Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Searching for drowned hobos

I guess that title is only funny if you know that the temperature loggers that I use are the HOBO brand. Anyway, I've been spending a good bit of time recently going around and drowning hobos. First stop was the West watershed, in VT, and that was interesting - the entire state was basically trashed. I had some major issues getting around, just because of road closures, but in the end I made it to most of my stream sites. What I found there was pretty shocking - mostly related to the stream picking up and moving its channel to the other side of the valley or something.

Look ma, no road! The first stream I hit was Bellows stream, near Marlboro VT, and that stream had decided that it wasn't happy with its current location anymore, and took out the road that used to parallel it. That bank of stones - that used to be trees. My temp logger was cabled to the roots of one of those trees. Not anymore! Despite the devastation to both the VT economy and my project's data availability, this was really cool to see. Nature is awesome!

I found my logger at this site, but I'm not sure I can extract it without bigger tools than what I've got. That loop of cable, next to a loop of wire, are both theoretically connected to my temp logger. This tree used to have flowing water over it. Oops.
New boulder. Not sure where THAT came from, but it must have made some noise.

One of my loggers is way up on the Winhall river, only really accessible via the Appalachian Trail. I called up my trusty running buddy Ken, and we headed out on a really nice run, over Stratton Mountain, past Stratton Pond, check on the logger, and back on a side trail. Overall a very nice loop, but that takes a solid 4 hours out of your day to cover that much distance and elevation!
The view from Stratton firetower was great, as always!I followed up that hike with some quality time helping Ed make apple cider, before it was time to continue on to Maine, and see how the Sandy River watershed had fared. It was a pleasant surprise to find all my Maine loggers!

Oh hai Rumford! Long time no see, smell you again in January.

Having a 4-wheel drive vehicle made for much quicker work getting to some of the places I had to go; a lot of the logging roads were pretty washed out, but the truck could handle them. No more 20-mile runs for me! Here's looking at the backside of the Saddleback to Sugarloaf ridge, from the upper side of the Hardy River, as the sun was setting.

I finished up all the driving around by Tuesday afternoon, and since I was right there, took a detour to Mt. Blue state park, just to check it out. I parked the truck on a little overlook, and had a really wonderful session of core strength and some yoga, overlooking the misty western mountains of maine. It was exactly what I needed to unwind before the long drive home, and I really did succeed in finding some inner peace, watching the sun rays stab through the ever-changing clouds. Very glad that I stopped for that, as it made the long slog home a lot more bearable.

windblown, dirty, tired, hungry, happy. Ready for some civilization and some conversation other than my own.

When I eventually made it back home to Newton, I discovered that Ian had set up a legitimate night orienteering race out in Nobscott. Ed and I charged our headlamps and went to check it out, and we had a really great time. Ali crushed me, but she also crushed everyone else, so that's ok. I was still second, and beat all the boys. It was amazing how popular the night-o actually was, we definitely hadn't expected so many people! Above, Keith and Ben are pointing at each other. I forgot why, but the photo made me chuckle.

Next up: a 12-hr MTB race. If you have any idea how little I've been riding my bike, you know this is going to be an absolute pain-fest. At least I'm on a team!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Weekend Warrior

I used to make fun of weekend warriors, but it appears that's the road I'm heading down. Not enough time during the week to do all the fun stuff I want to do, so I packed it all in during the weekend. Of course, it helps that it was the Pawtuckaway camping weekend, which usually has five thousand things going on all at once, so you don't even get a minute to sit still. There wasn't a mountain bike O' this year, which was actually a good thing, because I really didn't need yet another excuse to go breaking myself. As it was, the weekend was really good fun with some great socializing, as well as some nice orienteering. I managed to actually follow my training objectives, an impressive feat, and I had a great time during the Wicked Hahd Night-O.
Ian and I preparing for the canoe-O. We did alright, but it was clear that we'd never paddled together before. Importantly, though, we beat Ali and Brendan.
Hanging out in the pavilion waiting for it to get dark enough to do the night-o.
Red course from Saturday.

Night-O map.

The night-o was really fun. It was a mass start, and sort of a small crowd this year. I have a new headlamp that I haven't actually tried out orienteering before; it's a Magicshine, and it's very bright. Almost like cheating, to have it be so bright! I certainly appreciated the extra illumination, because Pawtuckaway can be really scary at night. JJ started us, and I soon found myself with Ali and Carol, as well as a bunch of the old-but-accurate crowd. In some ways, night-o is almost easier than in the daylight, because you can navigate off other people's lights as well as your own, and the flags are very reflective, and hung very high. Carol, Ali, Jim, Ernst, and I were in a loose pack for most of the first 9 controls, including through the boulderfields of death on the way from 3-4. We could occasionally see Ethan and Andrew Childs dashing away from controls - they're both juniors, and both really fast, but not necessarily that accurate. Luckily, they're fast enough to make up for it.

Leaving control 9, Ali decided it was time to get serious, and that was the last I saw of her. I hung on to Carol to 10, but then my give-a-damn gave out, and I sort of bumbled for a while to 11, alone. We'd dropped the old-but-accurates, but we'd also dropped me. Sigh. Someday, I hope I'll be fast enough to keep up with the speedy ladies. I tried to motivate myself a bit more heading to 12, and it sort of worked, except that I had no freakin' clue where I was. I figured that since I was being good about compass, I would just keep going until I hit the perpendicular string of water features, but I wasn't exactly confident that I wasn't going to be eaten alive by rabid wolves. Running alone in the dark is scary!

At 12, I saw Jim, and realized that I'd lost however much time to him on my last two wobbly legs, so it was time to get serious again. Easier said than done, but I managed to run away from him by 13, and then it was just a struggle to the finish. I ended up 5th, behind the Childs boys, Ali, and Carol, and this was also the first Wicked Hard Night-O (WHNO) that I'd ever completed, so I felt pretty good about life. To make things even better, there were some s'mores left over for us WHNO runners to snack on!

Sunday, I was definitely feeling the efforts in the forest from Saturday, and it took a decent warmup before I felt like I could run. I ran a shorter course, but did it twice, trying to improve upon the first time. I did, but barely, since I just wasn't moving all that fast. All in all, that made for two first-place finishes over the weekend - the red course Saturday, and the brown course Sunday. Not that it really matters in a local meet, but it's still nice!

Friday, September 9, 2011

West Virginia

Part of my job involves electroshocking fish, so for the last week, I was down in West Virginia working on collecting data for a study that is trying to show that culverts that fail passage according to a survey, also fail passage based on the genetics of fish on either side of the pipe. Interesting stuff, but it involves lots of electroshocking. I headed down there with three others - Matt, Maili, and Jeff. Our trip was cut on both ends due to rain, unfortunately. Irene delayed our departure by a couple days because Jeff was stuck in VT, and tropical storm Lee rained us out early on the other end, since the capture probability goes way down in heavy rain. The good news is I got to come home early! The bad news is we have to go back there next fall.
Thanks Irene - I had to drive down that road!

yeah... not ideal. This one failed passage.

Catching fish. FS rules say you gotta wear orange. So wear orange we did.

Measuring fish. This should be an advertisement for waders, or something.

Identifying fish. Mostly we were seeing brook trout, sculpin, darters, and dace. And one massive brown trout.

WV was very pretty, but often very misty, especially in the mornings. I'd sort of been hoping to see some mountaintop removal sites or something, but I guess we were in the wrong part of the state for that. Just logging. Not even any huge chicken farms!

We stayed at the Monongahela Ranger Station, and there were horses next door. They seemed somewhat neglected, with knotted manes and flies and no shelter for when it rained.
Big snake!

We managed to get a flat tire, naturally on the day we were planning to go in to town. This wouldn't be a big deal, except apparently someone removed the jack from the truck, and we were 10 miles down a dirt road into a national forest in a torrential rainstorm. Some driving, very slowly, and a lot of hiking, ensued.
Sometimes, the shocking is easy. Sometimes, less so.