I was out in the woods for three days this past week looking for more of the until-recently-presumed-extinct Achatinella bulimoides snails. We have two snails in the lab population but that's not exactly the best way to start a population, despite what the Bible might imply. These snails are quite darling. All chubby and looking like those damn blended girly coffee drinks that the Japanese tourists order at coffee shops that basically stops shit in its tracks. So. Anyway.
We were headed to the Ko`olau Mountains. I arrived at the Army Environmental baseyard at seven o`clock after driving through heavy rains with a sense of dread. We were maybe going to helicopter in but, since the weather was bad, hiking was the order of the day. I was a little fearful, since I always seem to totally embarass myself in front of these totally elite, hardcore field conservationists. I have done a lot with them over the years and done and said stupid stuff each and every time (from locking us in a Natural Area Reserve to dropping a personally delivered home brewed beer in my driveway seconds after I got it). The outlook was not good for me altering their impression of me. (I am perhaps slightly exaggerating, but I'll never know).
We got to the trailhead with our 40-pound packs and readied ourselves in the pissing rain. Tabis were in order.
They are these Japanese fishing shoes with little pronged spikes that come out of the bottom. They are lousy for arch and ankle support but totally essential for hiking the steep, trailless slopes. Duct tape is necessary. Fo' real.
There were 4 of us. Me, 2 Army folks (one office girl), and a volunteer. It was a 3 hour hike to the place we dropped our packs and got ready to snail in the pouring rain (2600 feet). The slopes were near vertical and very wet, which means slippery. I wish I had more pictures but I couldn't bring myself to let go of the vegetation to take any. Ha!
We hiked/slid down to 2200' and checked the native trees for snails. Saw some A. sowerbyana and some A. decipiens but no A. bulimoides. WTF? Sigh. Long day. Finally got to the cabin at around 6:30 PM after another long hike through the mist and hung our muddy clothes out to...um..absorb more moisture.
Dinner and stories from Vince were nice but sleep was elusive and my body was already sore. And the volunteer snored and there was a rat looking around for my trail mix.
Day 2: two of the other snailers bailed out. It was too difficult. I mean the combination of terrain, weather, and no snails was very, very hard on the body and spirit. I stayed on, cringing inside at the day ahead. Basically the hard part of the day was twice as long as the previous day. But we found three beautiful snails.
There is something about being out there in the mountains on these slopes covered with mossyness and tenacious plants that is beautiful and wonderful. And the hurting and doubt made me stronger. Especially on the second day when I was all alone, out of earshot of Vince, when I could just take my time and look around and think of the important things in life.
Day 2 was successful in that we found snails..after 5 o`clock...after we'd been hiking a contour at 2000' all day in near vertical terrain. So it took us about an hour to get back up to 2600' in the rain and the hike back to the cabin was about 30 minutes. Here is the cabin.
We ate dinner and then I had to tell Vince that I would be of no use the following day. I was up to checking the rat baits and setting the traps but there was no way that I could've dropped down again and make it back to the trailhead. It was a humbling moment, but Vince was his usual sweet self and agreed with me about the weariness. Day 3 we checked rat bait stations and set peanut butter traps in the pouring rain and hiked out. I saw some great endangered plants. Some pretty snails too.
I had to go home and soak my feet in hot salt water. Still, for 2 days I could not wear shoes. There were points when I was asking myself why I don't just have a regular job. But then I realized that it is because I am drawn to the something-elseness that life has to offer. But anyway. Please enjoy the pictures.
Vince left a homebrew on my front steps after it was all over.