Thursday, August 14, 2008
I was excited to get the opportunity to volunteer with Wilderness Awareness School's summer wolf tracking program. I wasn't sure what to expect other than that it would be an incredible time. I was hoping to see wolves, I certainly didn't expect to though - I wasn't even certain I would get to see any wolf tracks.
I went out to the site in central Idaho with a few other staff members several days before the class started. We split our time between getting camp setup and scouting out the area to see what was around. There was a different dynamic when it was just us staff then when the students were there, and I loved them both. With just the staff we would get up early and drive the main roads through the meadows looking for animals and watching for tracks in the dirt, sometimes repeating the process in the evening. During the day we would work on camp with breaks for a little more exploring.
The weather was incredible and continued to be so throughout the week. The temperature was probably in the mid 70s during the day, perfect for walking around or taking a dip in the (a bit cool) creeks. At night the temperature would drop maybe into the 30s (there was frost in the meadows but not in the woods) which kept the mosquitoes down at night.
There were a lot of animals with babies around, I'll be making posts about some of those later, but two of the more prevalent such animals where the sandhill cranes and the elk. The young elk were already pretty decent sized and were often visible with the cow elk (and occasional bull) in the meadows. I didn't actually see sandhill crane young (one of the students said she almost stepped on one before she realized it was there and quickly backed away), but the adults were regularly visible and audible in the skies and meadows.
I am not generally an early riser, but somehow when I am camping out it is easier for me. Over the week I don't know if slept in past 7 and most days was up at 5 or 6. Sometimes we had the option of sleeping in a bit longer, but I always chose the earliest option because I didn't want to miss anything! there were always more animals out early and even if there weren't the sunrise was spectacular. It was just great to stand there eating breakfast at the edge of our campsite, looking out over the meadows, mist hanging above the creek, a sliver of moon not far ahead of the orange preceding the sun over the hills.
One morning the early risers also heard something pretty cool, but I'll leave that for another post...