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17 June, 2002

Adventures of a lost wanderer, Part II. I am beginning to think I really am just this lost wanderer. No matter how much I try to concentrate on sun position and wind direction so that I know where I'm heading, I still end up in unknown places!

Today, Yumiko decided to join me in a hike down to what we call south marsh (about 2.5 miles directly south of camp & about 4 miles walking distance after circling a few lakes). Anyway, I've been there about 4 other times - all from different routes, but thought I'd be the guide of the day and take her there. Well, we did finally find it, but only after spending about 2 hours investigating a lake we thought was just to the west of it - it turned out to be just to the east, instead!!!

Now first, for those of you that may worry I could truly get lost. I do have a GPS (global positioning satellite) with me and can easily turn it on, punch in GOTO and choose camp or whatever, and it will point the way. It also has a compass to tell me which direction I'm going, and provides latitude/longitude information if I wanted to navigate by that. I am really trying to wean myself away from its use and rely on my "instinct." I believe I've been robbed of "instinct." Another reason you don't have to worry about me truly getting lost (at least unless it's foggy), is that there hasn't been a time, yet, that I've been so far from camp that I couldn't see it. Visibility here is amazing! Our camp is sitting on top of a "hill", so as long as I walk up a slight bluff (and usually look in all 4 directions as I have no clue where I am) I am able to find our 5 tents sticking out. So, when I say lost, it is just lost in the sense that I don't know for sure which marsh, swamp! , pond or lake I am by.

Anyway, back to the day at the mistaken lake (which is now named Stick Lake). Yumiko and I, after finding this lake and thinking it to be Swan's Lake, sat on the shore bluff and watched about 20 pair of King Eiders. We also saw many other waterfowl, but even better - a Golden Eagle flew by! While Yumiko was scanning the area with her binoculars, she saw a "stick" on the horizon, just south of the lake. You must visualize this area to understand this. First, a hill with an elevation of 60m is identified on topographic maps, thus you could infer there are not many changes in elevation & it is basically a flat landscape with a few bluffs and river valleys. Second, there are no tall plants or trees - everything growing here hugs the ground, as if in search of protection from the hugeness it is enveloped within. Third, and this is hard to understand without actually experiencing it, because of the lack of definition in the landscape and because of the distance you can see, i! t is almost impossible to estimate how far away things are or how big they are. Before I came here, I read many times about people mistaking a grizzly bear for a wolverine, as size can't be determined. So, when we saw this "stick", we were quite curious - how far away is it, how big is it really, and more importantly, WHAT is it. Well, Yumiko may be even more curious than I am, so we make a pretty poor pair! We both, enthusiastically, decided we needed to go find out what it was. After about 45 minutes of walking, we get to our mysterious object found about .5 miles directly south of where we had been sitting (we had to walk around the lake and then across some tussocks to get there). It turned out to be a 10 high metal pipe about 4 inches wide, most likely placed there as part of some geological surveying work. Definitely worth the walk!

OK, after that and a little lunch, we figured out where we were, and truly did head toward South Marsh. Now again, mistaken wanderings have their benefits. I learned a lot about Yumiko, we stumbled across a King Eider nest, had a picture taken with a "stick" and had the reward of being able to name that specific lake! Things got even better when we found South Marsh, too. We found a little ridge to sit on near some King Eiders that were visible in the water and sedges, watched for awhile, then decided to investigate. We found two more King Eider nests!!!! That brings the grand total of K.E. nests found by our group to 10. Rebecca (the one working on her thesis with this project) has the ultimate hopes of finding 40 & we all believe we can do that!

Two more funny stories to tell of the day. First, when we were wandering around Stick Lake, we saw a fairly large hole dug into the sandy bank. There were tracks around the hole and some big clods thrown down the bank. Obviously, with yesterday's bear siting, we wondered if this could be a bear den. At first we started going around, (again, Yumiko and I may not be a great pair) but then curiosity won. We did act responsibly, though, as before we approached the opening, I got my can of pepper spray out, took off the safety tab, checked for wind direction (blowing right at us), practiced my foot work necessary to place the bear in proper position to be sprayed, then proceeded to investigate. After thorough inspection and expert analysis, we decided it was a fox den (we found white fur). Strangely, at the same time we are doing this, Rebecca and Qaiyann are watching a bear and wondering nervously what they should do!

One other quick story. When Yumiko and I were getting measurements on the King Eider eggs at South marsh, there were also 2 Sabien Gull's with nests within about 10m. Well, these birds are quite protective of their eggs, so the entire time we are kneeling by the nests, these 2 birds are swooping at us to scare us away. But they didn't just swoop at us, these birds of white breast and belly, black wings, head and beak, were actually hitting us in the head with their feet as they passed by! A couple times they knocked Yumiko's hat sideways on her head and they even left black mud streaks on her hat from their feet! I was laughing so hard, we could hardly get the measurements made!

OK, enough (most definitely) for the day. Tomorrow we've all agreed to take the day off and attempt to do laundry and other "camp chores." We may even try a little grayling fishing! Because of this, I may not write a journal, but will attempt to get a few emails responded to.

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