The Midnight Mud Attack of 2008!

Speaking of Skilak Road … We had quite the eventful night. After throwing all of our traps and picking up the water quality duo from their last lake, the four of us spent some time in the Soldotna McDonald’s charging our cell phones and the ATV battery we bought to use with the trolling motor on the canoe. (This was a fun four hours in which we sat in the back of the restaurant charging our equipment, using the wifi from the Safeway across the parking lot, and eating Subway sandwiches for dinner.) It had already been a long day, and Lauren and I still had twenty traps to throw back at Hidden Lake near our campsite. After seeing some of our first moose on the slowly darkening ride home from Soldotna (and what Lauren and Jana suppose was a great-horned owl in a tree off the side of the road), the three of us who weren’t driving drifted off to sleep. Lauren took it well, but Skilak Road is an adventure by itself even in the light. Nineteen miles long, it is entirely dirt and gravel – very fun in a minivan in the middle of May when things have been muddy and the vehicles with four-wheel drive who have been using it create large ditches down the middle and sides of their road by taking the mud puddles at good speed. Pewter takes these areas slowly and carefully, and Lauren had gotten through every bad patch just fine. Until…

mudThe front left wheel slipped off a ridge of hard-packed mud that Lauren had been carefully navigating and fell down into a small ditch of mud. The rest of us woke up to see the sign for our campsite maybe fifty yards down the road. Sweet. So we got out to assess the situation. Lauren had her window rolled down to talk to us while we figured things out — so when we went to push and she went to accelerate… Well. Let us just say that Pewter and Lauren both were very artfully decorated with the plume of mud that fountained into the air as the front wheel escaped.

Made it back to Hidden by 12:45, grabbed our twenty traps, and threw them before heading off to bed. Nothing brings a good field researcher down!

Today, we made a friend at Longmere Lake, a place Lauren has tried and failed to trap for the past two years. Very nice people, but talkative! Alaskans are great for conversation. They will tell you their life’s story and expect yours in return. Also very curious about what we do — but the questions are fantastic. Especially when we meet kids. They ask the most random, pointed questions about what we’re doing. It’s a great deal of fun.

– Rachel