Our First Big Bushwhack

Today was our first working day in Kejimkujik, and I think we would all agree that it’s been exhausting but productive. We started the day early by visiting the Park’s office to get information for our site selection. We decided on a boggy area, and deciduous and hemlock forests, for a total of three sites. Our guide, Sally, was very helpful and directed us to three sites that were all adjacent to research quadrats the Park has laid out for ecological monitoring. After the meeting, Sally gave us all Kejimkujik researcher hats, which are very cool and helpful for explaining our presence to patrons of the Park. After our meeting, we decided to head out to our first site, and begin our trek into the wilderness.

Graham Ansell and Katelyn Lutes sporting their awesome new Keji hat on the first day in Kejimkujik National Park
Graham Ansell and Katelyn Lutes sporting their awesome new Keji hat on the first day in Kejimkujik National Park

I am very thankful for our handheld GPS units or we probably would have taken even longer to find our sites. The first location we had to find was about two kilometers up Channel Lake Wilderness Trail, followed by another reasonable distance straight into a hemlock forest. After a brief tutorial on how to use the GPS, complete with both the NAD27 (in decimal degrees) and NAD83 (in meters) datums, we were off on the trail. It was easy enough to find the point on the trail that marked our entrance into the forest, but squeezing in between conifers and vaulting over logs provided most of the challenge to get to the Park’s sampling area. When we arrived, we realized we had another problem on our hands; the pre-existing sites were only labeled with coloured stakes and salamander boxes.  We had to spread out and find the corners of the Park’s plot to orient ourselves before we could do anything. So, Katelyn and I both took positions and corner stakes, while Martin and Agata came about the bright idea to use the salamander boxes (which had been placed along gridlines) to pinpoint our position on the grid, and in no time we were sure of our orientation. We successfully set up our site and bushwhacked our way back to the trail.

After a short lunch, we prepared for the next, and final, site of today. Our previous method of locating the site had been following the trail until we hit the correct west coordinate, then plowed due North to the site. However, after taking the wrong trail this time around and having to backtrack to the correct turn off, which in our defense looked like a little game path, we encountered another issue – the exact west coordinate was in the middle of a swamp.  Continuing along the trail until we cleared the swamp was apparently also a bad idea, because it was entirely dense forest. But we soldiered on, assuming the whole forest was like that. After what seemed like an eternity of tumbling through close knit branches, dead, crumbling logs, and the occasional hidden swamp, we finally arrived at our destination. We quickly got oriented as before and set up our site. This time, we headed exactly due south to the trail and found the forest walk to be much easier. What an easy trip! The only thing in our way was a couple ferns and some widely spaced trees. Back on the path, we flagged a tree to know where to enter, and made out way back to the RV. We’re tired and our feet hurt, but we accomplished a lot, and we definitely got a better grip on the best way to tackle our sites in the future. Here’s hoping our next site, the bog, is a bit easier than these forested areas!

– Graham

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