Wednesday, June 3, 2015

WMNF Bear Patrol: Week Two

Second week of the adventure was an exciting follow up to the first week of training. My partner, Emily, and I are gaining a little more independence with routine rounds and are exploring more of the developed camping areas to familiarize ourselves with the forest.

Sunday and Monday (Memorial Day weekend) was exciting with many visits to Tripoli Rd, joining two FPO's, Candace and Joan. Tripoli Rd is an infamous dispersed camping area. Because this is not a developed campground but rather a roadside congregation area, many generations looking for a lax recreational environment come here and set up camp with little consideration for low-impact camping or Leave No Trace principles. This area is under supervision of the White Mountains' concessionaire, ProSports, and they do their best to maintain awareness of camping and food storage guidelines. Tripoli Rd has been a problem camping area and is known to be frequented by bears in early June as they await the ripening of the berries and find easy access to human food rewards. We ended Monday afternoon by distributing garbage bags and gloves to visitors so they leave a clean campsite at their departure.

We are adhering to the "Day of Rest" protocol, which states that for every five days of continuous work we must have a full day of rest. So, Tuesday (5/26) was one of our days off.

Wednesday (5/27) we joined one of the bio techs, David, on the second grouse survey on Long Pond Rd in Benton, NH. For this one, we had to report to HQ at 0340 hrs, a little earlier because of traveling time. Jeffers Brook was nearby and detracted only moderately from the survey at some intervals. We were able to hear 6 drumming events and, again, did not hear any gobblers. We visited Jeffers Brook Shelter which is part of the Appalachian Trail, that was pretty neat to experience right off the roadside. Inside the shelter we saw some equipment and journals that the thru hikers share amongst themselves. Really establishes the trail relationship. Something that was also thought provoking but not as gratifying was the bag of "trail magic" hanging from the roof of the shelter.
Shared equipment at Jeffers Brook Shelter, AT
Trail Magic at Jeffers Brook Shelter, AT

Spices, water, gorilla glue, matches, aluminum foil, lighters, duct tape, dominos, cards, rope. (Also two journals in a plastic bag on the wall documenting hikers' experiences).

"Trail Magic" is basically a congenial sharing of snacks for other hikers coming through this part of the AT. This soft sided beach bag, however, is not bear proof and the Trail Crew was contacted to prevent these from being another attractant for the bears. There were many other hooks to hang food from so the mice and other rodents wouldn't get into it, but this is not a good example of proper food storage especially in bear country. What seems like a friendly gesture can actually become the problem and hikers don't always see the importance of participating in proper food storage.

Thursday (5/28) we were involved with the Visitor Information Services tour through Lower Falls and Bear Notch. Lower Falls is a scenic area that was recently renovated as a response to the hazardous areas that pose a risk to the public. Many visitors sunbathe and walk out on the rocks that are very slippery and at times very populated. There is a swift white water current and it can be a high risk for those in the wading pools or those who use the rocks for a better look at the falls. A scenic outlook was added to allow visitors a safer viewing opportunity. The parking lot was also lowered below the height of the Kancamagus Highway and a three tiered septic pool was installed to aid in run-off pollution that used to flow across the highway and into the Swift River during heavy rain periods.

Lower Falls Scenic Area

The same day we also visited Crawford Notch State Park, Fabyan Cabin (which used to house rangers on patrol, as the district offices were a great distance apart. YCC groups recently restored the foundation and shimmied in boards where the log siding was deteriorating), Willey Historical Home (Where a landslide occurred and killed the Willey family, their home was still intact), Cherry Mountain Rd, Fourth Iron dispersed camp, Edmund's Trail, Webster Ridge, Ripley Falls, and Arethusa Falls. We also visited the Highland Center Lodge which is run by the Appalachian Mountain Club. 

Friday (5/29) was the night time bat survey that we conducted with Clara. We reported to HQ at 1500 hrs and headed to Haystack Rd in Bethlehem, NH around 1740 hrs. We learned how to record the standardized surveying info; temp, wind, sky. Also, we set-up specialized acoustic surveying equipment that would supplement the visual observation. A Titley SD1 Anabat was used to detect any high frequency vocalizations given off by the previously detected maternity roost of Northern long-eared bats. Based on D. Sasse's previous work on locating the historic roost sites in 1995, we observed presence/absence of a maternity roost. The last survey was conducted in 2010. At Roost Site Sasse #15 (Black Cherry), we began the survey at 2015 hrs and ended at 2110 hrs with no observations of bat activity. 
Black Cherry Historic Roost Site #15 (Sasse)
Titley SD1 Anabat

Recording Temp/Sky/Wind Data

Saturday (5/30) we continued to familiarize ourselves with other campgrounds and introduced ourselves to other hosts, of Big Rock and Wildwood campgrounds. Because of the incoming rain and because these campgrounds on the edge of the forest usually fill up last, there were not many campers occupying sites. There were a 2/3 in Big Rock in use but at the time unattended and the one which was attended, we spoke to them about proper food storage and they seemed to have a good understanding of the protocol. At Wildwood we were able to stop in and say hello to the hosts. I gave them a stack of food storage handouts to distribute to their campers and notified them of one of their campsites performing improper food storage (coolers left out and unattended).

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