8 am brings a persistent horn blaring from my iPhone. Typically, on a Sunday morning, I am resistant to obeying my early morning wake-up, and rather, proceed to sleep until 1 or 2 in the afternoon. However, on this particular morning I have obligations to attend a tracking class with some students from the wildlife department. So at 8 am I jump out of bed and begin getting ready, hoping my yearn for sleep will fade with hiking clothes, hot tea, and a smiling Andrew handing me my chorizo breakfast burrito. Unfortunately, my eyes are still desperate to close and my brain is stuck in a dazed, half awake state where most of the things Andrew is saying to me seem to evaporate somewhere between my left and right ear. As I climb into the passenger seat of Andrew’s blue highlander we begin our adventure, heading northwest toward Mad River State Beach.
The previous night brought buckets of rain, and as expected, encouraged the rivers to swell. As we follow the narrow road toward the beach, which cuts through green pasture filled with happy Jersey and Holstein cows as well as old barns and farm houses, we come upon a shallow crossing where the river has spilled over it’s banks seeking lower ground. Not a problem for the trusty blue adventure vessel. Not long after, however we notice yet another crossing ahead. Just before the road turns to water there is a beat up red van that found it’s way to a wet December day in 2012 from it’s assuming “glory days” in the mid 80s. A young girl is sitting behind the wheel pondering whether or not to charge forward. We stop to make sure she is alright when she quickly inquires our opinion on her chances of making it through. Considering the possibility of being wrong, we tell her we aren’t sure but we don’t think it a good chance to take. She agrees and we continue forward through the water dominated road.
We make it to a dry parking lot where we head out with our group to search for animal tracks. Knowing that the previous nights rain won’t bring us much luck, we fail to linger on the cold beach and agree to head to the Lanphere Dunes instead. We hike over the small sand hill and arrive at an alarming scene. During the 15 minutes that we spent deciphering what turned out to be a house cat’s paw print, the Mad Rivers waters had risen high enough to break bank and flood the parking lot. Our highlander is nearly wheel deep in water along with two of our other friends trucks. Matt has it the worst though with his Subaru Outback where the water is past the wheel well. Fortunately, everyone’s cars start and we make our way out of the flooded parking lot and back onto the road.
It takes us hardly anytime at all to realize that the water is only getting deeper. Laughing both nervously as well as excitedly we can only continue driving through the raging river that once was our road out. The water only rises as we proceed, reaching its highest point that nearly runs over the hood of the blue Toyota. At this point Andrew and I are driving alone, after Preston backed up to aide Matt in his outback which so clearly was on the verge of floating away. So concerned for our friends, we begin considering the ridiculous possibilities of what may have happened to them and how we can possibly help them. As our prospects become more and more absurd we are quickly cut off by a struggling vole swimming across the water towards high ground. His head is barely about water and his short body is wiggling just below the waters surface in attempt to swim as fast as his stubs for legs will allow. Knowing he’ll survive we can’t help but laugh at the humorous sight of a rodent in a flood. Unkowingly, it seems, the vole turned out to be a good omen for the end of our aquatic endeavor and we are finally parked on dry road, waiting for our friends with some other random bystanders, apparently as awed by the rapid flood as we are.
Turns out the Outback’s engine flooded and could no longer proceed through the high waters. Preston, being our prepared and valient group leader, tows Matt a whopping 2 miles out of the flooded road! Laughing a sigh of relief, we agree nothing can stop us from a good adventure and we continue onward toward the Lanphere Dunes, reserving worry of Matts failing engine for our return.
The Dunes yield a variety of tracks including our apparent favorite the house cat, but also jack rabbits, deer, voles, moles, and gulls! We spend a couple of hours hiking around the dunes in search for animals sightings when we spot a black tailed deer “casing the joint” into the bordering forest. The doe is our sight of excitement as we begin our tracking chase through the thicket of trees and shrubs. I am invited to lead the way through tunnels of nagging bushes and thorny branches and I hesitantly (mostly out of insecurity of my tracking skills) accept the challenge. Before I know it I am kneed and elbow deep in dirt frantically auditing the forest floor for the does tracks. Crawling, kneeling, jumping, climbing, crouching, searching, and all the while smiling, we proceed along her trail for a solid 30 minutes. We reach a dark tunnel that surprisingly proves true to her trail and I press on. It is shadowy and damp and at this point my hands are full of thorns, my face covered in mud, and my hair is resembling something similar to a structure put together by spit, twigs, and moss (my clever way of saying a birds nest) but I could care less when I notice the brilliant array of bright orange giant chantrelle mushrooms. I wanted to desperately to remove them from their secret homes and relocate them to my stomach, but I have nowhere to put them and am unsure of how much longer we intend to follow the deer tracks so I painfully decide to leave them behind, knowing that Andrew is feeling my pain just the same.
Eventually we find ourselves exhausted and agree to call it a day. We make our way back to our cars, all the way recalling the wonderful events the day held for us. By the time Andrew and I find ourselves showered and settled back at his apartment, we realize we have less than 2 hours to cook, bake, and assemble our three dishes for the bacon fest party we planned to attend for the evening. Our friend, Kelly, informed us that trophies were going to the person with the best dish and that there were three chances of winning since there would be an appetizer category, a dessert category, and an entre catagory. Andrew and I are both suckers for moral boosters during exam season so we jumped at the opportunity of winning a trophy, naturally. So in two hours we dance around each other in the kitchen making bacon, bacon, and more bacon. We rush out the door 25 minutes late with bacon mac and cheese, bacon wrapped dates stuffed with cheese, and bacon brownies topped with maple frosting. Our confidence is high until just before the votes are cast when we realize we only know one person at the house filled party and that majority of the guests are stoned and voting for the people who shove food down their throat. We hear comments about how delicious our dishes are through out the party, and almost all of it gets eaten! But to our dismay, the awards go to the guy who chased his dish with booze, to the girl who threw the party (who I grudgingly voted for since her bacon toffee was clearly tastier than my brownies), and to dish number 7…which there were accidentally two of…awesome. Laughing to cover up our sore ego’s, we get the hell out of there and end up in the yellow light of Andrews room, where I am currently avoiding studying zoology by writing about this insane day while he studies plant taxonomy…oh the horror… Andrew is blaring his beat filled study music and I am blocking it out with my sound proof headphones softly whispering songs of folky singers and hipster bands (argh).
I can proudly say, another adventure filled day has passed. And though I could have locked myself in the library and memorized animal classification and phylum traits, I chose to go outside into the beautiful world that I love, with a people that I love, and go on an adventure. Yes, I am happy with my decision.