in a perfect world of yancies: Marmots Monitored!

24 August 2011

Marmots Monitored!

Marmot (closeup)
Look at that thing! Who wouldn't want to spend four days on a mountain pass looking for more like him?

Our marmot monitoring started with a day of training, led by Patti Happe and Sue Griffin. Did you know that when marmots hibernate their heart rate slows to like 3 beats per minute? Wild. What else? Oh, how about this: when they sun themselves, they're actually trying to cool down, since they have so much natural insulation...
Training on Hurricane Hill
After the indoor training, Sue showed us around Hurricane Hill, where marmots and their burrows were almost too easy to spot.

Sue Griffin and a marmot

And then we were off: after a night of camping near Lake Crescent, we headed for the Appleton Pass Trail, via Sol Duc. In case you don't follow that link, let me quote the key word there: "strenuous." 7.4 miles and an elevation gain of 3100 feet—serious stuff, especially with three days of supplies on our backs.

Fortunately, the hike went well. (Feel free to read my trail report on the Washington Trails Association site.)

The hike went well, and the scenery is amazing.

Junction of the Sol Duc River Trail and the Appleton Pass Trail:
Junction: Appleton Pass Trail & Sol Duc River Trail

By the way, I know this is a long post, so I'm leaving out some of our photos. If you want more, there's a set on Flickr.

Luckily we got an early start, so I had plenty of time to catch my breath on the Appleton trail proper, where you gain about 2000 feet in about two and half miles...
Catching my Breath

Trail's mostly snow free, but not entirely:
Snow on the Trail
We even got to practice our "route-finding skills"—exciting!

Worth it, though, to camp in a place like this:
Oyster Lake Campsite
Oyster Lake.
(Can you tell that the snow is melting later than usual this year?)

Here's a view of the campsite and Mt. Appleton from a nearby ridge:
Oyster Lake & Mt. Appleton

Can you spot our campsite? How about here:
Our Campsite at Oyster Lake

So where were we exactly? Well, I posted the map from the Park Service over on Flickr, and I've used their data to create this interactive Google Map, complete with the units that we actually managed to survey and pins marking our campsite and the marmot we spotted:

View Marmot Monitoring: Appleton Pass in a larger map

Here's another interactive map, found at the Hurricane Ridge visitors center:
We Were Here!
I'm also hoping to get the GPS log of our surveying, so keep your fingers crossed!

In any case, not many people make it up there, that's for sure.

On Friday we saw four people, a persistent family of deer who visited our campsite daily in search of—ahem—salty patches on the ground, and one bear (from a distance, thankfully).

Saturday, we saw another bear (or was it the same one?)—it was much closer, maybe only 50 yards away, but it starting running away from us before we'd even noticed it. We didn't see a single person Saturday, but we did, at long last, spot a marmot!

No photo of the Appleton Pass marmot, alas, but here's the occupied burrow:
Occupied Burrow!

And the bear, from a safe distance:
The Bear Went Over the Mountain

We kept at the surveying, on foot and with field glasses.
Emily Surveying

Did some nice day hikes, though a lot of the trails involved snowy patches.
Snowy Switchbacks
Not sure it shows up on the blog-size photo, but see how that switchback just disappears into the snow after a while? Exciting!

Nice summer colors, though, in spite of it all:
Wildflowers Blooming

But if you're wondering why we didn't see more marmots or completely survey all of our units, the answer can be summed up by the phrase that we repeatedly wrote on our data sheets, which is also the title I gave this photo:
Snow Cover; Steep Slope
Snow cover; steep slope.

And for the record: even after three full days, hiking off trail never stopped feeling scandalous :)

But did I mention that we had a beautiful campsite? Here's our breakfast nook:

And maybe my favorite photo from the trip, taken by Emily:
Oyster Lake

Finally, beyond all expectations, check out the awesome shirts they gave us:
Nice shirt!
Love it! And just wait until you see the back!


  1. those pictures are beautiful! sure does make me miss nature! great to hear you guys had such an enjoyable time.

  2. Wow—what an adventure! And what great scenery.

    (Did your training include bear sightings?)

    Mom D.

  3. Thanks you two—wish we could take you both up there!

    Oh, and yes, the training featured a discussion of bears (thankfully, black bears are the only kind on the Olympic Peninsula), mountain lions, and—worst of all—mountain goats. The goats are non-native, and have been pretty aggressive lately... fortunately we didn't see any!

    And the packet they gave us included forms to fill out if we saw any of the above, which is kind of cool... I do like data :)