Friday, September 12, 2008
Big trees, tick weirdness, and getting lost
I love these trees.
I'm at White Mountain Research Station, at 10, 200 feet. This place is pretty snazzy. I'm surrounded by Bristlecones! How great is that? Exactly. I'm here another week or so, then i head down the mountain to Bishop for another field site. I'm quite happy that Joe sent me out here to work (and play). Unfortuntately, I have a bastard of a cold right now. There is no kleenex here, and the store is about 3 hours away, so my poor nose is in great pain. In a couple days when i (hopefully) feel better, I'm going to hike to White Mountain Peak, the third tallest in CA, 14 thousand something. The picture below is coming into Bishop.
The day i got here, the temperature got down to a bitter (yes, bitter!) 36 degrees. WHAT? That was uncalled for, as my fingertips start numbing in anything below 65, but I'm surviving.
There are tons of mountain bluebirds around the research center - everywhere! Here's a cutie pie little guy.
There are some severe technical difficulties with the equipment (shocking, right? no.). In fact, i threw something against the wall last night. I'm very, very irritated about this right now. First the hard drive wouldn't work. Then the new camera was warping the tapes. Then things got under control, and i got the first three control nights done. Last night, i was supposed to start the experimental run - the emitter decided to not work. So i thought, fine, i'll just do another contol night. I did, i was happy. But then, the tape got all eaten up in the PIECE OF SHIT VIDEO CAMERA. i am going to write to Sony when this is over and verbally abuse the hell out of them. I'm avoiding work today by sleeping in and writing this, because I just can't deal with the equipment any more.
I really like this project, and would like to do it again next year, but Joe has got to get some good equipment. Something that....something that what is it, something that works, that's it.
So this place is about 2 and a half hours out of Bishop, and nothing ever happens here except research. But apparently, some crazy stuff has been happening. There is a visitor center about two-five miles from here that was burned down last week but some crazy man. Crazy Man has also been committing robberies and breaking into houses in Bishop, and messing up trailheads around the White Mountains. They think they caught The Crazy, so that's good, because I guess everyone here at the research station was freaking out, since there are only three buildings (two of them the research station's) in the mountains. Anyway , the guy is a total nutjob and in the newspaper it said that he said that Starbucks and Circuit City were mind controlling him and out to get him or something.
Moving on, i've done a few hikes here so far. Yesterday i went up a peak called Blanco Peak (about 11,500) and saw some freaking gnarly looking Bristlecones. I got very disoriented direction wise, but i think it was the trees on the North facing side that were all twisted and awesome looking. they are all awesome looking but these guys were most impressive. Laugh if you most, but ,but i cried a little bit because i love thems so much. I mean, look at the base of this tree!
Oh, on top of the peak there was this old military box - just a little thing. It said 'empty' on the side of it. With my vivid imagination, I thought - gosh! what if it was The Crazy who put it up there and there is some explosive in it. So, i left it alone, even though I really wanted to open it. Later, i was told it was a register. Heh heh. Oh. Her'es a view from the top.
I saw a golden eagle, two prarie falcons, a marmot, 4 deer, and a wild horse, and some mountain lion scat. but i should e used to that by now. Apparently the story with the wild horse is this: He used to be a pack horse, but kept running away, so they finally just let him go, and he hangs out all by his lonesome around the mountains. Campito is his name.
The tree in this picture was the highest one i could find on the peak. So cool.
So coming down Blanco Peak, i got distracted by various trees and went to kiss them and such, and i must have gotten way off course. i knew i had to go down, but i knew i was off somehow. So i kept hiking down and down, but knew i should have been at the bottom by that time. When i was almost done, i broke out the GPS (whew). I had, thank god, taken a couple points where i had come in, and when i looked at it, i was almost 2 km off. That's pathetic. I had down gone a totally different face of the peak, and was in a completely different basin than I started in, not good.
It took me about an hour to get to where i was supposed to, cause i had to walk through really tall sagebrush and big rolling hills and another ridge. And then i saw a rock face with a cave/overhang thing and got freaked out about big cats, so i went waayyy around that. I got back where i was supposed to be, but...if i hadn't had the GPS with me, things could have gotten ugly. I would have been lost in the White Mountains forever. Maybe, maybe not. Thanks Garmin! But the hike was great!
The research station is really nice, and they cook gourmet vegan food for me! Niiice! And the coffee is a tasty treat from somewhere local in Bishop., Yum yum. And they have local brews. Yum yum. Here's the research center from a different hike i went on. You cans see the pond where i'm setting up the cameras and playing with bats.
More interesting news from this front is that one of the techs from a group working here was rushed to the hospital the day after i got in. The first diagnosis was HANTA VIRUS.
Okay, that's not good. Basically, you die from the hanta. His platelette level dropped from 400 to the mid 20's. Scary. A later diagnosis was a weird tick borne disease. Not lyme disease, not rocky mountaion spotted fever. Some tick that thrives at high elevations and feeds at night- ie, comes out of the mammal nest it lives in (say, in the walls of cabin), and comes to bite you in your sleeping bag and then promptly leaves. There is no bite, so you never know. So, that's what he has. And if you don't catch it in time, it leads to heart failure.
So now everyone is basically freaking out. There are only 25 cases of this a year I think, some resulting in death. And when the tick bites someone, 99 percent of the time, it comes in clusters, so a handful of people will be bit also. Dear god. So um, I really don't want this. I have done pretty well not making myself crazy about this. At least it's not Hanta.
Okay, that is all for now. I should go brave the shit equipment and work. And blow my nose some more.