Tom Trainer’s Tales from the Woods: Part 1

Tom Trainer’s Tales from the Woods: Part 1

I’m a city boy, raised in, and former resident of, a once-large city in the US rust belt. What I knew then about water  was that if you turned a tap, it came out. Having aged out of  the work world, and having arrived here in Fanny Bay, I had enough uncommitted time on hand that I needed something more to do to engage in a meaningful life, or to at least keep out of my long-suffering wife’s hair, and away from our collection of household cleaners and domestic implements. Well, it came to me…. volunteering…. that’s the thing. 

Who with? That was easy, just ask the neighbors. My local sage immediately recommended the Beaufort Watershed Stewards and gave an email and contact name. I wrote off to Mike Mesford, volunteering my services, and darn if he didn’t reply right back. While just an email, I’m sure I heard patriotic and noble music playing in the background as I read it:  “Yes, Tom, we can use your help. Water is the lifeblood of our planet and ourselves. We are doing all we can to ensure our local watersheds are safe and resilient. We monitor the water flow coming down from the Beaufort’s and into the Sound, passing into our water systems along the way. We need to know if pollutants are leaching into our waters, if drought or floods trigger sediment flows, or threaten the aquatic life. We want to understand the risks, and plan for the future. This means we have creeks to climb, streams to wade, and measurements to take. It is into the woods we go. By the way, we always go out in pairs, for safety reasons.” 

Great, I thought. It is one person to go back and report the bear, and the other to serve as an appetizer while the first one gets away. Who could resist?  How soon can I start? 

Two days later, Mike takes me to meet my Waterloo (as it turns out, the name of one of the eleven creeks and rivers the BWS covers). We drive up a small road, which turns into a gravel path, which in turn becomes a goat trail. Throughout our increasingly bouncing journey, Mike explains to me the goals and purpose of BWS, how today’s tasks work towards these objectives, and who will be carrying what into the boonies. 

Here’s what I take from it. Is the water shallow or deep today? Clean or dirty? With enough data points on enough days and from enough streams, we can know whether the overall water flow is drying up or threatening flood, whether natural or man-made particulates or chemicals are being in-troduced, whether trends suggest all is going ducky, or it’s time to act. 

So how did things come out?  Well, you will have to see if BWS will let me continue this saga in the next newsletter. I will say that a bear was involved. Although truth requires, I also note it was a Wooly Bear caterpillar.  Still, they can be dangerous.