So I survived the first week of fall semester. It's going to be brutal, but I also think it will be the most enjoyable semester. I'm finally done with all the lame-o general ed classes, so I can immerse myself in some upper level biology classes. I'm especially excited about my evolutionary biology class (I'm sure I'll post something separately for that) which is taught by my lab boss Byron, and I'm stoked out of my mind for my conservation biology class, which is taught by Rick Gill, the man who persuaded me that climate change is fo real. Con bio is a capstone class and we have to do a conservation assessment for our grade. No exams! My classmates and I decided to get a leg up on the assignment and go camping this weekend. We chose the picturesque and surprisingly accessible Silver Lake for our "geographically bounded region."
Cooper, Quinn and I headed up American Fork Canyon in the late afternoon. We passed Tibble Fork Reservoir, which gave me a heavy dose of deja vu (I went camping there when I was eight with my dad and little brother), and we continued up to a sign that read Silver Flat Lake, 3 miles. We then cruised up a dirt road, which was filled with holes and big rocks. Good thing we had Coop's truck. We got to Silver Flat Lake, which looked like a huge puddle, and parked at the Silver Lake trailhead. The scenery was beautiful, with mostly scrub oak, aspen and pine.
We headed up the trail and made it to the lake no problem in about an hour. The panorama was breathtaking, and I was stunned at how beautiful and untouched the lake looked for being so close to civilization. The lake is surrounded by high mountainous cliffs, formed by a glacier, and the granite crags make for an incredible picture. Fish were leaping out of the lake like mad, and we sent Cooper to catch some while Quinn and I hiked up a little higher to set up camp.
I busted out the sweet tent I bought at a garage sale earlier this summer for the first time. Quinn got to work setting up his hammock, and when we'd put on warmer clothes we ran down to the lake to see what we'd be eating for dinner. Coop had caught a couple brook trout, but he had let one go because it was so tiny. So we set about making a fire away from our campsite (to avoid bear problems) to cook our manly meal, which also included some instant Betty Crocker mashed potatoes, made with water boiled by Quinn's Jet Boil. In lieu of s'mores we had mate, an Argentine tea which got me fairly wired. We saw flashlights near our campsite and hurriedly killed our fire (we technically weren't supposed to light one) and Quinn went down to inspect our company. Cooper and I watched with terror, fearing the rangers had come up to slap a big fine on us. Finally Quinn came back up the mountain and let us know we just had some neighbors camping nearby. We cleaned up our dinner mess and hung in the bags on a tree, then headed back to our campsite.
Cooper set up his hammock around eleven thirty, and we decided to head out under the full moon to see if we could find some wildlife. We took a spotlight with us, and we walked around the lake and perched on a few rocky protuberances to sit and wait. We got pretty spooked talking about cougar attacks, and around 12:30 we decided to head back to camp. As we were walking above the lake, however, we heard a loud splashing noise and we ran to the edge of the trail to check it out. We could just barely make out a silhouette out in the water, and guessed that it was probably a moose. As our eyes adjusted and we continued watching, we became positive that it was a female moose. We decided to get a little closer to try to get a photo. We perched on a big rock and shined the flashlight on her. We could see her eyes glowing and confirmed that it was a moose, but we weren't close enough to take a photo.
We continued watching her for about fifteen minutes, when suddenly she bolted from the lake and started making circles on the muddy shore. She bucked and snorted and grunted and scared the crap out of us. It was super erratic behavior, and we could tell she was really agitated. At one point she started galloping toward us at a surprisingly fast gait. Moose look like such awkward gangly animals, but that she-moose could move! We stood up on the rock yelling and Cooper started clapping at her. She broke left about 25 paces from us and ran out into the lake. She did a few laps and then came back to the shore to repeat the ritual. She must've been just as spooked as we were. We moved to a bigger rock and gathered ammunition to hurl at her should she charge us again. We waited until she swam back across the lake and we couldn't see her anymore, and we made a mad dash for our campsite.
We were all wired on adrenaline and a pretty jumpy. As I laid down in my sleeping bag and closed my eyes, a chorus of coyotes started howling. They sounded really close, like they were down on the lake shore. The cacophony continued for several minutes, and my heart was racing like a hummingbird. I tried to convince myself that coyotes were harmless, but images of a pack of thirty coyotes ravaging our campsite kept flashing through my mind. Needless to say, I didn't get much sleep that night.
We woke up the next morning around 7:00 and went down to the lake to inspect the panoply of tracks left behind by all the nocturnal wildlife. We saw a lot of tracks from our crazed moose friend, as well the pack of coyotes. We also saw a lot of deer tracks and something that looked like Sasquatch.
We spent the morning fishing on the other side of the lake from a rocky outcropping. Each of us took turns with the fishing rod while the others worked on breakfast. Thanks to Quinn's Jet Boil we had some fantastic mashed potatoes, instant oatmeal and hot chocolate. It was perfect for the light drizzle of rain that persisted most of the morning.
I've never been much for fishing, but I had a blast throwing that line out there and reeling in those brook trout. I caught four total (Cooper cast the line on one of those, but I still brought him in). Quinn and Cooper caught some more too, but we only brought three home with us.
Around noon we decided to head home. On our way out we saw our moose friend again, this time munching on some willows down in a gulley. We watched her from a much safer distance on the trail and snapped some half decent photos of her. The whole experience made me want to get out and camp a lot more often. It was a blast. And it didn't hurt that we were doing it for a class assignment.