Monday, June 22, 2015

WMNF Bear Patrol: Week Five

Monday (06/15) was the monthly safety meeting. Even though Monday and Tuesday (06/16) were our days off, we attended the meeting as part of our immersed training experience. Hazmat and Blood-borne pathogens were the main topics of discussion, especially dealing with trash pick-up on the forest. Some major concerns for us recreation folks doing patrol on the forest was coming across drug/alcohol related situations and emergency situations in the backcountry. It is common at these meetings to end with a Q&A and a "round robin" to be informed of everyone's responsibilities for the week. After the 3hr morning meeting, we returned home for our two days of rest.

Wednesday (06/17) we returned to the office to get the low down from Clara, our supervisor, on the plans for the upcoming high elevation bird survey. Our radio, and everyone's on the forest, had to be reprogrammed so we hung around the tech support office for a little while. Also found out that we fried our radio battery by leaving it on the charger for too long; takes no more than an hour to charge. Learned our lesson. Had to wait for the battery order to come through, so in the meantime we had to borrow a portable loaner radio, since we don't have a mounted radio in our fleet vehicle. After that it was about target time for campground patrols so we went around the Kancmangus Highway to check on food storage violations. Sites were pretty clean. We caught wind of an incident report that just came through on the Saco district from a site at Covered Bridge Campground. The incident occurred Sunday (06/14) at a site that was supposedly clean. A very large bear came through during early hours of the morning knocking over "clean" pots and pans. The humans deterred the animal by making loud noises but the bear tolerated this common pattern and kept returning for a few hours. No food reward was claimed by the bear, which is a good thing. Upon following up on this incident, we spoke to the host who sent in the report and he mentioned that the site occupants had just left their site to go into town. Checking in on the site, we found they did not store their cooler in their vehicle upon leaving. They also had used smores sticks near their fire pit. The pots and pans that were rustled around during the incident were also still left out. We left them a notice about storing their coolers during daytime and when absent from a site.

When returning back to the office at the end of the day, another report came in about an incident at one of the trailheads, Champney Falls. A bear was not seen during the incident but there was evidence of a bear being present. Two fresh piles of scat were found as product of several food rewards (details not listed). A Saco Wildlife Biologist and the AMC trail crew member who reported it, will follow up on this later in the week.

Thursday (06/18) campground patrol was uneventful, not many people were out because this is the final week of school for most of the kids in the area. The roads and scenic areas were filled with motorcyclists, as the end of Bike Week came around. In the morning, Emily and I attended the CLE/Tripoli meeting with Law Enforcement Officers and other officials to discuss the impending renovations to Tripoli and the changes in patrolling that are now being reinforced. The area has seen criminal activity in the past, as this is the area where the "partiers" are sent so they do not cause chaos in the developed campgrounds. But none has been documented yet this season. Safety protocol was discussed for those of us patrolling this area. The road takes up three town districts, so only officials of that area can assist/ take necessary action if needed.

Friday (06/19) we prepared for overnight high elevation bird survey on Cannon Mtn. We stayed at home for the morning and packed/worked on our portfolios. We packed lightly, unfortunately we would not be tenting out. Then we met our supervisor around 1530 hrs to set up a shuttle from Lafayette Campground where we would hike out to and Cannon Aerial Tramway parking lot, where we would take the tram ride up, 4,080 ft in elevation to the concession lodge.

View of Aerial Tramway from Weather Tower, Vermont Green Mtns in the distance.

Lafayette Mountain, View from Weather Tower

Concessionaire Building View from Weather Tower; Maine in the distance

 We stayed overnight inside the lodge, not as great as tenting out but it was a cool experience and less weight for our packs. We got up at 0415 hrs on Saturday morning and headed out to the first of 20 waypoints beginning exactly at 0500 hrs. This second survey was a bit more demanding than the Greenleaf survey and required a lot more rock climbing. The Cannonballs are known for their PUDs (Pointless Ups and Downs) and their rocky trails which lead to Kinsman Ridge where we completed the survey points in record timing at 1020 hrs.

We hiked out along Fishin' Jimmy trail which was full of steep rock slab pitches, beautiful moss covered bog bridges (the french call them "pungeons"), and awesome running water scenery.

From the top of Cannon Mtn Rim trail, along Kinsman Ridge, down Fishin' Jimmy and out Lonesome Lake trail, a 12 mile journey! Muscles were well worked and after finishing and getting to the van I felt exhilarated. The pavement feels really odd on your feet after a long trek down rocky mountain side. Really grateful for getting a better hiking pack and for being given this chance to go out on another survey with Clara. Some new bird songs we heard were that of the Purple Finch and the Ruby-crowned Kinglet, two powerful little birds with a mouthful of notes.

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