The road to Iron creek is rough and full of washboards. I hate driving it, but we wanted a peaceful campground near work and Stanley. Notice the trailer and pickup are starting to get REALLY dirty. A bath is coming in Challis. No sense in washing earlier, there are too many dirt roads.
First morning at Valley creek, I’m driving to work and pass the other guy’s camp. Two of them are peering into the engine compartment of one of the pickups. It won’t start. Lights are flashing and the starter is clicking, both to no use. We tried a new battery, but that didn’t change anything. Eric called our shop in Pasco, and they decided to come in the following day with another pickup. The crew also had a run-in with a large black bear. It rummaged through coolers all night long and Louis lost most of his food. Idaho Fish and Game was busy trapping bears in the area and this one disappeared after one night. Much to the crew’s relief. They had three dogs and not one dog barked or growled at the bear. I guess they’ve got the good sense to shut up if being quiet is a good idea.
I haven’t talked about fish much for a while, so here is a little tidbit for readers. Salmon have a very strange life cycle. Females run to the ocean and spend two or three years there. Males have many different adult strategies. Here is one…
This is a precocious male. They overwinter in their spawning streams and then remain in that very stream the following spring while most of the other parr (baby salmon) turn into smolts and migrate downstream. These males grow larger throughout the spring and summer and are more than double the size of the current year’s hatch of baby salmon. This one isn’t quite ready to spawn, but it will be when the females arrive from the ocean. The precocious males never get the look of an adult, but they form milt sacs and are viable spawners in the gene pool. On a given redd (spawning nest) there will be a large female, a couple of large males, a few jacks, and if you look closely you can see the precocious males darting around the nest putting in their contribution. There might also be a cutthroat or bull trout lurking downstream waiting for loose eggs. And occasionally a bear waiting for unwary spawning adults.
We scan each and every precocious male, hoping to get a recapture from the previous year of tagging. We have gotten one so far on this trip, the last day at Valley creek. It’s always nice to meet up with an old acquaintance.
The second day, the station chief from Pasco and our head mechanic showed up with a replacement vehicle. We are now back to our full compliment of work vehicles.
We were scheduled for four days of work at Valley creek, but we needed only three days. There were lots of young salmon everywhere, just begging to be tagged. I have many, many pictures of the Sawtooths, but the third day of tagging brings us to a local rancher’s land west of Stanley. This is the view from my pickup last year…
On the fourth day, we packed up and moved to Challis. Next up is Camas creek.