Wednesday, July 25th, we hiked into a little valley at the base of Mt. Arkansas and set up camp next to a family of pikas, by a trickling brook. On one side were dramatic, soaring peaks and on the other, only a little ways away, lay Climax Mine. It was a stark contrast and a very real reminder of our previous class on the issues around mining. Our camp luckily lay unaffected and there were wildflowers everywhere! The whole valley was also full of a diverse sample of both igneous and metamorphic rocks, including a granite rock that had formed around previously existing gneiss rock and more mica than I’ve ever seen. However, we weren’t there for the rocks this time.
On Thursday morning one group woke up at 5:30 and climbed up various scree fields and along a dramatic ridgeline until it turned into a knife ridge and we could go no further. We sat down and had some snacks and our first class on hydrology, at the place where rainwater begins to drain to streams and oceans. Being at the top of a mountain helped us visualize the differences between surface flow, ground water flow, and subsurface lateral flow. We were able to understand the concept of a watershed from the point of view of rainwater. We hiked down by mid-day and passed the second group hiking up. That afternoon we had lazy time in the sunshine and some fun interactions with the curious and feisty pikas around our campsite. In late afternoon we all assembled again to begin learning about the different data collection methods we would be using in our hydrology project. We would be observing discharge, gradient, groundwater flow, sediment, evapotranspiration and general water quality at many different points on different streams and rivers in the watershed beginning in our little mountain valley.
Friday morning we continued learning about our new project by collecting data as a group for the small mountain stream next to our campsite. That afternoon we had some free time in Leadville to explore and restock on food and supplies. As we arrived at our campsite that evening it began raining pretty hard so we raced to set up our tents and slept early, excited to begin a few days of hydrology research and swimming.
-Taryn ’14 and Austin ’15