14 August, 1998

August 14, 1998

Happy Valley Site****Sauna****Tussocks Galore

Today started great. Last night I slept like the dead. Amazing what a "little" hiking can do to the body. This daylight thing really is interesting as to how it affects the mind. Your mind wants to stay awake because it is still daylight, but the body fights it all the way. In either case I really needed the sleep. TOY

Today we all went to the Happy Valley Site. More walking on another 1 km square grid and making active layer depth measurements. I thought walking was tough at the Imnavait Site. This one was at least 3 times as bad. The tussocks made going along very tough. A tussock is a mound of dirt, grass, and other plants that stick up but is not really stable. When you step on them they roll over and try to grab your feet like they're alive I think. They are a pain in the rear!!! The mosquitoes were also out today. They weren't as bad as some of the experienced researchers around here have seen them, but worse than I have ever experienced. They seem to just boil up out of the ground and get in your nose, your ears, your eyes, everywhere. I loved it when the breeze came up later in the day because it kept the bugs away a lot better than the bug repellant.

On the way home we took a brief stop at Slope Mountain. There we saw some ice mounds, which are large up-heavings of earth caused by ice under the ground. This one had caved in because of the thaw but another researcher said that changes of 2 meters in height for these mounds is not uncommon. We also saw some sheep up on the mountain but they were too far away to get any pictures.

Once back at camp, we ate and then had a Toolik Sauna Experience. This is the first time that I have ever had a WARM bath while out camping in the wilds. I'll tell you what, it sure does feel nice to get warm and clean after two days of traipsing around the tundra. Because of a lack of wood (everything needs to be shipped in), the sauna only runs every other day. I am already looking forward to Sunday night.


Although I am a greenhorn field researcher, today was one of those days where things just don't go your way. When we arrived at the grid (Happy Valley), I was given a section to the North-West. Me, not having my compass handy at the moment, went wandering by poles right into the center of Don's grid, about 600 meters off of my starting position. Thankfully, Don got me headed in the right direction and after a short break, I started taking readings. The whole time, traveling at about .000001 m/h, I was being assaulted by a squadron of killer mosquitoes (or at least really really really annoying ones). Luckily, I had my 500 degree mosquito net on in the 100 degree weather - and I'm not exaggerating (well maybe a little). Another peril of Happy Valley (I have no clue how this Godforsaken place got this ill-suited name) were the prolific tussocks that swarmed to wherever I was going. They just wouldn't leave me alone - even after I stabbed a couple of them with the probe! Honestly, though, it gives me a new respect for all of the scientists who spend their time out in the field and work in those conditions. I personally don't find myself acclimated for such kind of labor, but who knows, people change.

Sunset at Toolik Lake (photo by Javier Lopez).

Frost mound beside the Dalton Highway on the north side of Atigun pass (photo by Javier Lopez).

Vegetation near the stream at Happy Valley (photo by Javier Lopez).

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