An alternative title of this blog post would be “Hard Times on Hitch” or “This Hitch Was the Hardest of the Season and Here Are All of the Reasons Why it Was Unpleasant”, etc…I don’t think that’s any way to view our most recent hitch in the Bitterroot National Forest, though. Sure, there were hiccups and pebbles in our path just about every step of the way, but all things considered, things could have gone much worse.
Our area of focus was Martin and Lick Creek on the east fork of the Bitterroot River, south of Missoula by about eighty miles. We brought our sprayer packs with us to hunt for orange and meadow hawkweed, an invasive weed originating from Europe. At this point in our season we are no strangers to hunting for invasive and/or noxious weeds, but we were immediately thrown when presented with the terrain we would be traversing to do this hawkweed hunting. The elevation of our work site was about 3,000 feet higher than that of Missoula, which didn’t seem like it would be an issue until the time to work came and we had to side-hill steep mountain faces in search of orange and meadow hawkweed.
About two hours into our first full day of work at our site, Cody and I were side-hilling one of these steep faces when we heard our names being yelled, followed by the honking of our rig. Like I said, this hill we were working on was very steep and we had no idea what Todd, our crew leader, and Karlissa, our third crewmember needed from us, but we scurried as quickly as we could back up to the road where Todd and Karlissa had dropped us a few hours prior. Cody made it to the road before I did, and he told me he’d look around for them, so I waited below until I heard him yell, “Halle! Get up here! We have to go to the hospital!” Sure enough, Todd was having an allergic reaction to some unknown thing and we (at least I was) quite spooked. We drove into Hamilton where we remained for the next three or four hours until Todd was in the clear, and we were back at our worksite by four that afternoon to continue working.
More hiccups were to follow as we soon learned, but I don’t want to dwell on those, because we found plenty to be happy about amongst the hiccups. We found plenty of huckleberries and wild strawberries (which were put into pancakes for dinner one night) and we worked in an astoundingly beautiful area which always makes the work a little easier. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the hills were still covered with Indian paintbrush, one of my most favorite wildflowers. The little joys on hitch always seem to add up to outweigh any stressor.
If I learned anything this past hitch, it was how to deal more effectively with emotional stressors in the field. We felt a little bit like headless chickens running around when Todd wasn’t feeling well, but we acted and worked and accomplished everything we wanted to accomplish anyway.


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