a:Let's begin at the beginning of last weekend's excursion. We left Tartu at 8:30 Friday morning, carried out of the city in a fourteen-seater Peugeot bus we had chartered until Sunday. Our first stop was Kakerdaja bog, in the north of Estonia. We drove deep into a forest where we met Triin, a slight woman with sheered short hair, a gentle demeanor, and the finest of outdoor apparel. She emerged wordlessly from her little red van and pulled out several big plastic bins. One had a supply of rubber boots, the other was filled with what looked like miniature toboggans--or plastic snowshoes, if you prefer more conventional similes. I skipped the rubber boots and went straight for the bogshoes, thinking with confidence that my trusty Keens would see me through the bog safely. I strapped on a pair of red ones. I was ready to go. Then Triin informed us that we had to walk several hundred meters before actually entering the squishy part of the bog. I unstrapped my red bogshoes.
|Preparation for our soggy descent into the bog.|
Long story short, Keens were not enough for the bog. I almost immediately stepped in a soft part and sunk down past my ankle, soaking my jeans and filling my ultra-absorbent shoes. But, the damage was done, so now I could get just as waterlogged as I pleased. With every step, I could feel the ground around me move. When others bogshoed up next to me, I could feel it in the ground, and see the surface of the bog tremble. Between 90 and 99 percent of the bog is made of water, with the peat moss and foliage on top providing only a scant surface for walking. At one point we came upon a black patch of what looked like mud. Triin poked the rear point of her bogshoe into the muck slowly and deliberately, like someone prodding their french fry into a pile of ketchup long after their hunger has been sated. Looking around to make sure we could see the bubbles burble where she broke the surface, Triin explained that this was a pocket of CH4. The gas causes the moss and water to stagnate and turn black. She told us that the CH4 is flammable, and if you were to strike a match or a click a lighter right next to one of the openings made by an invasive bogshoe, you would see flames. Of course, it was raining at this point and no one had fire, so we couldn't test the claim.
|This tree--one of the biggest ones growing in the bog--is used by birds as a tool for procuring seeds from pinecones. See the cones wedged in the crevice in the bark? It's a hands-free device for seed-eating. Pretty cool.|
|Our plywood path home.|