Hi! My name is Ms. LeSage, and I am a 4th grade teacher at the Marymount School of New York. Join me as I discover the wildlife trails of the American West!

Friday, January 29, 2010

My Most Challenging Day Yet!

Just when I thought I had mastered the art of tracking deer throughout Red Butte Canyon, I was put to the ultimate challenge! This morning our lead scientist Bill distributed data sheets to my team as usual. He then instructed my partner Leo and I to record the snow depths and the number of ungulate trails intersected at over 200 points throughout the southern side of the canyon. I had done this task once before on the northern side of the canyon, so I approached it with great confidence. What I had forgotten, however, was that the southern side of the canyon faces the north and receives little, if any, direct sunlight. Therefore, it’s colder and the snow depth is significantly greater. As a result, Bill didn’t expect us to encounter many ungulate trails, since he hypothesized that deer don’t typically travel through snow over 40cm. To provide proof, however, we had to take measurements and record the data.
After about 100 meters and 20 data recordings into my day, I noticed the snow was getting increasingly deeper. Still, my partner and I proceeded with optimism. Before we knew it, however, we found ourselves on a nearly vertical slope. In mathematics, that would be about a 90 degree angle; in skiing, it would be considered a double black diamond! The slope had small oak trees scattered throughout and was covered with over 2 feet of snow. As Leo and I began hiking up it, our noses were brushing the snow because the slope was so precipitous. We had to grip the oak trees for balance and stability, and dig our toes into the deep snow for support. By the time we reached the top, we had recorded 300 meters of snow depth measurements and not a single intersecting ungulate trail; at depths consistently exceeding 70cm, we were not surprised by this.

Before I let out a sigh of relief for finishing the rigorous climb safely, I glanced at the data sheet and looked up to where we were headed next. The slope was just as steep as the first one, only now the snow was nearly 3 feet in depth and the top portion consisted of nothing but large, vertical rocks. I consulted with my partner before attempting to hike it, and we both agreed that we had to in order for the project data to be entirely accurate and thorough. So, up we went again, this time with a bit less energy. We continued on with our ascent filled with determination, until we approached the rocks. This would be especially tricky, particularly for someone like myself with little rock climbing experience. Once again, I consulted with my partner Leo and learned that he was a well-trained and experienced rock climber. Lucky me! Leo volunteered to climb the first set of rocks so that he could demonstrate the proper way to do it. With a bit of a struggle and the help of a sturdy tree, I followed right in his footsteps and made my way up. The rocks became increasingly challenging, however, and we agreed that it would be best to play it safe and head to our next set of data.

It took us nearly an hour just to get to our next location, because the snow was up to our waists and the slopes continued to be very steep. By the time we finished all 200 data recordings, it had taken us more than double the time that it had taken us on the northern slope. When it was time to hand our data over to our lead scientist Bill, however, I felt the greatest sense of accomplishment that I had felt all week. Not only had I challenged myself to take risks that I had never taken before, but I had put trust in my Earthwatch team member and provided enough data for the scientists to complete their report on designing wildlife corridors.

On our way back to the vehicle, I couldn’t help but feel proud when my lead scientist stated,
“Out of all of the Earthwatch expeditions that I have done in this location throughout the past 7 years, this one has by far been the most challenging, because we have never received nearly this much snowfall at one given time!”


At January 30, 2010 at 10:10 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ms. LeSage!
Wow! The snow sounded really deep. Did any of the other pairs of partners have as big of a challenge as you and Leo did? I can't wait to see you soon!
☺Chrissy iv-1

At January 30, 2010 at 11:14 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Eileen Burke and Ann Marie Burke
Dear Ms. LeSage
Congratulations! Sounds like you worked really hard and had a great time doing it. It looks beautiful there. The air must have been so fresh and clean. What was your favorite part of the trip? Would you like to do it again?

At January 30, 2010 at 1:27 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Miss LeSage!
Were you and your partner the only people in your group to hike in the northern side of the canyon.
Emma IV-A

At January 30, 2010 at 1:46 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ms.LeSage!
Fantastic job yesterday! If I were you I wouldn't have continued up the Mountain, considering you have little rock climbing experience, and it also sounded really steep, and I'm afraid of steep mountains.
What is the temperature in Utah? It's under 20 degrees here.
I can't wait to see you on Monday!
-Zoe IV B
P.S. I hope you see a bobcat soon!

At January 30, 2010 at 3:35 PM , Blogger Kelly LeSage said...

Hi Chrissy,
There was one other set of partners who also had a pretty challenging day. I can't wait to see you either :-)
Ms. L

At January 30, 2010 at 3:39 PM , Blogger Kelly LeSage said...

Hi Eileen and Ann Marie,

The air was definitely fresh and clean here, but it was also extremely dry. It felt great to be outside all day long, but when I got home my skin felt really tight and raw from the cold and dry weather. I've been doubling up on the moisturizer! My favorite parts of the trip were seeing the mule deer and hiking over rocks yesterday. I would definitely go on another Earthwatch expedition, but I would want to try a different one to help some other animals next time :-)

Ms. L

At January 30, 2010 at 3:41 PM , Blogger Kelly LeSage said...

Hi Emma,

Actually, my whole group was on the northern side of the canyon, but the northern side of the canyon is huge! We all had different locations to track, and my partner and I just happened to be assigned the very challenging terrain. Everyone in my group had a tough day yesterday though. However, we all felt great when we were through!

Ms. L

At January 30, 2010 at 3:44 PM , Blogger Kelly LeSage said...

Hi Zoe,

Thanks so much! Don't worry, I stopped hiking up the rocks and turned around when they became too dangerous!

It's only 20 degrees in NYC? Ugh! It's 35 degrees here.

I can't wait to see you on Monday either :-)

Ms. L

At January 30, 2010 at 3:45 PM , Blogger Kelly LeSage said...

Oh, and Zoe, I followed bobcat tracks for about 200 meters yesterday, but still no bobcat!

At January 30, 2010 at 4:20 PM , Anonymous jody lesage said...

Great Job Explorer Kelly! I loved reading your blogs!

At January 30, 2010 at 4:47 PM , Blogger Kelly LeSage said...

Thanks, Mom!

At January 31, 2010 at 5:37 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

What an adventure!!! Thanks for sharing your blog:)
Great job Kelly!!

Dawn LeSage


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