It was 14 degrees, not accounting for wind chill, and snow coated the Rattlesnake. As Rattlesnake Creek babbled on, its edges frozen with a few inches of ice, the steady rhythm of skis gracefully sliding over snow broke the silence of an otherwise quiet, cold winter day.
Sawyer Meegan stopped at a cliff 20 feet above the water, jammed his skis into the snow, and scrambled down.
Meegan, a Resource Conservation senior, knelt at the creek's edge, taking the water's temperature. Today, Feb. 24, it was a half-degree above freezing.
Meegan is working to collect these and other measurements as part of his internship with the Watershed Education Network.
"I get to cross-country ski and learn about something I think is really cool," Meegan said.
Meegan, whose focus is hydrology, is conducting research to find areas where groundwater upwells into Rattlesnake Creek. To get to his sampling sites, he cross-country skis from the main trail in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area with a backpack full of gear. Typically, a few volunteers help him out with the research, but on Sunday, it was just him.
Meegan has been skiing for nine years and raced during high school in New England, so he's elated to be able to incorporate it into his internship.
His findings can inform other research on places trout are likely to seek refuge for the summer, since groundwater is colder than the creek's surface water is in the summers.