What a day! I’m trying to eat bigger breakfasts, now knowing all the energy needed to make it through the day and still have a functioning brain. Had granola with yogurt on it, some pieces of fresh fruit, scrambled eggs and coffee.
First, we drove down the road about a half-mile, including the long driveway, and then started hiking up the opposite side of the river. I made sure to take my hiking sticks along on this trip. About a quarter of a mile was difficult—a slope of loose rock with some sage cover but if you slipped you’d have a good chance of ending up in the very swift river. It was also with this trip that I started wearing my boots instead of shoes. Then we came out on an open flat—short sagebrush, grasses and some wildflowers—Bitterroot, phlox, buckwheat, etc. And two small broomrape plants that were growing on a large ant mound. The ant mounds here are like a pile of sand about 2 ½ feet across and six inches high at the center. The wind was strong the whole time. I had no use of my camera all day because I had neglected to recharge the battery the night before.
This area hadn’t been grazed in a long time except by wild horses during the winter, a small band. There were also droppings of elk and deer, which are numerous in the winter. We could look upstream and see the Greenfire building. After running two transects we made our way back to the rocky slope and went to our home base for lunch. Immediately after lunch we split into two groups with one going to run more transects similar to the day before and our group, which went to someplace entirely different.
Once again we drove up winding, dusty roads and then along a very bumpy road with rocks to be skirted or carefully driven across. I was glad it wasn’t my car! This trip including fording a small, v-shaped gully that actually had water in it. It was surprising to me to see water out in the middle of all this sagebrush and dust. Riding in Pam’s Subaru Forester made me miss my old one that was totaled a couple of years ago. These cars have good road clearance and my car and I had seen many miles together.
We drove up into a forested area and could see mountains beyond that still had splotches of snow. It was quite lovely. And it was exciting to see conifers that weren’t juniper! The elevation was about 7,500 feet. A little stream about three feet across, lined by willows and I think some aspen, paralleled the road. In one area there was dark green grass, dotted with iris. It seemed to me that a beaver might be happy there. The way the conifers grew in the folds of the sage-green hills gave an almost alpine look to our surroundings. Pam sang out, “The hills are alive with the sound of…..”
We opened, then closed, a gated fence and wandered on foot through a wetland area that had been impacted by cattle, before going back through the gate and running one transect.
As we were driving away from this site we saw our first sage grouse that flew a short distance before landing—those in the lead car saw four take off and we saw one. Great fun to see the “critters” whose habitat we were surveying. Lively discussions ensued at dinner, along with much laughter. I was able to shower and wash my hair before heading toward my sleeping bag. Hadn’t brought a blow drier but was able to borrow one. Walking in the moonlight toward my tent I was sure I saw a small rabbit.