rd, 2013

Sand Hill Cranes at Dunraven (2)

Ahh, the beautiful Dunraven catchment. This was supposed to be a two-day affair but Andrew and I blew it up (in a good way). I think the Iron Maiden car-ride/jam session helped lay the right foundation for the day. The walk in was about an hour through dense old-growth forest with areas of downed mature trees. By comparison, this catchment was much easier going than Rock Point or Crawfish Creek because it was flat and the dead wood was by no means as dense. Plus, it was majestic on the eyes with it’s lush green understory, large pine trees, and winding streams. I kept waiting for a woodland nymph or troll to pop out from under a hummock and give me a hard time. But alas, it never happened. We were bound and determined to finish this catchment in a day so we were on fire. We had the first three sites surveyed and cataloged within the first 45 minutes and we kept that pace the entire day. Rest assured, we didn’t miss a thing but we also didn’t dilly-dally. We hit a snag when we got to a huge wet meadow (which we all know by now, I despise them). Pacing in the middle of this meadow was an angry pair of sandhill cranes. Presumably there was a nest in and amongst the wetland vegetation that they were determined to not let us get anywhere near. I like cranes but getting close to one that is nesting is not my idea of a good time, especially since I had one almost eat my face off at Nez Perce. We agreed to stay far away from the cranes and survey what we safely could. I made my way out into the wet meadow only to discover that it was instead a bog–a thermal bog. The only thing keeping me from plunging into a superheated sea of mucky water was a wobbly moss mat under my feet. My footing was tenuous at best and I almost fell through the mat on several occasions. I told Andrew to stay back, declaring it unsafe to survey, and made my way back towards solid ground. I surveyed a few thermal pools near the edge (boreal toad tadpoles like thermal areas so it was worth doing) and told Andrew that it was in his best interest to not venture out. He took my advice and we walked away from the site feeling a little defeated but also wise.

This was one of the catchments where we had to perform a stream survey which simply consists of walking along a stream and looking for signs of beaver activity. Beavers bring hope to us amphibian people. They create new breeding habitat, which is especially important since some of Yellowstone’s wetlands are permanently drying up. Thus far, we haven’t found any beaver activity in the Park but Deb just surveyed some high-quality wetlands made by beavers in the Tetons. During our leisurely jaunt along the stream I tripped and fell–of course, it was only a matter of time. To make matters worse, my pants literally exploded during the fall. My button came undone and my zipper flew open leaving me on the ground with my pants down. I scrambled to my feet and hiked up my pants before Andrew could see and never let me live it down. The worst part is that at our next survey site, I discovered that I had lost our only thermometer during the fall. Normally, I would have caught that but I was in such a hurry to right myself that I didn’t stop to look what had fallen out of my pockets. So the last three surveys of the day were lacking in air and water temperature data. Luckily, we didn’t find tadpoles in those wetlands so I don’t think it mattered much.  Along the stream were a few eerie patches of relatively new thermal pockets in the forest. It looks like the area was literally bombed. It’s weird to see a large chunk of forest now killed off. The trees are dead but still standing and there is no plant life on the forest floor. It’s just a large, bare patch of  steaming, sulfur smelling earth with only dead things in it. According to one of the German geochemists living at the dorm, back in the 1990s the Park experienced high number of rapidly appearing thermal areas.

Sand Hill Cranes at Dunraven

They were literally popping up overnight. The Park was more than happy to have her come and research the geochemistry of the thermals because they were perplexed and a bit concerned. It has since slowed down but I can’t help but wonder if these particular thermal areas in Dunraven were from that time in the 1990s when the earth was going a little crazy or if the change was even more recent. We had to survey a pool of bubbling water between the stream and one of these thermal dead zones. It seems like that spot is getting much hotter and drier compared to years passed.

Our second-to-last site was the equivalent of a puddle but it was below a popular overlook. We kept waiting for people to spot us below them in the valley and create a biologist jam. The funniest part is that Andrew and I ended up making the exact same fashion faux-pas, totally unplanned. We wore the same beige Columbia button-up shirt with beige field pants and beige hats. It looked like we were both given the most horrendous uniform that the color beige threw up all over. We were certain that all that moving beige in the field would catch some attention but we went completely unnoticed. It’s probably for the best because that is the last outfit I would ever want to be seen or photographed in.

When we arrived back at the dorm, we met up with Deb to go over our assignments for the next week and met the brave backcountry crew, Jeanine and Scott. They’ve done this in previous years so they know what they’re getting into but I had to give them props anyways. There are some backcountry sites that I wish I could completely wipe from my memory and they’re willingly returning to them. Jeanine sent some props back our way by saying that Nez Perce and Crawfish were some of the worst experiences she’s ever had. Their first day at Nez Perce was so dangerous that they had to immediately abandoned their surveys and hike back out, only to do it all over again the next day. That’s thirty + miles in two days. And the biting insects in Crawfish scarred her for life. So I guess we’re all crazy here! She told me that she tells herself that every year is going to be her last and every year she comes back. I can relate. I promised myself in 2006 that I would never do field work this intense ever again and here I am.