Hitch 7: South Zone Vegetation

Hitch leader: Sarah
Member: Erica

This was our last hitch out on South Zone Vegetation. Sarah, my leader, and I set out to complete our final stands expecting 20 percent slopes and open forest of douglas fir. We were mistaken and ended up doing plots on mostly 50 percent slopes. One stand had a particularly bad case of mistletoe which made it difficult to navigate. Another stand had us crossing a steep ravine full of willow and prickly unidentified plants from the current and rose family. Happily, we had a variety of trees in our plots with subalpine fir, lodge pole, as well as a few white bark pine seedlings. These we were surprised to find and they made things more interesting.
Once we figured out what we were up against we settled into our routine; taking Brown’s transects for downed woody material, getting plot data and recording height, DBH and damage to the trees which fell within the plots. Things were going smoothly.
Camping was fine as always, Sarah and I were able to get by without cooking. Not cooking after a long day of work was a relief. We premade all our food. A few mornings Sarah did make us pancakes and these were delicious and such a treat.
Driving every day we decided the chipmunks around Little West Fork needed to learn to be safe, and perhaps join in our culture of safety. Sarah and I attempted training them to move off the road for cars as we drove down the street honking the horn. This training (honking) was very effective and recommended for all animals hypnotized by headlights or unaware of oncoming traffic, though braking is also necessary.
But, back to work. On our third and final stand we realized our Brown’s transects were short 38 feet for large downed woody material over 3 inches in diameter. Also, we had been taking our slopes on the wrong side of the clinometer. This gave us readings of 20-30 instead of the actual 45-60% slopes, thus affecting the height of our trees, and the fixed plot radius.
So, it was back to all our plots in the two most difficult stands yet. This last hitch ended up being extended into Saturday so that we could finish our work. It was unfortunate, but we are now positive that our data is correct and we fixed our mistakes leaving South Zone Vegetation with a good name.
We also came out with a great song, the chorus of which goes:
But little did we know, in this stand from hell, due to our miscalculation, there would be no holiday from South Zone Vegetation.
Overall, this was a great learning experience. Our contacts with the forest service were so excellent and sat with us for many an hour explaining the forest to us which makes all the work so much more interesting and meaningful. We learned from our mistakes and we learned also form our contacts and our work. I will miss field work in the Challis forest, it is a beautiful place. If any hitch were to be extended I am glad that this was the one.