Hitch Dates: 7/15/2013 – 7/25/2013
Crew Leader: Lisa Simmons
Members: Ruth, Trever
By Lisa Simmons
Conducting surveys of undesignated routes in the wilderness of the Salmon-Challis National Forest offers the surveyor a vast spectrum of unexpected adventures. For example, Uroute U53-234 may reveal erosion concerns such as a stream crossing or a rolling dip, but it may also reveal wolves and a condor. Whereas on Uroute U134567A the surveyor may find massive slope failure, always devoutly recorded on a Trimble GPS Unit and then photographed, he or she may also find an elk herd or mountain goats. Besides the aforementioned animals, our Uroutes crew also saw sandhill cranes, osprey, eagles, and an astounding variety of small rodents.
It is debatable whether the real adventure is the Uroute itself, or the finding of the Uroute. The 4×4 roads throughout the SCNF are often wildly unpredictable; many are washed out. Although we’re well equipped with capable vehicles, it’s often a good call to stop before you head up or down a very steep mountainside that requires first gear in 4-low just to start. After you make the call to park, avoid wrecking the rig, and hike in three miles (always straight up), you marvel at the old tire tracks that seem to have once negotiated the 70-degree angle. Avoiding private property is another difficult proposition altogether.
Our particular journey took us deep into the sage-scented Beaverhead Mountain Range, just outside the epically small town of Leadore. You can guess which metal and rock gave the town its name and gave us an opportunity to survey Uroutes around abandoned mines – a delightfully creepy job perk. Of course, upon return to Moyer, data entry into ArcMap awaits, turning all your miles of hard climbing up mountains into little purple lines. It’s still amazing, however, when you know that a wolf, elk, or condor calls those lines home.