Yellowstone: July 1st, 2013

DSCF2231Today we tackled the Rock Point catchment. We assumed it would be a piece of cake since most of the wetlands were just off the side of the road and didn’t seem to take previous crews a long time to survey. Some said it was a half day of work, some said it was a short full day. So we figured it would take us–the dream team– a half day, easily. However, the only snag would be three naughty little wetlands: two about 600 meters in and one over 1 km in from the road which had been dry in 2011 & 2012. Okay, so you know how this is going to go already, right? The lesson here is don’t assume anything. The teams that went before us were right about the wetlands near the road, they were super easy to get to and easy to survey. We had them finished in two hours. Our next task was to hit the 600 meter-away wetlands and then  the farthest one. We started out super cocky with 100% certainty that we’d get them knocked out in time to enjoy a half day. That’s when we realized that there were steep ridges between us and these next wetlands. Added to that was the forest became extremely dense with enormous spider webs everywhere you walked and tons of fallen dead trees to either climb over or under. Every step was a challenge and we had too many to go. We eventually surveyed the two wetlands and then we had to literally climb a mountain to get to the remote one. The mix of climbing and having to navigate over/under fallen dead trees is nothing less than torture. It took us two hours to get there, just to find it dry, of course. We cursed the world and headed back down the mountain and ridges for another two hours of being scratched and scraped by dead tree limbs. The only thing that made the entire experience bearable was Andrew’s sense of humor. The things he says are totally hilarious. I’m so lucky to have him as my partner. However, this hike made it abundantly clear that I have a gift for choosing the path of least resistance, while Andrew picks the hardest route imaginable. For example, the GPS will tell him to go directly northwest so he walks in a straight line in that direction which will invariably lead us directly into one impossible tangle of dead trees after the other. I’m always taking a second to look at the entire landscape to see possible routes that will take us over the least amount of deadfall. By the end of the walk, Andrew was following close behind me and we came out of the forest right where the car was parked. Never once did I have to check the compass or GPS. Yes! I have so very few talents and I certainly wouldn’t rely on this one but it’s still nice. Since we completely underestimated this catchment, neither of us took enough water, so by the time we got to the car, we were a little nuts. I had rationed my water so I had one sip left and Andrew drank all of his at the last wetland. Andrew did have a water bottle in the car which was now super-heated and not refreshing whatsoever. Overall, we still managed to finish at 3:30 pm, which was not too shabby considering what we went through. Ever since Rock Point, I see it as my duty to report the complete truth as to how a catchment treated us on the field data sheet. Previous years seem to just report where to park and the length of time it takes to hike in and such. But you have no idea what the conditions are like during the hike. You may get one helpful soul that tells you to beware of biting flies and thermal areas, but that’s it. Not me. I wrote down all of it so people know and are fully prepared for one heck of a rough time.

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