Training is officially over and I will finally be leaving on my first hitch for the summer tomorrow! It’s hard to believe that its only been three weeks since I arrived in Utah. I feel as if I’ve already seen so many places and learned a ton. Last week those of us that will be on the boating crew had three days of supplemental training to learn how the land based protocol will be applied to rivers too large to sample by wading across.
The field component of boat training was split into two days. The first day we took two 16 foot oar center frame rafts (the primary craft we’ll be using this summer) on the Oneida Narrows section of the Bear River in Idaho. The next day we used duckies (aka inflatable kayaks) on a lower section of the same river in Utah. The two sections of river couldn’t have been more different. The Oneida Narrows is a canyon that the Bear runs through and our sampling transects were upstream of a couple of class two rapids that were fun to navigate. The second site on the Bear was extremely slow moving and surrounded by agricultural fields and grazing cattle. At one of the transects I tried to stand up on the eroding bank and sank nearly knee deep in sticky muck. This example just illustrates the vast differences in the streams and rivers we will be sampling this summer.
Sandwiched around the river training I’ve had a lot of time off this week, which has been spent exploring the surrounding area. North, south, east, west…. in every direction there are opportunities for world class recreating. This past weekend I went up to City of Rocks in Idaho, a premiere rock climbing area that is only two and half hours away. The City, as it’s called, was formed 2.5 billion years ago, making the characteristic granite monoliths some of the oldest on the continent. The landscape reminded me a lot of Joshua Tree, and despite being over a thousand miles apart, the geology of the two areas is very similar. Yesterday we concluded the weekend with a three pitch climb up Castle Rock at the nearby state park of the same name. It was a pretty fantastic day.
In addition to climbing, I’ve been getting a lot of hiking in as well. Logan Canyon is full of options, and being so close, it’s been easy to fit a hike in nearly every day. I also took a trip down to Salt Lake City to visit a friend from my naturalist days at the Appalachian Mountain Club. We hiked up one of the many canyons outside of the city, thus opening up a whole new set of recreation opportunities. In short, the summer is going to be way too short for me to do all of hiking, climbing, and paddling trips that are on my to do list.
Luckily my time in the field will involve not just sampling, but boating and backpacking to access these sites. My first hitch will be a 14 day trip, and I’m headed down to southern Utah to Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument. I’ll learn more about the sites today, but I know that the hitch will include at least two 3-4 day backpacking trips and a handful of wadeable sites. I’m excited to finally get into the field, and that it will involve two weeks in one of the most beautiful and unique parts of the country!