Indian River Valley

I needed to replace an ibutton that had malfunctioned, and it seemed time to collected the trail cam for the season, so Connor, Rowan, and I took a trip up Indian River valley. The forecast was for heavy rain to start, but fortunately it held off, and we just got sprinkled on a little bit as we were getting back. With a fair amount of muskeg walking to do, I was hopeful that the clear nights earlier in the week had resulted in an icy layer that would support my weight. What I had forgotten about was the snow that came before the clear conditions. That insulating layer had kept the muskeg from freezing, and the snow was much less resistant to the warming temperatures of the past couple of days.

A few brief notes from the trip:

For the most part it was noticeably cooler in the forest compared to in the open. We did walk through a couple of pockets where warmer air had mixed down, though.

My entry into the muskeg provided some comedy for Connor and Rowan. We had come to the edge of the muskeg between the two routes we normally use (though I’ve used this one before as well) and in an effort to avoid the extra soft stuff that I would sink into, I decided to hop off a small fallen tree into a firmer place. I even had Connor double check about the firmness, but of course even firm muskeg is still pretty spongy, and with 200+ pounds landing, it gave way a bit. That wouldn’t have been so bad, but I landed back on my heels a bit, so it was my heels that went in pretty deep. With them stuck, I couldn’t rock forward on my feet to shift balance over my feet and ended up taking a seat that resulted in a wet backside.

One thing that was interesting for us to observe in the muskeg snow were two sets of human tracks. Superficially, they looked pretty similar in age, but when I asked Connor about it, he noticed that one set was pretty firm, and the other soft. He concluded (correctly, I think) that the soft ones must have been from today, and the firm ones had been made on an earlier day. Presumably the snow was soft/wet when they were made as well, but cooler temperatures overnight allowed the compacted wet snow to freeze.

There were many sets of deer tracks, but we didn’t spend much time trying to understand them. Connor noticed a relatively fresh buck rub. When I asked him how he knew it was fresh, he pointed out debris from the rub was on the surface of the snow.

About midway up the long muskeg we saw an otter slide trail going across the muskeg (see photo above). I always wonder about the otter tracks I see well away from the ocean. Are they just transient here? Perhaps playing around and going for a bit of a swim up river and then a cross country hike (maybe to play in the snow)? If they do stick around, what are they finding for food (there were still a handful of coho in the river down lower, so perhaps that’s what they’re getting)?

The trail cam was turned sideways. Looking at the videos, it’s not clear what might have done it. The last video facing the way we placed it was on 6 November, the next video briefly shows a deer on 9 November with the cam facing sideways. It’s possible someone walked up from behind it and turned it. In earlier videos there were bears that sniffed at it and such, but it seems like if a bear had moved it, it would have done so from the front and then have been caught on camera. There were two or three times folks walked by the camera where it was set this time, and in each case it was noticed. I was not super comfortable with the placement because it was right on a fairly obvious trail, and will probably try to figure out a better place to put it next year.

We looped back through the West Valley and I let Rowan choose the route. She was not happy about taking what she considered the long way, and wanted to go back as directly as possible, so we ended up following game trails much closer to the muskeg than I’ve usually gone. I had my doubts about the route and was kind of expecting to have to thrash through some brush or dead fall, but it turned out to be pretty reasonable. There are some interesting stream channels through the forest that I would like to return to investigate further when temperatures are higher and there’s more light.

About matt goff

I am an aspiring naturalist who seeks to learn all that I can about the more-than-human aspects of this place that is my home.
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