Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Winter GUD Season by Apryle Craig

View from the Bunk House
Approaching the bunkhouse, we rocketed up the quarter-mile long driveway. With a foot and a half of snow, rocketing is really the only option for approach to crest the steep spots and not get stuck in the low spots. The stairs leading to the 2nd floor were covered in about 2 inches of ice topped with a 4 inch powder fluff. We opened the door to the bunkhouse and were greeted by an unexpected wall of warmth. 

Giving Up Density (GUD Tray)
The crew had space heaters plugged into every working outlet which transformed the bunkhouse from a rat-infested ice box to a cozy cabin retreat. Bryce and the crew had the place as clean and organized as I have ever seen it.

Snow Mobile Trail in Bonaparte Recreation Area
Over the next 8 days, Zach was going to assist me with placing and collecting 60 giving up density, aka GUD, trays. These GUD trays are part of my PhD research investigating the impacts of recolonizing wolves on deer foraging.

Apryle on Snow Mobile
Wolves have recolonized parts of Northeastern Washington, while other regions do not yet have established breeding packs. The return of this apex predator, may cause deer to change foraging habits. Giving-up densities (GUD) are a common method to assess predation risk relative to patch characteristics.  The GUD is determined by setting out feeding trays with known amounts of food for a fixed time and then measuring the amount that remains. The remaining amount or density of food at which the animal or animals decide to leave the box (give up) is an indicator of the level of apprehension or predation risk deer experience in the area.

Myself out in the Field
Zach built a fire in the wood burning stove and we sat at a table on the ground floor scooping corn and weed-free alfalfa cubes onto a scale. We packaged bags of equal weights.
Then the next morning, we loaded up one quarter of the bags, trays, and trail cameras, hitched up the trailer with our rented snowmobile, and drove the icy roads to Bonaparte Recreation Area. 

Aeneus Valley Forest Service Land View
We spent the day inhaling the fumes and shouting over loud buzz of the snowmobiles. We waded through snow up to our knees which turned Zach's jeans into jeancicles. We had 1 snowmobile for the two of us plus all our equipment. We had to make multiple trips back to the car to resupply. Twice we had to dig out the snowmobile because the snow was so deep it spun out. At the end of the day, we placed 10 GUDs. Five fewer than planned. Hopefully tomorrow would go smoother.

In this trail camera photo from Bonaparte Recreation
Area, you can see two deer with their head up being
vigilant and one deer with its head down foraging. Apryle
is using photos like this one to determine if deer spend
more time vigilant and less time foraging in
areas recolonized by wolves. 
For the next three days, we repeated this routine in the three remaining study areas, each time getting more efficient. The deer trapping crew had left for Christmas, so we now had access to 2 snowmobiles. We saw some amazing views and reached some remote locations.

A quick break with Santitas
As soon as we placed the last tray, we started preparing to collect the trays the following day from Bonaparte, the first area. We took turns driving and warming our hands on the snowmobile's hand-warmers. We had an efficient system of locating, picking up, and storing the GUD trays. We timed the GUDs in logging areas to coincide with Christmas when the loggers were off. We picked up those GUDs after 6pm, so we were in dark. This worked really well.

Hill Repeats on Hill behind Bunk House
Our trail cameras captured deer, elk, a fox, a bobcat, and a few loggers. With the help of a dedicated team of reviewers, we will use these photos to analyze deer behavior. Between it all, we met Sandy for lunch, made a walmart run to replace tire chains, and were attacked by a domesticated spike deer. 

Apryle packing Snow Mobile in Bonaparte Recreation Area
Although the ice, snow, cold, and darkness eroded our motivation, we did manage a few chilly runs: The inaugural post-holing up the driveway run, the out-and-backs along 21 dodging logging trucks, the late-night high school parking lot run, and a few others that Zach dug deep for solo.

The fourth and final post of this series will include the Bridle Trails 50K report, our trip to preview Gorge Waterfalls course and the Shoreline trail running scene!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Quick 2200 Mile Road Trip to the Northwest

Apryle at Palo Duro Canyon
We hit the road at three in the morning with the Versa packed to full capacity. We drove the whole day until we reached Palo Duro Canyon State Park and decided to go for a easy ten miler. It was a cold day in the northern panhandle and the demoralizing freezing rain was turning the red clay trail to a potters paradise. 

Palo Duro Canyon
The Givens/Spicer/Lowry Loop did not disappoint and Apryle and I were enamored of the beauty of this state park. Palo Duro was one last gem that Texas had to offer before we parted ways for the land of enchantment.

Apryle Running in Arches NP

We experienced some icy road conditions from Amarillo all the way to Santa Fe, and because we could not find a place to stay, we drove through the night to Pagosa Springs, Colorado. We stopped in for some baked goods and continued on for Durango. 

Arches NP

Upon arrival the snow began swirling down from the sky covering the town in about eight inches of fresh powder. We went for a run along the Animas River and held up in small hotel for the evening. We then made an attempt to visit the cave dwellings at Mesa Verde but the conditions made the roads impassible. 

Admiring the Arch

Therefore we made our way for Arches National Park in Utah. The drive from Durango to the Utah boarder was precarious, and the road conditions did not improve until we reached the outskirts of Moab. We decided to run some trails in Arches and were rewarded with the beautiful contrasting reds and oranges of the arches capped with a fresh white snow and dotted with green juniper. After a few hours of exploring we made our way to Salt Lake City and turned in for the night before continuing our journey to Seattle.

Apryle & I at Arches

After one last dangerous drive across the icy roads of Idaho and Oregon we made it to Seattle safe and sound. We unloaded the Versa and started prepping for our winter field season in Republic, WA in just a few days. 

Stay tuned for the next installment of the four part journey outlining the transition from life in Texas to life in Washington. Apryle will highlight the 2015 winter field season in Republic.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Calm After the Storm

Forest Nature Preserve in Tiffin, OH
Many cite the clichĂ© Frost poem indicating that they ‘took the road less traveled’ or maybe even the classic Jay Z line that they ‘came to the fork in the road and went straight’. However, I do not believe that I have made it to that divergence in the yellow wood. Since the start of 2012, my life path has wavered and taken many offshoots. 

Climbing Hill at Raccoon Creek
Most of these offshoots were well worn and some of them not trails at all. As I reflect on everything I have been fortunate enough to experience in my life thus far, I do not think there is a divergence in life paths at all, simply an interconnected network of roads that inevitably bring you back to the start. 

Apryle & I at Coe Lake in Berea, OH
Since 2012, I have lived with 32 different roommates, in ten different cities, in four different states, worked for five different companies, graduated with two bachelor degrees and one doctorate. I have completed two hundred-mile races, one hundred-kilometer race, four fifty-mile races, one sixty-kilometer race, and three fifty-kilometer races. 

Raccoon Creek State Park, PA
I have lived out of a van, spent weeks in a tent, showered in mountain streams, ran on knife edge switchbacks and was even attacked by a adolescent buck during rut. I have formed lasting friendships, while trying to keep old ones alive. I have experienced heartbreaking failure and have been elated with success. 

Apryle & I at Graduation
Although, I am no closer to knowing who I want to become, I am certain I have found the person that I want to spend the rest of my life with and because of that (and years of hard work) I believe the other pieces of my life will simply fall into place. 

Boy Who Cried Wolf (Myself, C Genet, Z Gase)

With all that said, I would like to continue on this post highlighting my most recent life transition – from Zach Szablewski of Austin, TX to Dr. Zach Szablewski of Seattle, WA. My last post highlighted the fall season and one of my proudest moments, winning the Franklin Mountain 50K. 

Graduation (Dr Rice, Eddie Stevenson,
Victor Carrasco, Myself, and Rufus Palomero)
There was no time for rest after the race, because after returning to Austin, I had a crucial exam to take and then I was off on a plane to visit my family for the latter half of November back in Northern Ohio. Apryle and I arrived in my one of my former places of residence, Berea and ran on some of the old trails that I practiced on in college. Then she parted for Harrisburg while I headed back to Tiffin. 

Christmas Trees at Molyets
My time in Tiffin was relaxing and productive, I put in some solid miles with my dad and my good friend Craig Genet and I even helped out my old boss Ed string up some Christmas trees in the greenhouse. Craig and I ran the Turkey Waddle in Carey, OH, a 2 mile relay race where we took first in our age group. My family and I also got a chance to check out Apryle and I’s wedding venue at Raccoon Creek State Park in Pennsylvania. Apryle and I put in a short trail run and were inspired to plan a day after wedding 19 mile trail run. 

Last Georgetown Loop (Myself,
Anthony Jacobs,and Seth West)
We took to the air once more in a trip back down to Austin to finish up my final days at school. I was fortunate enough to pass the remainder of my exams and thus receive my diploma on December 11th. It was a solid last week and a half in Austin. Apryle and I met up with my old landlords, Will and Gayathri and we hiked in McKinney Falls State Park. We ran one last Lake Georgetown Loop with Anthony and Seth. I put in some miles at Hill of Life with Seth and dad biked some miles alongside me the day before graduation. 

McKinney Falls State Park with Apryle,
Gayathri, Will, Reggie and Abbey
Our time in Austin wrapped up with the graduation ceremony and a dinner date with my landlord Nancy. It was a fitting end to the long and arduous journey through physical therapy school. I am so glad that I was able to celebrate the occasion with my incredibly supportive parents and fiancé Apryle.

My Family at Graduation

Stay tuned for the road trip post next week.