Singing (more like laughing) in the rain

Jessica Faunt

Sunday, September 21, 2014 – Monroe Mountain, UT

Today could have been miserable.  With a GPS, measuring tapes, and cameras in hand, we were sent in groups of three up the steep slopes of Monroe Mountain to find randomly selected coordinates in recently burned conifer and aspen stands.  Following last night’s lightning storm, we were wary to climb to the top of the ridge; however, with no sound of thunder, we braved the rain anyways.  It was cold and wet, data sheets were sticking together, and using the GPS to find our transect was more difficult than anticipate. Today could have been miserable, but it was one of the most memorable and rewarding days yet.

Allow me to elaborate.  My teammates and I were trampling along an old game trail, when all the sudden Anna let out a yelp and stepped quickly away from the log she just crossed.  I was directly behind her and began scanning the ground to see why she had been startled.  Was she slipping in the ashen ground? Did a rodent run across her foot?  

“There’s a dead animal!” she exclaimed.  Behind me, Morgan calmly let out a surprised remark.  I was still unaware.  But just as Anna began to tell me what to look for, I made eye contact with the black beady pupil of a decomposing deer.  I leaped away, my screams mixing in with the laughter from all.  After the first moments of shock passed, we were intrigued.  We became witnesses of a natural process in a very intimate way.  It was sad and a little nasty, but also felt completely normal.  I became overwhelmed with gratitude to be up on the mountain, albeit in the middle of the downpour.  Bushwhacking through the wilderness on our way to collect data that will later carry weight in forest management decisions felt more real than any other work I have ever done for school.  We tried a couple times to reenact the moment for our friends back at base camp, but alas, replications are never as raw and beautiful as the authentic.

Today could have been miserable, but instead it was amazing.  While we may have gotten a wee bit lost, and while we may have felt like walking puddles, we were laughing the whole time (well MOST of the time).  Rather than remembering the day from burned snags, slippery ash, and aching thighs, I remember it by the thriving golden aspen, the deer, and the view from the top of the ridge.  It sounds so cliche.  It sounds so cheesy.  It probably is.  But I will accept these judgements with open arms, because today was awesome, and nothing can be said to taint that.