For the second year in a row we worked for most of a week in Saline Valley with a group from Washington State University, out of Pullman, Washington. After an impressive two day "commute" from Washington to Bishop eight WSU-ers and three FOIers drove in the south way since the north entrance is closed by snow.
FOI has now helped support four trips to Saline so we know that any trip to the valley is a fairly big undertaking. It’s remote, the roads are rough and it has a distinctly backcountry feel. It’s not quite as big a deal when the north road is open since that way in is much less bumpy and half the distance. But when you are forced to go in the south way the three hours of dirt road add to the feeling of isolation.
We camped near Badwater, about half and hour’s drive from the popular hot springs. This was quite convenient to our work sites in Beverage and Cougar Canyons but not so close to the usual center of attention over at the springs.
Our work in Beverage was mainly monitoring as this is the fourth trip there to work on tamarisk. We were pleased with what we saw there; lots of re sprouts but we were able to remove any new tamarisk from the entire canyon from the first water fall down to the terminus of the infested zone.
We worked in Cougar Canyon the second full day. Cougar is one major canyon north of Pat Keyes Canyon and has a lengthy riparian section and waterfalls, and is one of the don’t-miss canyons of the east side of the Inyos. It’s tamarisk problem is substantial and we’re still in the active removal stage there. Some of the plants show nearly forty years of growth and it wouldn’t be an exageration to call it a tamarisk forest. However the infestation seems to be limited to the mouth of the canyon so we are optomistic that one more big removal trip will kick Cougar into the monitoring and maintenence phase.
We spent our third full day recreating and seeing some of the sites of the area including the Hunter petroglyphs and a short day hike into McElvoy Canyon. A "quick" drive back out the bumpy road had us back to Lone Pine just before dark.
We have a few more trips to Saline planned for this year: in April there is a backpacking trip to Paiute Canyon, in September we’ll begin work on the Pat Keyes infestation, and in November we’ll be back with our annual fall trip. The Pat Keyes work is interesting because the canyon is technical – full climbing and mountaineering techniques will be used to access the tamarisk.