Sunday, August 2, 2009

Lakes, Fire & Music

Ze froggie sez: bonjour, and welcome to my blog!

Hiking up to Alice Lake:

The lovely Alice Lake:

Post- Alice Lake, hiking up, up, up through Snowyside Pass (that's me all the way to the right of the photo):

A Western Shooting Star on the shores of Pistol Lake:

The person in the center of this photo is quite possibly the sexiest I've ever seen...

Elephant Revival playing at the Sawtooth Music Festival:

This is what the entire, 6-mile, all-uphill hike to Indian Creek looked like.

Alice Lake, again:

Crags on the way to Alice Lake, again:

Friday night, setting up for the Sawtooth Music Festival:

Nighttime sky (figured out how to use a new setting on my camera!) at Pistol Lake:

So very much to write about, so little time! This week I've been involved in a hydrology project with Kasey, Chris, Sander and some Forest Service guys and it's been seriously cool--not least of all because we work a four-days-on/three-days-off schedule, which means all four of us (plus two other friends, Vito & Megan) get to hop in the car after work tomorrow evening and head over to WASHINGTON STATE to see PHISH at the GORGE! AHHHHHHH!!!!! Could I be more exicted?!? Two nights of Phish/camping at one of best venues, musically and scenically, in North America, for $50 altogether!! No, I do not think I could possibly be more excited!!!

So tonight I have to do laundry and pack and a million other things, but fortunately I love you all and realize that you must be sitting on the edges of your seats, expectantly waiting for me to inform you about my adventures of the past two weeks. And I feel slightly guilty for having waited so long to write. So here I go...

Surveys with Claudia were interesting as usual. We started out at Pistol Lake, which was a climb-and-a-half up a burnt-out, steep, rutted mountain road. The trailhead was also burnt, but not too badly, and the lack of a green canopy actually created perfect growing conditions for a neverending bed of purple, blue, organge, red, yellow and white wildflowers that completely compensated for the charred tree trunks sticking out of the grounds. Once we cleared the ridgeline, the fire must've stopped, because the area on the other side (surrounding the lake) was pristine and beautiful, and we did some swimming and resting and relaxing there. After Pistol Lake, we ended up vistiting nine lakes during our two week survey--and summer is finally here, so the lakes make up for not having an ocean nearby. I could actually get used to these lakes... the water is crystal clear and almost a turquoise color, they're surrounded by wildflowers and jagged peaks, and, since you usually have to hike into them, there's never anyone else around. I'm really getting spoiled out here in that regard--even though I love my friends and family to pieces and can rock a party like no other, I have a low tolerance for running into another human being when I'm out seeking some solitude (i.e. on the hiking trail, swimming, camping, etc). Being out here, we can wander through the wilderness for days on end without running into another two-legged creature, and its awesome. I don't know if I'll ever be able to enjoy a campground where you actually have to pay to pop a tent around a bunch of other folks again...

Moving on...

Claudia and mine's next survey was at some place called Indian Creek, which was impossible to get to and horribly burned. The road was completely impassable, so we had to get to the trailhead via another trail, six miles away, and it was a hot, miserable, all-uphill hike with heavy packs through burnt-to-a-crisp forest. If not for the Sawtooth Music Festival two days later, we would have given up and said that the trail was inaccessable, but we were afraid that if we claimed such a thing, SCA would've made us come back to Moyer and we would've missed the Festival, and so, against all odds, we persevered. All through the miserable hike, we held onto a shred of hope that Indian Creek itself would be lush, green, old-growth forest, but in fact it was a tiny trickle of brown water in the midst of a thousands of acres of burnt mountains.

Honestly, in retrospect, I'm glad we did the hike, because it further confirmed that we are two kick-ass ladies who can navigate through a wasteland for two days without getting lost. And there was a purpose to our being there - to confirm the condition and lack of use of the trail, so that the Forest Service can decide whether or not to bother sending resources there in the future.

So we emerged from Indian Creek bone-tired and covered in black soot, ready and able to shower thanks to the kind folks at the nearest Ranger Station. We showered, dropped off our Forest Service rig, hitched a ride into town with a nice lady, and were immediately thrown into the midst of the Sawtooth Music Festival, all due to the incredible generousity and coolness of Sean (the guy who put us up in his motorhome the last time we were in Stanley). The festival didn't start until Saturday, but we were there early on Friday and got to set up our tent right behind the stage, help with the electrical wiring and painting the banners, and were forced to partake in a delicious BBQ and keg of local beer. On Saturday, we climbed up to the top of the scaffolding first thing in the morning to finish setting up the stage, spent an hour or so selling tickets, then got to enjoy the rest of the day free of charge. It was an absolute BLAST and put that last sorry excuse for a festival to shame. The music was outstanding, we basically had all-access to backstage/volunteer freebies (like beer, merch, etc), the weather was perfect, the Sawtooth mountains were gorgeous, and the crowd was awesome. Two other SCA people joined us and we danced late into the night, barefoot under the moon. *sigh*

But it only gets better! The following day, after the recylables and trash were separated and the vendors had packed up shop and the stage was taken down again, Claudia and I were invited to go on the annual post-festival rafting trip with the organizers and band members. We floated down the day stretch of the main Salmon again (class III rapids!), stopped to jump off a suspension bridge above the river, and (AND!) I got to be on a boat and chill with the members of the best band of the entire weekend!

And all proceeds from the festival--every last cent--were donated to the local library. Life is grand out here.

Let's see... after the festival, Claudia and I had to survey at a place called Josephus Lake, and then we had yet another day off in the field. The evening before our day off, we went to Redfish Lake to take advantage of their free wireless internet while sitting on the beach, and we ran into the two river guides who had taken us rafting the first time. They were at Redfish to help out by driving the speedboats for an employee party, and we were invited to come along. So we unexpectedly spent the warm, lovely evening on yet another beautiful lake, enjoying a BBQ on a houseboat, swimming, tubing, and attempting to wakeboard while inhaling large amounts of water. Wonderful.

The next day was even better. Claudia and I decided to do a 12-mile out-and-back dayhike in the Sawtooth National Wilderness to (you guessed it) another lake called Alice Lake. The hike in was SPECTACULAR. It started in some deep pine forest, climbed over a creek to an open meadow filled with flowers and nestled in a bowl of giant, jagged peaks, crossed several misty waterfalls, and finally wound up at a huge, remote, picture-perfect lake. Since we only had lightweight daypacks, we hiked the six miles into the lake in only a little over 2 hours, so rather than turn back again, we decided to extend the hike and turn it from a 12-mile out-and-back into an 18-mile loop that passed by five MORE lakes. We climbed up past Alice Lake to snowyside pass just as the clouds rolled overhead, which made it feel like we were even higher up than we were. It was very rocky and lonely-feeling and still gorgeously beautiful up there, and at one point we could see three turquoise alpine lakes stretching out against the horizon below us. I also saw a Pika!

Anyway, long story short, the entire hike was stunningly beautiful, my feet and legs were more tired than they've ever been by the end, and I felt really good about completing such a long hike. I am getting in KILLER shape this summer.

Whew. After our day off, we had two more days of surveying (uneventful), and then finally home to Moyer after two solid weeks on the road, camping and living out of our truck. I don't know how people can live on the road and travel for more than two weeks; it's exhausting. It felt great to get home, cook in a kitchen, sleep in a real bed, and shower. And now I'm spending my days enveloped in a pair of waders, knee deep in rushing streams. The hydrology people are SO much more competant, efficient and dedicated than the other FS people we've run into so far this summer, and I love working with them. The jist of the project has been that we use GPSs to find all these streams and creeks in the area where they've been collecting data for years, and we insert a giant metal tube into the streambed and dig out a couple bucketfulls of rocks and sediment. Then we filter it through a whole series of different sized sieves to separate all the particles by size, and enter the info into a database to determine whether the stream provides adequate spawning grounds for adanemous and/or resident fish (salmon and trout, respectively). It's such awesome work, we get to spend all day in the water, and, to top it off, I'll be doing the fisheries project in a couple weeks with the same great group of people, so we'll really our hands into these projects. I would really enjoy being a seasonal hydrologist with the Forest Service sometime!

Wow - I've written way more than I intended to, and I've really gotta run before I can even proofread any of this.

Did I mention... I leave for Phish tomorrow?!?>! AHHHHHHH!!



No comments:

Post a Comment