All major theme parks have had delays. When they opened Disneyland in 1956, nothing worked! Yeah John, but if the Pirates of the Caribbean breaks down, the pirates don’t eat the tourists. – Jurassic Park
Before we could delve too deep over our heads into this project, we needed to learn more information about the location site, Summit Mountain Lodge and Resorts. At the time, all we knew about the site was the name, that it was owned by a guy named Rolane who had a pet deer, and that more information on the lodge could be found on their website or from the fun pamphlets Dr. Grant had picked up for us.
Such pamphlets described the lodge as a budding place to go boating, ATVing, horseback riding, hot tubbing, and fishing, among other things. Clearly, Andrew was most excited about the prospect of hot tubbing, but alas, it was not to be.
No, for we weren’t going to the lodge for a relaxing getaway. We were going for science.
So on that fateful Wednesday morning, we woke up bleary-eyed and chilly and packed into Dr. Grant’s car for the hour-long trek up Summit Mountain. At an elevation of almost 10,000 feet above sea level, we expected it to be cold and windy. The location did not disappoint.
We were instantly blown away by the vast wilderness of the area, but also by the human infrastructure that loomed on top of the rocky earth, as if daring nature to come and take it back. And that was all great and all, until Demi caught sight of the puppy.
After gathering the team together (the puppy, hereafter known as the Puppy, chose to become an honorary researcher alongside us that day), we all headed to talk to the boss. The man with the plan. Sir Rolane.
Sir Rolane turned out to be an incredibly nice, friendly, and loveable character, though some eyebrows were raised when he came barreling toward us in a Wheeler construction machine. After promising to return in a more conspicuous vehicle, Sir Rolane showed up in an ATV built for carrying us tourists around. We piled in and were off in a flash.
And when we say a flash, we mean it, that thing probably went 0-60 in about 3.14 seconds. Or maybe we’re exaggerating a bit. But it was still pretty fast.
It might not have felt so speedy if Sir Rolane weren’t such an enthusiastic driver on the uneven ground. It was like guest starring on The Fast and the Furious 8: Off Roading Edition. We all gripped our bars, straps, and seat belts as we plowed through the wooded site, but there was really no need. Even his Lhasa Apso didn’t think so, as she sat calmly in the front between Dr. Grant and Sir Rolane. Sir Rolane is a perfectly safe driver, her cool demeanor reassured us.
We rode around, asking questions about the location to Sir Rolane and his wise dog. Then Sir Rolane decided he wanted to introduce us to someone.
That someone turned out to be Thunder, his pet deer.
Puffing his chest out like a proud father, he told us Thunder was a part of his family. He said they would often play together, him on the ATV and Thunder chasing along behind him. He even told us that Thunder liked to sleep in the yurts and would keenly unlock the doors and sleep on the bed if the yurts were not locked up.
Being in a forested area, we knew bears lurked around. Listening to him share his love for his pet deer, we didn’t have the heart to tell him what might happen if Thunder ran across a bear in the future.
Our ATV tour of the immediate property eventually came to an end. We stumbled out of the ATV, grateful to be on solid (if steep) ground again and thanked Sir Rolane for the ride. From there, we continued our journey on foot.
The Puppy rejoined us at this point and never left our side until we left the location and headed back to Cedar City.
During the ATV ride, we stored some points of interest we wanted to check out more thoroughly once Sir Rolane was done showing us around. The first of these points of interest was a large water tower up a very, very steep hill. Panting, we hiked up there, with the Puppy bounding ahead of us.
We talked a little about the surrounding trees and vegetation and Dr. Grant pointed out some specific plants that bears really enjoyed. She suggested we look for the same plants as we moved around to pick some potential locations we could place our bear corral in.
As we moved around in the forest, we kept our eyes peeled for signs of wildlife. Naturally, our fecalogist picked up on scat right away.
We soon found that not everyone was as talented as our fecalogist at picking out scat. His excited calls could be heard every couple of paces as he pointed out the droppings that littered the forest floor. We were able to capture some pretty nice photographs of the different types of feces, but that’s a post for another day.
In addition to animal doodie, we also kept our eyes peeled for tracks. Thankfully, we were all pretty decent at finding the imprints in the soft soil (according to our fecalogist, if you can find scat you can find tracks nearby) and soon identified some of the local animals in the area, including mountain goats, deer, elk, and sheep.
Unfortunately, we did not find any tracks that could have belonged to our feline friends, but we held on to the belief that the environment was perfect for big cats to wander around in.
We continued our trek, carefully keeping a watchful eye out for each other. Much like the Pirate’s Code, we followed the guidelines that anyone who stayed behind got left behind. That meant that if a member of our party fell to their doom, we would hold a moment of silence for respect but continue onward. The one and only exception to this, of course, was the Puppy, who did whatever he darn well pleased.
After a few hours, we reached the edge of our patch and wandered past the transition zone. The edge of the patch signified the beginning of a new type of environment. In our case, we were transitioning from aspen woodlands to a flat and scrub-filled meadow. While a few aspen trees still littered the meadow, we saw a big difference in the types of vegetation that grew there. The meadow would be an ideal spot for shrews, but not so much for big cats.
We continued through the meadow until we reached the edge of a cliff. And my. Was the view breath taking.
Standing at this high point, we could see rolling hills dotted with thick groups of trees below. Farther off in the distance we could make out the faint outline of Dry Lakes Road, the main road that ran up this mountain. It was beautiful, a serene and quiet place where one could build a home and get away from the hectic bustle of life.
We stood atop this peak for a moment, quietly absorbing the beauty of the surrounding scenery. A few birds chirped, the breeze ruffled our hair, and time seemed to slow, almost as if encouraging us to soak up the peaceful atmosphere.
Eventually, someone’s hungry stomach announced itself and we turned back. Tired but optimistic, we began the hour-long trip back to the lodge. When we finally made it back, we thanked Sir Rolane for his hospitality, bid farewell to the Puppy, and collapsed into the back seats of the car.
We learned a lot about our location during this excursion. In short, here are some valuable points we recorded as useful for future reference:
- The location was very steep and had many rolling hills. This would cause a problem for us in setting some of our traps out, as we had relied on compact and level ground.
- There was no service up here. This meant any maps or apps we needed access to would need to be able to run offline while we were up here.
- There were plenty of dangerous drop-offs that could cause serious injury. Proper footwear would be necessary to grip the loose dirt as we hiked up some of the slopes.
- Andrew would not get to go hot tubbing.
Feeling confident, we promised ourselves that we would make the most out of our location by building the most efficient traps possible. Only time would tell if our hard work would yield results.