Hitch 3: Idaho Fish and Game

Hitch Leader: Chris Jackson-Jordan
Members: Aaron Osowski, John Horsfield

I greatly enjoyed my time with Idaho Fish and game and am very sad that our time with them has ended. This hitch was a bit different from the previous one because we were not together as a group for the duration of the hitch. We were still doing the same system of vegetation transects as we had before. The first day John, Aaron, and I followed our old friend John Nelson to Clayton to re-run one veg. plot and set up a new one. The twist that was added this hitch was to add time-lapse cameras on either end of the transects. John Nelson and I attempted to finish the new plot with a storm rolling in and by the time we got back to the other two it was pouring rain. Unfortunately, my camping stuff was in the back of the other truck and was soaked. This turned out to be lucky however, after we parted ways with John and Aaron(who went back to moyer for the night), we went to Stanley and because my things were soaked got to stay in IDFG’s cabin at the foot of the Sawtooth range (comparable to the Tetons). John and I stayed in the cabin for two nights, running plots on the front slopes, glacial lakes, and terminal moraines of the Sawtooths, before heading back to Salmon on Wednesday night just in time for the good bye party for Mark and Angie Hurley’s (Mark is John Nelsons boss and Angie is our SCA contact in the Forest service) French Exchange Student. The next morning Mark sent John and I back across the state on a mission we did not think we could finish, six plots and 12 hours of driving in a day and a half. Our destination was McCall, a gorgeous resort town on the western side of the state, nestled on the edge of a beautiful natural lake and the headwaters of the Payette River. We ran two transects on the edge of cascade lake at dusk on Thursday and then had a whirl wind 19 hour work day on Friday running 4 transects in terrain resembling Tuscany before driving 6 hours back to salmon.

Meanwhile, John and Aaron were traveling around the southern half of the state nearly as close to the foothills of the Tetons as I was to the Sawtooths. While John Nelson and I ran our plots in the cool refreshing mountains around Stanely and McCall, John, Aaron, Jessie Thiel, Justin Naderman and Jessie’s enthusiactic little dog, Spurs, were running plots in the sweltering 100+ degree heat of the southern foothills. They spent a day in Caribou National forest near Jackson, Wyoming(but still in Idaho) and slept in the middle of a herd of sheep one night. They also ran re-ran several transects around twin falls that we had first put in on the previous hitch. As is common when groups split up, John and I were sure that we had endured a harder week and would be getting back way later than the other group. We rushed to reach Salmon by 11pm on Friday. However, the other group also had a long Friday and did not arrive until closer to midnight, only to find me watching the end of a stage of the Tour de France at the Nelson’s home. Finally we made the 1.5 hour drive back to Moyer for the weekend.

Bright and Sunny Monday morning we arrived at the Fish and Game office ready to go. We were sent up to Williams creek summit with Jessie to do a new project, composition plots. The difference with these was that instead of our 1 meter plots(good riddance to those rickety 1 meter PVC plots!!!) we simply dropped a wire down at each meter of the 100 m transect and recorded all the plants that were below the point. It was the highest we had run a transect thus far and we encountered some beautiful forests, nothing like what we had run previously. Very moist, it looked like pictures I had seen of northern boreal forests. We began our lines in clearings that were created by springs bubbling up and encountered new species such as white rhododendron, trappers tea, false-Azalea, violets, tall orange groundsels, endangered purple mountain heather, bear grass(really a lily!)and lots of Indian paintbrush. There was also an exciting moment when Aaron and I experienced the terror of truly being lost in the wilderness when we mistakenly walked up a hill adjacent to but perpendicular to the one up to the car and became completely lost. We spent 15 minutes walking towards the sound of Jessie’s truck horn, then waiting until we heard it again and walking again. It was quite an interesting mix of emotions.

Finally, our last day with fish and game was spent entering the data that we had collected over the last month and a half of work. I think all of us were under the impression that the data forms would somehow disappear and be magically transformed into digital files. As is usually the case with magical occurrences, it didn’t happen and we spent 9 hours putting species name and phenological stage into Microsoft Access. Interestingly, it was a fulfilling way to end our time with the agency. We could see how our data collection would be used and began to understand how it would be stored.
Overall, we all enjoyed our time with fish and game. Everything from the hotels instead of camping, to John Nelsons Dutch oven cooking, to spending 10 minutes trying to identify one tiny little wilted plant, to just hanging out with John, Jessie and Spurs(and sometimes Justin as well). Although we are all excited to move on to new hitches and new co-workers these hitches will be sorely missed. I hope that the SCA is able to greatly expand its partnership with Idaho Fish and Game in upcoming seasons.
Sincerely,
Chris Jackson-Jordan