Hitch 2: Idaho Fish and Game

Hitch lead: John Horsfield
Members: Aaron Osowski and Chris Jackson-Jordan

After experiencing the wonders of Fish and Game on hitch 1, Aaron and I were excited to be returning for another consecutive hitch along with a new crew member, Chris. We began the first day by traveling to Antelope Creek with a few familiar faces: John Nelson, Justin Nadermann, Jessie Shallow (formerly Jesse Thiel), and her trusty dog, “Spurs.” Jessie, who had recently been married two days before and was in the midst of completing her Masters, was still raring to go. It was pretty motivational to work alongside someone who has so much going on in her life and to see she still has the drive and passion for veg work. Due to an anticipated long drive to Twin Falls that night, we only completed one transect in a beautiful aspen/conifer mixed plot. John Nelson was the only agency contact able to accompany us to Twin Falls. On our trip we were able to witness the unique Craters of the Moon National Park, which looked like a barren wasteland of extremely coarse lava flow which stretched for miles and miles.
During our time in Twin Falls, we stayed at a Comfort Inn and thoroughly enjoyed the local cuisine of Sonic and La Fiesta, thanks to our faulty propane stove. We also took it upon ourselves to check out the hot tub for future SCA members. While in Rock Creek, just outside of Twin Falls, we ran into a dilemma where we couldn’t distinguish if a forb was either columbine or meadowrue. This sort of problem is the most time-consuming in veg work, but is extremely rewarding after pouring over our plant guides for up to 20 minutes and correctly classifying the plant. Overall, the Twin Falls portion of the trip was the most “brutal,” encompassing two days and a total of five transects. From Twin Falls, we traveled to Boise and met up with Jessie and Spurs. Here we were introduced to Bogus Basin, an area completely different than the typical sage-based ecosystems we were used to. In this particular area of the Boise National Forest, the foliage was very lush and a lot more dense, including some species we had never seen before. Ceanothus, Nine Bark and Mountain Maple were dominant species and were found in almost all portions of the two transects that were completed on two opposite aspects. After concluding the transects we enjoyed naps on the five hour drive back to Salmon and the end of the first portion of hitch 2.
On the second portion of the hitch, we were told we would be camping on the border of the Boise National Forest and the beautiful Sawtooth National Forest. John Nelson was our lucky agency contact once again and his jokes and infectious humor made the 4.5 hour drive fly by. Along the way, we stopped in Stanley for gas and groceries and saw the little town in its summer glory. Tourists and river guides were everywhere stocking up for the coveted river trips down the legendary Salmon River. It was an exciting place to be and we all agreed to return on a weekend for some sort of adventure. The area of forest we were working in was an old burn with few trees and very loose soil with few forbs and grasses. After the long drive and one completed transect, we were blessed with John Nelson’s cooking. He is a Dutch oven aficionado and master woodsman. He proceeded to cut down a large dead lodgepole pine with a mere 16” chainsaw due to lack of firewood. With plenty of wood and ingredients prepared, he prepared a whole rack of ribs, potatoes and biscuits for the feast of a dinner we had that night. Breakfast was no different; a dozen eggs, sausage and cowboy coffee welcomed us as we awoke the next morning. Stomachs full, we were ready to complete the three transects of the day and finished before 5 p.m. On the 4 hour journey home, we stopped at the Sourdough rest stop near Lowman and got some of the best milkshakes, which were great except for the fact that “the huckleberry was like trying to suck a golf ball through a garden hose,” as John Nelson said. We topped off the trip by returning to the Fish and Game office only to find a flat tire on the Forest Service vehicle we had parked there for the night. Travelling all over Idaho in hotels and camps with John Nelson and the rest of the crew was a great time. We learned many new species and saw lots of country, and we’re all glad to hear we will be returning for the third hitch.