WILDLIFE: Hitch 6 Write-Up
Our first task was to finish up surveying for aspen in the Lost River Range area. After driving about 5 hours, we hiked several miles up Van Dorn canyon before we found any stands. All the while, my team-mate and I enjoyed pockets of wildflowers, squeaking pikas, and munching on some wild raspberries. After inventorying a few stands that were “hidden” up dry canyons, where high winds had recently toppled over many large conifers, we returned to the trailhead and set up camp for the night.
Then we moved onto the Wild Horse Allotment, where we were to stay at one of the trailers at the W.H. Guard Station. When we arrived, the guards were gone, so we had to choose between one of two trailers; we chose the one that had especially nifty décor (straight out of the1970’s) and didn’t have hantavirus warning signs! Although, later, I found a dead mouse under my bed (a big “thank you” to my crewmate for throwing it out for me!). But having a retreat from mosquitoes was a huge relief! Besides the simple joys of having electricity to cook, lights to read or power to watch the occasional movie at night, hot water for showers, and cozy beds, we were also blessed by having such wonderful hosts! The guard station couple (and their adorable dog), were very hospitable, inviting us over for dessert and some awesome stories!
But back to the aspen-hunt…
At first, we tried to follow the map of aspen stands surveyed in the past, but after searching in vain for our species amongst thick willow stands, we soon realized the data was no longer accurate. Just across the road from the W.H.G.S., however, we found our first plots in plain sight, along the edge of steep slopes, where creeks or springs flowed. Other project areas highlighted by the South Zone Wildlife Biologist required more travel; so we hiked up the Salmon-Challis-National-Forest’s only wheel-chair accessible trail towards the lovely Fall Creek waterfalls.
Later, while making our way towards Kane Creek, we saw some pronghorn in the sagebrush at the base of the epic mountain known as the Devil’s Bedstead. With such ominous-sounding names, I should’ve been warned of the dangers ahead… I was just getting over a nasty case of stomach flu and with my renewed energy-levels, was bushwhacking through willows when I was suddenly stung on the lip by some bee-type insect! My mouth swelled up, but I was fortunately not suffering a severe reaction, although I was slightly sedated by the precautionary Benadryl I took, so my crewmate was kind to take me back to the trailer and catch up on data-entry/paperwork while he surveyed a few nearby stands.
As I recovered, we finished up the allotment by surveying the North Fork of the Big Lost River. There, mostly (non-inventory) points were taken, due to the extreme slopes of the
scree-fields. It was interesting to witness some of the previous “aspen treatments,” where any young conifers were cut into slash-piles and ironically, the aspen suckers were being grazed upon by a herd of sheep. Coincidentally, we met the folks administering these treatments; they seemed somewhat surprised by the stock-invasion (I can only hope they then asked the shepherd to move the flock).
Overall, we drove over 700 miles, hiked over 25 miles, and surveyed about 95 stands (70 acres worth) of aspen. We also saw a ton of gorgeous Idaho wilderness and had some good times!