Such a roller coaster. Between moving from Chicago to Escalante, 800 people, to helping out with things such as: Hummingbird banding, bat mist-netting and paleo digs, to the shutdown. I wouldn’t trade one minute of it. I already miss the small town feel, limited dining choices and unlimited access to some of the most beautiful country in the world. With that I will leave you with some pictures that I hope will speak the 1000s of words I can not. Enjoy and if you are ever able to make it to southern Utah, do it.
October is here already, crazy. Time has been flying lately, especially with the shutdown. Although, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t kind of nice. Fall is my favorite time of year and the couple weeks off allowed me to go exploring. Here in Escalante, we are privileged enough to have both desert/canyon country as well as mountain/high elevation. Mountains and forests are one of my favorite ecosystems so naturally that is where I went during the shutdown. With too many lakes to know them all and so many back roads it’s easy to get lost, it makes exploring a lot of fun. At around 9/10,000 feet the Aspen are burning brilliantly yellow, orange and occasionally red. Overlooking the canyon lands from this high up makes them look like a strange city of rock and shadow. I ventured to take my mountain bike out as well. This turned out to be a great idea, most of the time. The trails here are made for hiking but many work for both. Elk hunting season is upon us as well, meaning the males are bugling and sometimes fighting. I was lucky enough to see one large elk with 5 females on one of my rides. Many of the animals such as deer, elk, and turkey make their way down from the mountain during the fall to over-winter in the warmer canyon areas. This has made wildlife watching exceptionally nice in and near town.
The fall has also brought a lot of change to the plants we are collecting. In the two weeks we were off, many of our species “ripened”. This allowed us to make 3 collections in the first few days back which was great. The downside is that the days are becoming much shorter. The sun isn’t rising until 7:30am at the earliest and sets at 6:30pm. I don’t mind though, because this means winter is coming, which in turn means skiing! With a couple resorts, Brian’s Head and Eagle Point, not very far away I am hoping to get a couple days on the snow before it is time to leave. With our last day only 3 weeks away, things are coming to a close quickly. We still have a few plants to collect from and we have even seen some plants, not ones we are collecting, still flowering. I find this amazing considering we have already had our first frost and the mountains have even had some snow. Having never lived in the southwest before, it is wild how even though it may frost at night, it still reaches mid 60’s during the day here. I find this to be very enjoyable weather but not surprisingly the tourist season has come to an end finally. In our town this means that most of the restaurants and stores will be closing soon. I wonder what everyone does all winter.
Another month has come and gone here in Escalante, Utah. The first two things that come to mind are: passing the halfway point of my internship (good and bad) and the monsoon season. The latter is what the locals here call the rainy season. It is very typical for it during this season to be warm and cloudless in the morning. But by the afternoon, thunder storming and heavy rains, especially at the higher elevations. This can make planning our day out tricky sometimes. We came across our first flash flood last week, which was exciting. We must have missed it by minutes because after we turned around I saw in the distance the head of the flood and quickly ran over to watch it rumble by. It was very impressive but slower moving than I had expected.
As for being halfway done with the internship, I feel we have come a long way. We have learned a fair amount about the area in southern Utah, experienced many aspects of seed collecting, and over-come just about all the obstacles we have come across. Speaking of coming across, we saw our second bear not long ago. This time it was only a couple miles outside of town, which is rare, sauntering across the scrubland as we were driving by. It wasn’t exceptionally large but it did have a nice blonde color to it.
We are currently waiting on several populations to ripen at the moment. During the time that we are not monitoring these populations, we are mainly exploring new areas of the monument for plant populations we have not located yet. This has allowed us to see a good deal of the monument, which I am very grateful for.
Lastly, September is the last big month for tourism in these parts. That means we have to get our fill of restaurant food and TV (we don’t have cable) before everything closes up for the fall/winter. I have to say, I am looking forward to the cooler weather though.
Where oh where to start. This month has been very packed with events. To start with the reason why we are here, seeds. We have been collecting quite a bit, many of which we have to do multiple collections due to the seeds ripening in waves. This can be frustrating because it means we have to check on the same populations relatively often. We went through a fun time with sending out our first batch of fleshy fruits. Since we are in a “remote” location according to FedEx, we have to call ahead in order to have our over night package picked up. But you can not call over a day ahead and when you do call a day ahead they can not guarantee they will come to pick up unless they have a driving coming to the area to deliver a package. This we all find out the hard way but in the end the package was shipped. We were frustrated to find out that a buckwheat we had been watching for awhile actually went past collectable. It had never been collected before, we know why now, so it wasn’t the end of the world we missed it. Other than that collecting has been uneventful. We are waiting on a few species still that are taking their sweet time.
Other news not so much related to seeds. We have been seeing a lot of wildlife, which has been awesome. So far we have seen: mule deer, coyote, black bear, bobcat, scorpion and great horned owls. Some other fun activities we have had the privilege of partaking in include banding hummingbirds, mist netting bats and aiding a paleontologist on dinosaur digs. These have been great not only because they are really cool and an amazing opportunity to meet new people and learn new things but also because it really helps to break up the seed collecting.
Until next month.