This weekend, following up on several sets of likely wolverine tracks biologist and backcountry skier Pete Jenkins discovered, a small group of intrepid citizen scientists set out to place a remote camera in the vicinity in hopes of capturing a photo of the illusive carnivore. Grey skies and a very thin coat of fresh snow beckoned.
Clouds covered the high peaks of the Chiwakum mountains south of Highway 2 in the Washington Cascades when the group met early Saturday morning. For the project, a few unusual items were called for, not usually included in the field kit of backcountry skiers: a hammer, some chicken wire, a motion sensitive camera, and, much to my chagrin, a frozen chicken and the contents of the scent glands of a beaver (these two items ended up in the bottom of my backpack). More typical of such a ski trip, Samantha Goff insisted on the addition of a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer to each of our packs (see my blog post on climbing around the Eldorado Massive, http://davidmoskowitz.blogspot.com/2009/08/climbing-in-north-cascades.html, for background on Sam and PBR).
We departed bright eyed and bushy tailed as heavy wet snow fell, providing some reprieve from the hard raincrust. A couple of hours later, a gain of 2000' elevation, skinning on an old logging road and then up through uncut mixed conifer forest, had left us quite wet and me feeling a bit upset about the freeloading chicken weighing me down.
Pete identified the location he had determined would be the best spot to set up the camera based on prievious track sightings and how animals general moved across this particular set of drainages descending from a large alpine cirque above. Not a minute too soon. I was totally fed up with my chicken (and had a sneaking suspicion it might be leaking chicken juice into my pack.
|Pete Jenkins double checks the remote camera settings.|
|Backcountry skier extraordinaire, Julie Weis double checks the quality of the chicken, possibly not sure how picky wolverines are about the freshness of their poultry.|
|Writer Chase Edwards (http://poboxtheeurovan.blogspot.com/) looks on nervously as Pete attaches the bird to the tree.|
|Pete attaching the chicken, wrapped in chicken wire, securely to the bait tree with remote camera in background.|
|Chase unwrapping the strong smelling scent lure.|
|Chase, clearly relishing the opportunity to smear the bait tree with beaver castorum, an irresistible scent for many creatures.|
Chase and Sam celebrating a job well done.
Much of the skiing that followed, while punctuated by (brief moments of) fine turns, might otherwise be described much like dancing with a partially frozen chicken across a floor of slide alders, avalanche debris, and thinly covered raincrust. Stay tuned here for photos we get from the camera!