ASC's most recent citizen science excursion took us far into the Elk Horn Mountain Range in the Helena National Forrest. We partnered with 12 veterans from the Fort Harrison VA to search for signs of the elusive lynx and contribute to an important body of research to understand the biodiversity present in the Helena National Forrest. We spend two days deep in the woods searching for the big cat's distinctive tracks, for tufts of fur caught on tree bark, and for the holy grail of tracking...a sighting of a lynx.
After six and a half months of intense traveling, we were all in dire need of some serious rest and relaxation; however, it took Josh bringing it to our attention that we never actually take a day off for us to react to our exhaustion. Sure we break from hiking often enough, but our time in towns is spent writing the blog post, contacting family, uploading pictures, planning our next route, backing up files, etc. Although initially the words "volunteering at an Organic farm" did not exactly elicit an immediate notion of rest, we decided that a quick two-day stint at Aldea Luna would be a nice change of pace before we continued on north to Bolivia. Twenty-four hours in, we realized that this was more than just a farm stay; this was an entirely necessary rejuvenating experience for our bodies, souls, and bellies, and two days was simply not enough. We laid out our options: a) stay one extra day then bus from Jujuy to Purmamarca, then through Humahuaca to Iruya - places of renowned unbelievable beauty - in order to explore and hike for about a day, then bus on to Bolivia, or b) stay three extra days, bus directly from Jujuy to Bolivia and have something to draw us back to Northern Argentina in the future. We easily picked option b. It is always difficult to pass up seeing areas that we know will be impressionable; however, we have not had a shortage of phenomenal sights and our recent bus/traveling experiences have been nothing less than extremely exhausting. The decision was made - we would spend five days at Aldea Luna before making the trip to the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia.
Team Epoch is in the second phase of an astonishing adventure. Sonya Baumstein, Oliver Levick, Jonathan Crane and Chris Crane recently completed their 3,000 mile row across the Atlantic, beginning in the Canary Islands and ending in Barbados. This 56 day row was no small feat in itself, but it was just the opening portion of Team Epoch's 400Challenge. On March 15, after just 45 days on land, Sonya and new team members Michael McGovern and Christian Pendleton Thomas began their bike tour from the Mexican/U.S. border to Alaska. When they have completed this leg of their trek, they will kayak the Inside Passage (hugging the coastline from southeastern Alaska to northwestern Washington), and round out the excursion with a through hike on the 2,650 mile Pacific Crest Trail. This is a truly amazing undertaking in preparation, athleticism, and mental stamina.
We walked out of Tinogasta excited with the promise of clear rivers the whole 70km (three days) through the desert landscape to Londres, as specifically indicated to us by the tourist information office. As we neared the end of our first day having only crossed one muddy stream, we luckily flagged down a utility vehicle (the last car we ended up seeing) that told us we would only have one chance for water (in 4km) until we arrived at Londres. As we walked the remaining 4km to the muddy stream, we contemplated how or if we would be able to continue with only one more water resupply. At full capacity, we each barely had enough room in our water vessels to carry about a day's worth of water, considering the desert heat. We would have to turn back in the morning. Then we realized we could use the discarded plastic soda and alcohol bottles along the side of the road- we excitedly started collecting bottles until we had armfuls (but sad that this beautiful low-traveled road was so littered). We filled the bottles with muddy water to settle overnight, adding chlorine dioxide tablets to disinfect. The next morning we were on our way to Londres with 6-7.5L of cloudy but settled water each (uff! that equates to 12-15 pounds)! Even though nature was about to stop us, we were able to overcome the obstacle of not having a water source for two days.