Ashley National Forest, Utah, 1998
by Tami Merkley, PIT Volunteer
The deadline was April 15, a day that fills many with dread. The “other” form I filled out and mailed that day was my PIT application. I waited to see if I was selected for a project. Along with 14 lucky people, I “drew” a spot (this sounds like an elk hunt) on the Dripping Springs Survey Project. On June 22, we all showed up at Site 3, or C, depending on who one had talked to. Introductions were made, and papers were filled out.
After an impromptu lunch, Ute Elder Clifford Duncan spoke of his ancestors and how they still live on through his people, and of the spiritual aspect of all living things. He told us about his people—past, present, and future—and related some of their beliefs. We were reminded to keep all of this in mind when we were hiking and helping to record sites.
After Mr. Duncan left, we were all quickly inundated with a mountain of paper—forms with back sides, front sides, and no sides. We learned how to draw maps (somewhat), read a compass (not at all for some of us), and hoped that we would be chosen to take pictures of the sites (the best part). Rock identification was difficult for those of us who think all rocks should be put into one classification—rocks. We had tiger chert that most of the time did not look like a tiger, and sheep creek quartzite that in no way resembled a sheep, or a creek, for that matter. There were lithic scatters that I thought at first were something the dinosaurs left behind. I personally liked Form A, which had a line for the names of assisting crew members. Sounds like an operation, but it helped me to remember the wonderful people who came along for the ride.
Assignments were handed out bright and early on Tuesday morning. Dr. Byron Loosle would be in charge of long, out-of-the-way, scenic byways and marathon hikes. Nicole, a.k.a. Cupid, was responsible for the love-struck. And Kelda was in charge of the lost and wandering souls. Paul and Susan (pollen season) were responsible for our itchy, watery eyes and sneezing and wheezing. With day packs and enough water for a camel to be envious, we officially started the project.
(Photo: J. P. Reynolds, Tami and Kali Merkley, and Ryan and Kurt Gamlin finish a transect on the edge of Red Canyon in the Dripping Springs survey, Photo courtesy of Byron Loosle)
That first night around the campfire, we had grand discussions on a variety of topics. Nicole told of her adventure in Ireland, and of those who went weeping into the bushes every time it rained. This was prophetic, since the next day it rained on us. Though I don’t think anyone went weeping into the bushes, many learned that they could shift into turbo hiking speed when the weather turned bad. I would almost bet a few world records were broken that day while heading back to camp. Byron, our brave leader, had a prior engagement and so missed all the excitement as we came “dripping” back into camp. I wonder if that was part of how this project got its name?
In my humble opinion, this PIT project was a resounding success because no one was hurt. To quote a popular movie, “Beginnings are kind of scary, endings are usually sad, and the middles are always the most enjoyable part.” I totally agree.