Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Day 8- Bears and Fossils

Polychrome_Pano_HikeErractic

In the panorama above, we were planning on hiking to the red circle and we started around the corner where the blue arrow is pointing.

We started out the day by going on a hike  along the East Fork of the Toklat River. We  wanted to hike out into a big, wide, flat  glacial valley below Polychrome Pass. From  Polychrome, we had seen a big (maybe as big  as a house) rock in the middle of the  valley. Since there were no other boulders  around and this looked distinctly out of  place, we decided it was a glacial erratic,  meaning a rock that was carried and left by  the glacier.  We parked off the road, then  had to climb down a steep, rocky slope to  get to the river.

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On the other side of the river was a wolf den, so the Park Service had closed the area  around the den. The closed area reached to  our side of the river, so we walked over in  the bushes to avoid it. After a few minutes,  one of the module members, Emily, found a  cool rock. Since she already had a sample,  she let me have it for my official sample.  Here's a picture of it I took back at my lab (aka my bedroom floor).

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The rock, as you can see, has been  compressed and folded, so the layers look  bent. I gave the sample a name, took a GPS  point, marked the time and date, weather,  etc.

Since it was sort of brushy, we were being  careful about bears and yelling "Hey bear"  every 30 seconds. A few days earlier, Emily,  who knows some Latin, came up with the Latin  translation of "Go away bears", which is something like"Abita ursei". The non plural version sounds a bit better (abita ursae), but I guess is grammatically incorrect unless you alter the "abita" part.

Anyway, we were walking through the woods  calling "abita ursae" when Jill, one of  the instructors, saw a bear. It ran off into  the bushes as soon as it saw us. We all  bunched together, made a lot of noise, and  slowly backed away. We saw moving through  the bushes up the hill side, so we continued  to back up. We got out into the open and I  changed to my zoom lens so I could get a  picture. Looking at it on the hill, we  realized that it was pretty small, and was  actually a young bear cub.DSC_8170

Now, mother bears are very protective and  getting between them and their cubs is a  easy way to get attacked. This was worrying,  so we backed up more. Soon we came to the  signs around the closed wolf area. When we  told the story later, we said we were stuck  between wolves and bears.

The bear cub started running back down the  hill. At the bottom it disappeared into the  bushes. A second later we saw a bear cub 30  feet away. It appeared that there was  another cub, but we weren't sure.DSC_8178

We decided that with two cubs, one of which  was directly in the path of our hike, and no  mother bear, we decided that it wasn't safe  to continue. We turned around and hiked back to the car.  We ate lunch there, and I did a segment  about our bear encounter.

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After lunch, we decided to hike the other  way down the river, to a good fossil site.  We hiked along the river for a ways, then  had to "sidehill" along a few scree slopes  (A scree slope is made  up of loose rock  chunks. Its almost like a sand dune with  bigger grains of sand).

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As we got to the canyon with fossils it  started to rain and I had to put my camera  away, so I didn't get many pictures. We  continued up the canyon, which had scree  slopes and outcrops and each side. We  climbed up one to look at some footprints,  then climbed another to look at the angle of a dyke

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(In the upper right picture, you can see layering at about a 50 degree angle.You can also see a protrusion of rock that seems to crosscut that layering. That is the dyke, or magma intrusion, that we climbed up to look at.)

It stopped raining and I got a few pictures,  then we headed back to the car. On the drive back to camp, the sun shined through the clouds and created a almost surrealistic scene. But as we turned the corner, it started down pouring. But the time we got back to camp, it had stopped again.

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The paleontology group had left that  morning, so we had the camp to ourselves. We  had pasta and played a volcanology card  game.

The night before, Sarah and Jill, our  instructors, saw a lynx walk by their cabin.  Our guide had also seen lynx in the area  before. We decided to do a timelapse with my  camera of the path and see what walked by on  the path. I did 15 seconds intervals and it  lasted until 4 in the morning, when my  battery died. But out of the 600+ pictures,  only one had something in it, and that was Jill walking by. Oh well.

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