I miss being in the field, and I have only been out of the backcountry for 3.5 days. Chris Kennedy, USFWS Biologist, has quite a difficult job, but a great job all the same. He and I logged some miles during our week of work in RMNP, but it seemed like there was a reward around every corner. I learned quite a great deal from Chris and Randy, a current CSU Fisheries student. Lucky, I was, to get to work with two very cool people. I cannot wait to help Chris again.
Chris is one of the leading biologists in the Greenback recovery program. His historical research has helped lead to an interesting discovery on the current greenback genetic makeup. The jury is still out on whether the reintroduced greenbacks are really the native greenbacks, or if one population is really the only surviving natives. Suspenseful stuff here. I’m anxious to see how it all plays out. Chris has been working on the greenback project for 13 years. He’s mapped streams, disease tested, charted flows, electrofished; all the while hiking many miles, and spending quite a few nights in the backcountry. The results of all his hard work, however, might not be seen for another decade.
This trip was also quite empowering for me. It was my first time hiking and camping by myself. Friday, Sept 10, I hiked to the campsite for my first night solo camping. There was not another soul at the campsite, naturally. This turned out to be to my advantage; wildlife was all around me. I could not believe how close an elk family was to me. Then, best of all, I had a mule deer doe as a friend. She didn’t leave the campsite all night, and actually laid down right across from my campsite. It was as if she was my little protector. For you fellow Potter readers, she was my patronus. Sunday night was another solo night for me, and my mulie hung out with me again. It was the strangest thing. I didn’t see her except when I was alone at camp. It was a very cool experience.
I also had to navigate my way through RMNP. The trail I was supposed to follow to meet Chris was not well defined. Following game trails and the stream I met up with the trail again. I was pretty proud of myself. This is also where I should tell you how heavy my pack was; 70lbs! Little did I know Dustin sent me with 5 pounds of batteries! I also probably over-packed on the clothes. Being warned about the cold temperatures, I packed on the heavy side. Turns out, I really didn’t need it. My Western bag kept me warm, and the early morning sun warmed the tent. The days were gorgeous, and saw me wearing a tank top on a few. It warmed and cooled quickly in the park.
I gained some good experience, I think. Chris gave me the opportunity to weigh and measure some “rats” (brook trout are the enemy). On the days we didn’t electrofish we mapped two sections of streams, and followed some tributaries up the mountains. Walking up those tribs was quite the thrill; there is something about going where you know only a few people have gone, if any. Not to mention those little tribs were a sight to hold. The last day, we did flow readings. I was expecting this to be a lot bigger deal than it was. The electronic flow meter Chris used was still pretty cool. It is the mapping and flow reading that will make or break this project. Needless to say, we were doing some important work.
If anyone is interested in Greenback Recovery, I suggest you go volunteer with Chris. He will give you the lowdown on the recovery efforts, entertain you, and the surroundings are breathtaking. It is hard work, but super rewarding. Check out Rocky Mountain Flycasters’ Volunteer Page for more information.