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Today was the first day where the car time really started to grate on us both. In particular, it was really hard to end the day heading west on I-70, knowing how close we are to home, seeing Kansas City on the signs, and knowing we can’t go home yet….
Even so, the day was an overall success. The sampling at Tennessee went as smoothly as it has everywhere else. I had scheduled us to spend the night in Tennessee, but considering we were already ahead of schedule, we finished the sampling around lunch time and headed north towards the Missouri site. After all (as we said to each other), what’s five more hours in the car? It’s not really a joke – five hours feels like nothing, anymore.
Spending the evening in Missouri gave us two chances to see some of Emily’s family: 1) we stopped in St. Louis for dinner with her boyfriend Dan, and his friend Steve. Dan is an architecture student at K-State and is in St. Louis for spring break visiting family. It was nice to finally meet someone I’ve heard so much about the last week 🙂 And, 2) Emily’s grandparents Sharon and Charles live in Columbia and are letting us crash here for the night. I can’t tell you how nice it is to break the chain of mildly shady hotels and spend the night in a real bed!
Site 9: Hatchie National Wildlife Refuge, Tennessee
Hatchie is another NADP site (as are most of the remaining sites), so we drove out to the monitor and then hiked out a stand of trees near the monitor. Here we cored our first eastern red cedar (which is actually a juniper), producing the beautiful red core pictured below which smells almost more wonderful than the pines. They core nearly as easily as pine, which is nice too. I’d really like them, if they weren’t causing so many problems with invasiveness along the western edge of its range (in Kansas and Nebraska – in fact, the Nebraska site manager expressly told me I could core, cut, chop down, or burn any and all red cedars I find 😀 ).
Anyway, we had some more minor problems with the larger oaks being rotted out in the center. These ones had enough live tissue that we can still use the core, but a rotted center means the corer just spins and is hard to remove (hence the picture of me braced against the tree, pulling with all my weight). You can get it out, it’s just a pain. We’ve also noticed that a number of the oaks have some bluish-purple staining on some sections – I’m not sure if this is common in oaks, or indicative of some kind of problem (disease?). I’ll need to look into that, and maybe call some folks who have more experience with oaks in particular, and see if I can’t figure out why that is.
Our big question is still what to do with the northern loop. Iowa looks to be safe from the coming storm, so we’ll hit both the Missouri and Iowa sites tomorrow. By then, we’ll know how bad the storm is hitting the northern states and better evaluate the risk. I’m only worried about the roads. We can core in cold and snow – in fact, one of the other PaleoLab members, Ian Howard, was coring in Minnesota and Wisconsin two weeks ago – he needed snow shoes to get to some of the sampling sites, but he came back with cores! So, as long as the roads through the states are clear, and there aren’t predictions for more major snow later in the week, we’ll probably continue on. If it looks bad though, we’ll bail and schedule a weekend sometime in the early summer to sample in the last three states (ND, SD, and NE).