Into the Inyos

The past month has seen me diving irreversibly further into realm of botany, while occasionally coming up for air to help out with other surveys. My fellow intern, Robbie, and I had the opportunity to spend a few days in the Funeral Mountains with the incredible Sarah DeGroot, from Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens. In exchange for helping with seed collections, she provided us with bundles of knowledge. Not only did we meet several new species of plants, we also learned how to more accurately fill out our data sheets and process our seed collections for mailing. Sarah’s style of botanizing was both impressive and inspiring. Working with her proved that a little organization and planning goes a long way!

The setting sun over the Funeral Mountains

The setting sun over the Funeral Mountains


Oliomeris linifolia (Lineleaf Whitepuff) with Eagle Mountain as the backdrop

We were lucky enough to follow-up our week with Sarah with a visit to the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Gardens themselves. There we had access to the herbarium to identify a few of our mystery plants and familiarize ourselves with some of our target seed collection species. We also got a peek at their seed cleaning and storage facility. It was neat to get a better understanding of how our work fits into the larger picture of seed collection, cleaning, storage, and distribution. We are one link in the chain of the Seeds of Success program!

When we’re not learning about plants, we’re teaching about them. We helped out with an environmental education program that brings fourth graders on a field trip to a nearby canyon. They spend the day visiting various stations (plants, birds, aquatics, archeology, history, and art) where they learn about water conservation and the desert ecosystem they live in. Naturally, we were in charge of the plant station. We doled out hand lenses (tiny magnifying glasses for getting a better look at plant features) and informed them that they had become plant detectives! We proceeded to go for a short nature walk, stopping to examine the beavertail cactus, touch the fuzzy Anderson’s thornbush leaves, marvel at the height of the cottonwood trees, and smell the cheese bush leaves (and argue over whether it really smells like cheese). They learned why desert plants are so pale and their leaves so small. I enjoyed witnessing their raw curiosity about everything around them.

One of the parent chaperones on the field trip, making casual conversation, inquired as to whether the tarantulas had come out this year yet. I had to stop myself from spluttering, “THE WHAT!?” I have been repeatedly warmed about snakes, but no one mentioned the tarantulas. Apparently they are not out yet, or at least I have yet to see one! The snakes, however, are another story. I saw my first rattlesnake last week – a decent sized creature hanging out in a creek bed. Luckily it was content with slithering off under a shrub, where it proceeded to blend in alarmingly well.

As much fun as botany is, the past month also afforded us a chance to take a break from plants and tag along on a variety of other surveys being conducted on BLM land. Thus I joined a quest to locate the elusive Inyo Mountains Slender Salamander. The little amphibians enjoy hanging out under rocks in springs. They are found only in the Inyo Mountains, and therefore their range is fairly small. They are being considered for more strict conservation protection, which required updated surveying. The populations my team intended to survey were near Beveridge, allegedly the most remote ghost town in California, and had not been surveyed in over fifty years. We set off on an ambitious hike up an old mule trail. After at least a 7 mile climb and almost 5,000 feet of elevation gain, realized why no one in recent history had surveyed these springs! A flash flood had wiped out the base of the wash we were following and the trail seemed to disappear on several occasions, adding to the length of our journey. In the end, our plan turned out to be too ambitious and we were forced to turn around before we reached the survey site, chalking up the excursion to a scouting trip. Luckily there was another population site, which we stopped to investigate on our way down, but alas, we did not find any salamanders.

View of the Eastern Sierras from the climb to Forgotten Pass in the Inyo Mountains

View of the Eastern Sierras from the climb to Forgotten Pass in the Inyo Mountains


Echinocereus mojavensis (Mojave Kingcup Cactus)

The following week saw me perched just outside an open mine shaft equipped with night vision goggles, counter clickers, and infrared spotlights watching the sun set over Owens Valley and the Eastern Sierras. We had been recruited to monitor bat populations living in abandoned mines. Many of these mines have open “features” (shafts, for example) and are located in recreation areas – a dangerous combination. Since they are no longer mined, the BLM is working on filling in or otherwise closing the entrances. However, the mines also provide ideal habit for bats. Populations of Townsend and Pallid bats have taken up residence in many of the mines. That’s where we came in: each person helping with the exit counts was assigned an open feature to watch at dusk and count the number of bats entering and exiting. This data will then influence whether or not bat-compatible structures are needed to close the mines.

Dr. Pat the Bat biologist shows off a Townsends bat

Dr. Pat the bat biologist shows off a Townsend Bat

Overall this month has been another whirlwind of new experiences, from receiving more detailed seed collection training to sharing my enthusiasm for plants with local students to surveying for salamanders to monitoring bat populations. Until next time!

E. O’Connell
Ridgecrest BLM Office

A day in the life

This internship has picked up pace very quickly. Field work season is in full swing for us at the Colorado State BLM office. Our first week was spent looking for Astragalus debequaeus, a rare milkvetch of the western slope. We visited three long term monitoring plots to gather data to track population growth over time.

A. debequaeus

A. debequaeus

A. debequaeus

A. debequaeus

The highlight of the internship so far has been monitoring Sclerocactus glaucus, the Colorado Hookless Cactus. We spent a week in the field looking for new populations of this cactus with the goal of being able to put together multiple years of data and trying to get it removed from the FWS threatened species listing. To get to the cactus habitat we rafted down the Gunnison River, a beautiful NCA that the BLM manages. We saw so many interesting plants and animals during our trip, including over 30 species of birds. It was nice meeting and learning from people with so much passion for what they do.

Nipple cactus flower

Nipple cactus flower

The nipple cactus

The nipple cactus

S. glaucus

S. glaucus

A tiny S. glaucus

A tiny S. glaucus

S. glaucus

S. glaucus

The Gunnison River Valley

The Gunnison River Valley

Ram skull we found during survey work. Makes a great hood ornament for a boat.

Ram skull we found during survey work. Makes a great hood ornament for a boat.

A field of flowers overlooking the Gunnison River

A field of flowers overlooking the Gunnison River

A field covered in newly discovered S. glaucus

A field covered in newly discovered S. glaucus

It has been an exciting first few weeks of work with everyone at the Colorado state office and I look forward to more time hiking around this great state looking for rare plants.


Until next time…

Brennen Murphy

Colorado State BLM Office

Mystery of the Missing Lomatium

Her stem was long as she was beautiful. Her basal leaves dripped with tears as if they were morning dew. There were only two things that would bring a flower like this to a weed like me: seed collection time… and a mystery.

Detective Bower, my partner of two months, tore her gaze from the dame to look up at me. Her expression was steely beneath her wide-brimmed hat. In the stead of the high desert sun – conspicuously missing that day – today’s horrors had hardened the seed husks of her eyes. And who could blame her?

“Another goner,” Bower said, her tone carefully monitored, flat.

Before her, the crime scene: an innocent Lomatium donnellii chopped down before it could even reach its fruiting potential. Its (flowering) head decapitated before it could even properly seed. I shook my head morosely. It could have been so much more. It could have seeded and rose again. It could have seeded and been collected by us, in the name of conservation and restoration. But now…

“No use crying over spoilt seeds,” I said, as much to myself as to my partner in (plant) crime.


One crime scene, of many.

I kneeled down. Whatever had deheaded about a fifth of our clients at this playa hadn’t been neat about it. Nay, they hadn’t even tried to conceal the nature of their heinous deeds; the hundreds of heads lied, shriveled and uneaten, on the ground, like a calling card. What sociopathic creature could have done this?

We radio’d in to HQ with our report. “Should we round up the usual suspects?” they asked us.

I shook my head, then realized I was on the radio. “Nguyen to HQ. No. Too few cow patties out here. Suspects unknown… and at large.”

Whatever rodent or insect it was, well… we didn’t have the womanpower for a stakeout. All we could hope for was that the next time we returned, more of the seeds would have fully ripened and dried. And then we’d save (20% of) them from those raving, ruinous throngs of… something.

“Well, at least –“ I began. Bower caught the look in the eye. We’d been partners for two months, but after all we’d seen in sage grouse land, heck, it felt more like two years. She, like my ex-wife, knew what was coming before it even budded.

“Don’t –“ she warned.

“At least this’ll make for a good blog post.”


Detective Vi Nguyen

Prineville BLM

Something a little different

I just moved out here to Vernal Utah a week ago after living in North Carolina for 13 years and I have to say the change in scenery is a bit of a shock. Out east there are so many trees you feel closed in. Don’t get me wrong, it’s really pretty out there but with the exception of farmland and city you never really get to have a view. When I first saw it open up on the drive over it felt like I had landed on an alien planet. I had been surrounded by trees for so long I had almost forgotten what it felt like to see the horizon.


The lack of trees wasn’t the only change in scenery. Vernal happens to be a big oil and gas site, so in certain areas you have well pads dotting the landscape as far as the eye can see. If you look closely at the picture above you can see more than the horizon. That was a picture I took of a tank on an oil pad that looked like it was about to explode. I figured out how to zoom in the camera about ten seconds later so here is a better picture.



It seems like there is never a dull day out in the field. With the combination of finding exploding chemical tanks, getting our truck unstuck from a muddy ditch, to being introduced to dozens of new species of which I have never seen or heard of before it seems like I am going to be learning something new every single day. Although it can seem overwhelming at times, it sure beats having to stick to a routine.


We got the truck out.



We made quite a mess.


I know it’s misspelled.

A lot could happen in five months. By the end I could either love it here or hate it, but so far I have to say that my first week has left a good impression.

A Day in the Life of a Wildlife Biologist

Midway through my academic career studying biology and environmental science, I came to the figurative fork in that good ol’ path called life and got stuck deciding whether to specialize in botany or wildlife. After some path pacing, it came down to botany for two simple reasons: plants don’t move and I can slice them open without tasting my breakfast for the second time. I’m joking, kinda.  I believe that ultimately, your passion finds you.

So here I am now, a CLM intern at the BLM field office in Tillamook, OR studying under the botanist Kurt Heckeroth, and I could not be more grateful! Of course the best part about being the intern is that you get to do all sorts of cool stuff, which may include hanging out with wildlife biologists all day banding Northern Spotted Owls. This experience I am about to share does not reflect what I do on a daily basis as an aspiring botanist within the Seeds of Success Program. But there will be more news of that nature next month!

I am lucky to have ended up in the Pacific Northwest, as it is the home of the oldest cathedral forests on the planet. The remaining old growth forest canopy towers over 300 feet occupied by ~1000 year old Pseudotsuga menziesii, ~500 old year old Tsuga heterophylla and Thuja plicata. Here one can become lost studying the symbiotic connections between all trophic levels of life. This web has many center points, one of which includes the Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis) as part of a keystone complex*, involving ectomycorrhizal, Hypogeneous fungi (truffles), P. menziesii, and the Northern Flying Squirrel (Glaucomys sabrinus). Truffles are an essential food source for the squirrel, as well as a major contributor to water and nutrient cycling between host plant species, such as P. menziesii. The squirrels disperse truffle spores, scattering them along the forest floor by way of their feces. Spotted owls prey on flying squirrels and thereby bring the tropic levels full circle.

Spotted owls are specialized organisms, needing large swaths of intact old growth to breed and hunt. They are thereby incidentally good indicator species, one whose absence/presence tells us about the health of a forest. Due to extensive logging of PNW old-growth timber beginning in the 1830’s, the spotted owl was listed as threatened in the 1989. Today, with less than 13% of old growth forest remaining and the barred owl invading their territory, the spotted owl population is still declining.


Me and my BLM coworker, Wildlife biologist, Jessi Huck.

Many of the wildlife biologists that I went out with to band the owls commented on how their days as a species could be numbered.  When the wildlife biologists at the Tillamook field office invited me out to band I knew that as a botanist, this was a once in a life time opportunity I could not pass up: to lay my eyes up the charismatic organism that symbolized the fight to save old growth trees.

After too long of a drive, we rallied and walked into BLM land of the West Cascades, with a container of mice and Scott, one of the only certified bird banders in the Salem district.  We were not 500 feet off the road when a male spotted owl responded to Scott’s impression of squeaking and hooting.  But, it was the female who showed up first.  One of the many tricks of bird banding is feeding the owl mice, a lot of mice.  After about the third mouse, the owl becomes more comfortable, and if you’re experienced enough, you can catch them in mid flight.

After catching the owl, another person has to be sitting down ready to be handed the owl.  The seated person holds the owl legs firmly as the bander applies the bands as well as weighs the bird and inspects the bands of the tail feathers.  With the female owl, Scott also inspected the brood pouch.  If it was wide and a little inflamed with a reddish, purple hue, that indicates that the bird is nesting, but alas, the female we banded was not nesting.  Scott also checked the ears for infection or mites, because that indicates the overall health of the owl.  There is video footage of the banding that I uploaded to the media gallery, unfortunately, they did not post well to this blog.


Jessi Huck, holding a male spotted owl


Me, pretending to be a wildlife biologist

Reference for keystone complex*( *

Tillamook BLM Field Office, OR

Shale Barren site visit

The last part of April and early May have been very rainy here in Maryland.  The spring ephemerals have done their thing and the early summer bloomers are out in force.  A lot of sedges are on the verge of being ripe as well.  The field season is well in its prime.  I’ve seen some very nice displays including the fringe trees along the Potomac Gorge not far from Washington, D.C.


Chionanthus virginicus, Fringe Tree

One particular habitat that I have visited once and hope to more in the future is the Shale Barren.  It’s an Appalachian specialty.  They occur on relatively high elevation slopes, with shale parent rock, on generally southern aspects.  The barrens are maintained by the erosion of loose rock caused by streams below that undercut them.  This creates a very hot, dry, and rocky landscape.  Several plants are endemic to these areas.  They specialize in the extreme conditions and low competition from other plants.  Most of the endemic plants of the barrens have only been described in the last 100 years.


The slight white haze in the understory is Phacelia dubia flowering in the thousands.

The picture above is what I would consider to be on the periphery of the barren.  The more rocky and less vegetated center is not seen here.  This picture does show the general habit of trees that grow here in being slightly stunted.  When I first got here I thought to myself this looks like a recently burned area.  While fire may have played a role in enlarging these barrens, they are maintained naturally by erosion.


Astragalus distortus, Bent Milkvetch. The major distribution of this one is in the central U.S. but a disjunct population is limited to the Shale Barren habitat of the Appalachians.


Trifolium virginicum, Kate’s Mountain Clover. The distinctive vegetative character for this species is the length of the leaflets in relation to their width.

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal runs 180 river miles across the state of Maryland and contains 200 or so state-listed species within it.  Because of this I have prioritized some species based on their global rank.  My target for instance on this occasion was Trifolium virginicum.  This species is listed with a G3 rank.  That means it is considered globally vulnerable and there may be as few as 80 occurrences on the entire planet.  For this particular species, each occurrence has a small number of individuals within the population.  I was lucky enough to relocate this record and found that the population is stable.  The last time the record was updated was in 1995.  I plan on visiting more shale barrens in the future to update records for a couple other G3 species that occur here.


Viola pedata, Birdsfoot Violet. This is not a shale barren endemic but I included it to show the rocky habitat and because I liked this particular plants flower coloration.

Occasionally you will stumble upon a plant that is common but because of its stature or pure happenstance you have never seen it before.  As many times as I have been botanizing in the woods of the eastern U.S. I have never come across the following plant.  I was happy to see it in flower and add it to my photo collection.


Obolaria virginica, Pennywort. Of the Gentian Family.

Also happy 100th birthday National Park Service.  I am looking forward to the centennial celebrations this weekend at the canal including the park-wide Bioblitz.


Coleman Minney, Field Botany Intern

Chesapeake and Ohio National Historical Park

Documenting Fender’s blue butterfly

It is butterfly season here in Eugene, Oregon and the Fender’s blue butterfly (Icaricia icarioides fenderi) has already reached its seasonal peak and is on the down slope much earlier than expected.  For most of my position with the West Eugene Wetlands I primarily monitor endangered/rare wetland plants.  However, along with one of our monitored plant species, Kincaid’s lupine (Lupinus oreganus), is the Fender’s blue butterfly (FBB) that uses this endangered lupine as its larval host, laying its eggs on the underside of the plant’s leaves.

Myself with Kincaid's lupine (Lupinus oreganus)

Myself with Kincaid’s lupine.

One of the more populous BLM sites in Eugene for both lupine and FBB is Fir Butte, where I get to spend glorious afternoon after glorious afternoon catching butterflies.  This is something I did in my childhood and never imagined I would be getting paid to do later on in my adulthood.  In addition to FBB there is a look-a-like, the silvery blue butterfly (Glaucopsyche lygdamus) or SBB that also uses Kincaid’s lupine as a larval host, but instead lays its eggs along the stalk of the flowering raceme.  There are two minute physical differences between these species that we use as identification features when netting the butterflies.  First is the markings or “dots” along the border of the underside of the wings.  On SBB there is one row of dots and on FBB there are two rows of dots that can sometimes be very visible and other times, usually with an older butterfly, nearly impossible to distinguish.  So that is why we use the second identification feature for “back up”.  The cell-end bar located on the fore wing of the butterflies in from the row of markings is much narrower on the SBB than the FBB.  In addition, the row of dots on SBB are much more circular than on FBB which tend to be more irregular-shaped spots.


A male Fender’s blue butterfly  with damaged wing.  Notice the faint second row of irregular-shaped markings along the wing border and the large cell-end bar.

Mating pair of Fender's blue butterfly.

Mating pair of Fender’s blue butterflies. (Awesome photo skills of Christine Calhoun).

pair of silvery blue butterflies mating.

Mating pair of silvery blue butterflies.  Notice the one row of circular markings along the wing border.

Our first mode of action in sampling FBB is to take a ratio of male FBB to male SBB.  My mentor, Christine, and I spread out among the lupine at Fir Butte with our nets and each sample around 10 to 15 butterflies.  We then determine whether the butterfly is Fender’s species or silvery as described above.  Second, we determine its sex by noting the color on the top of the wings.  Males in both species are a bright blue and female FBB are copper-colored whereas female SBB are a darker brown, both females have some blue on the body of the butterfly. We record all sexes of both species but use only the ratio of males to males for our next mode of action, distance sampling, as it is much easier to see a bright blue male flying or sitting than it is to spot a brown female among the foliage.  Distance sampling occurs along six transects stretching the length of Fir Butte.  One person walks the transect with a distance pole held perpendicular to the transect calling out to the second person, the recorder, the distance (in half-meter increments) from the center of the transect the male butterfly was seen along with information on whether it was flying or sitting, the cluster size, and sex ratio if females were in the cluster.  An ideal day for sampling FBB is above 60 degrees, a light breeze, and sunny.  It’s the most optimal conditions for the butterflies and I’d say the most optimal for me, too.  Who doesn’t like 60 degree sunny days?

Male Fender's blue butterfly.

Male Fender’s blue butterfly.

Female Fender's blue butterfly on its larval host, Kincaid's lupine.

Female Fender’s blue butterfly on its larval host, Kincaid’s lupine.

Other efforts towards the success of the Fender’s blue butterfly are being put forth by some members of the West Eugene Wetlands Partnership such as the Institute of Applied Ecology who are making “nectar islands” at Fir Butte.  Some native nectar species of FBB include Checkermallow (Sidalcea malviflore), Oregon geranium (Geranium oreganum), Camus (Camassia quamash and C. leichtlinii), Oregon sunshine (Eriophylluym lanatum), and the Oregon iris (Iris tenax).

Thanks for listening and ta-ta for now.

Danica Maloney

West Eugene Wetlands


The FRGE Saga

The FRGE hunting continued this past month with mild success. It seems to be a bad blooming season for our elusive lily, which is unfortunate because we have a huge FRGE task force this year. But the plants do as they please and we are helpless in the wake of their unwillingness to bloom.

This is me recording data into my GPS after an empty site. Can you see the dejected hunch in the slope of my shoulders?

This is me recording data into my GPS after an empty site. Can you see the dejected hunch in my shoulders?

Disappointment aside, the sites that we’ve visited are mostly stunningly beautiful. We had the opportunity to camp out at the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument to have more time to get to our sites out there. The monument is probably the most wild place we’ve been to– most of the roads have been decommissioned to allow for wilderness to take over. Mt. Shasta loomed in the distance as we hiked along mountain streams to our sites. Outside of the Monument, Kiki and I hike through oak woodlands and mixed conifer forests, along mountain ridges and down in the valley, over downed trees and through thick stands of Ceanothus and manzanita. At the end of the day there’s usually a litany of complaints streaming from my mouth because I’m tired and my feet hurt and my hair is a plant detritus magnet, but it’s incredibly rewarding and relaxing to walk through the great outdoors all day. Even when we don’t find plants– which, truthfully, is more often than not– I’m glad to have the opportunity to experience so many different places that are relatively wild.

Our lunch spot close to one of our last FRGE sites in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. Mt Shasta rises mightily in the distance.

Our lunch spot close to one of our last FRGE sites in the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument. Mt Shasta rises mightily in the distance.

We hiked through this area quite a few times to get to sites deep in BLM land without any roads. It's beautiful!

We hiked through this area quite a few times to get to sites deep in BLM land without any roads. It’s beautiful!

This mountain overlooks the town of Gold Hill-- easily one of my favorite spots in the field office.

This mountain overlooks the town of Gold Hill– easily one of my favorite spots in the field office.

This mountain overlooks the town of Gold Hill-- easily one of my favorite spots in the field office.

This is us enjoying the view, we love it!

We had to climb high above I-5 one day. This is our view, with the town of Rogue River.

We had to climb high above I-5 one day. This is our view, with the town of Rogue River beneath us.

Fritillaria recurva with a backdrop of mountains. Kiki is quite the photographer, I think!

Fritillaria recurva with a backdrop of mountains. Kiki is quite the photographer, I think!

Of course, some of the best sights are of the pretty wildflowers. This is Collinsia grandiflora, my favorite so far.

Of course, some of the best sights are of the pretty wildflowers. This is Collinsia grandiflora, my favorite so far.

One thing that is surprising to me is how little wildlife we see. Sometimes there are turkey, sometimes there are deer, but usually there’s just lizards! Part of me is thankful for this– we have seen bear scat and bear tracks, and once we saw mountain lion scat. I’d be terrified to see a mountain lion in the wild! Kiki and I have both scared turkeys off their ground nests (on accident! we were probably as scared in the moment as the turkey hen), and that’s the closest encounter we’ve had.

A turkey hen's ground nest. I suppose turkeys aren't as susceptible to poison oak as humans.

A turkey hen’s ground nest. I suppose turkeys aren’t as susceptible to poison oak as we are.

Kiki and I have a great time out on our own, sometimes I wonder if people can hear our cackling in the distance and worry that some wild beasts are coming to lay waste to their towns. We’re a great team, I’m really happy I get to work with her! (Also she tends to make cookies on the weekends and we get to enjoy them at lunch during the week)

This is after a particularly rigorous hike-- please excuse any haggardness you detect in our appearances.

This is after a particularly rigorous hike– please excuse any haggardness you detect in our appearances.

The work week really wears us out, but we made time one weekend to check out the Rogue River. We hiked along the Rainie Falls trail to the biggest rapids on the river. It was a beautiful trail!

The Rainie Falls trail follows the Rogue as it winds through the countryside.

The Rainie Falls trail follows the Rogue as it winds through the countryside. It’s a lot more magnificent than my phone camera can capture~

Scrabble is still our dominant weekend activity, though. I’ve even managed to win a few times! I think Kiki is starting to view me as a real competitor.

Seen here: the posture of defeat

Seen here: the posture of defeat

We’ve been lucky to not stumble upon too many people out on our treks. One day, though, we were visited by old man willow..

Kiki, our resident gagperson. Sometimes it just makes sense to put lichen under your hat like a wig.

Kiki, our resident gagperson. Sometimes it just makes sense to put lichen under your hat like a wig.

We’ve visited all of our FRGE sites and will be moving on to Cypripedium fasciculatum, the clustered lady’s slipper orchid. I’ll miss our pretty lilies!

FRGE in its prime-- strong, sturdy, and vibrant.

FRGE in its prime– strong, sturdy, vibrant. A sight for sore eyes, as they say.

FRGE in its twilight-- weak, frail, dull. Slightly monstrous.

FRGE in its twilight– weak, frail, dull. Slightly monstrous. The stuff of nightmares, truly. It looks like the cold hand of death reaching from the grave.

Til next time!

Lillie P



HeatIt’s 90 degrees out by 9 a.m


The Asters conspire against you.


Your ankles are constantly under attack by Bromus madtritensis.


Sitting down without getting burned is a struggle.


And you get startled by the monsters in the canyons… that turn out to just be the wild burros braying at you.

— BLM Needles Field Office —

for the Longevity Of Vast Explorations of plants!

Aaahh, the beauty of wide open spaces. Views for hundreds of miles. Dirt roads that never end. Dead ends are seemingly everywhere and overgrown trails are easy to miss. I seem to luck out with my exceptional map reading skills that are getting better every day out here due to necessity. I must learn precise map measurements as I maneuver my way through and around private chunks of land looking with my head down at my Trimble for the 3 tiny plots of “accessible” BLM land. “Am I there yet?” “How about now?” “Hmmm, maybe just a little bit further.” “Another locked gate!” “Oh no I must have passed it!” “Where did the road just go!?” My internal dialogue seems to be on constant repeat as I turn around for the fourth time, feeling only slightly foolish at the nearly impossible job of backroad navigations in search for the Holy Grail of spots.

Dirt Road to Jamison Lake

Dirt Road to Jamison Lake

BLM Property. North facing slope. get the idea

BLM Property. North facing slope.
…you get the idea

A feeling of accomplishment settles over me as I look out over the land I’ve been searching for. The steep, craggily, north-facing cliffs where my intended plants all abound. An accessible site! YES! As if that isn’t enough to pat me on the back, I feel more accomplished as I see the site full of Festuca idahoensis and patches of Artemisia rigida mixed in with Eriogonum thymoides. SUCCESS!

As good as it feels to find my target collection specimens, nothing is more rewarding then when I so happen to stumble upon an uncommon, like the beautiful Calochortus elegans or the funky balloon seed pods of Astragalus reventiformis, or the unforgettable shyness of Areneria franklinii. AND not only finding them, but being able to key out these plants in the field by myself, having never been seen before.

Calochortus elegans

Calochortus elegans

Seedpods of Astragalus reventiformis. Common Name Yakima Milkvetch.

Seedpods of Astragalus reventiformis. Common Name Yakima Milkvetch.

Lewisia rediviva

Lewisia rediviva

Oh how I love plants!  So much in fact that my summer of outings for the SOS Program has put me in prison…willingly of course (although I was tentative if they would let me out).  We helped a team of inmates propagate Sagebrush seeds in their hoop house.  Due to the excellent turnout of committed inmates, it only felt right to stay all day and help propagate the sagebrush seeds.  Both Kevin and Lee kept us working hard, filling over 700 plugs with seed to try and reach an end goal of over 4,000 plugs.  It was both an incredibly rewarding day and an unforgettable experience, as I can confidently say it is my first time ever in prison.

For the love of plants, I also went on a wild adventure through Moses Coulee, in a search to better understand Rangeland Management and Rangeland Health Assessments. Now, I learned many things this day, including the beauty of precision navigation and the luxury of wilderness driving. Going back to the notion of dead ends, overgrown trails, and fences blocking your path, I think I prefer using my two taken for granted legs, ah thank you.

The amount of exploration available, as all of us fellow interns can agree on, is insurmountable. I seem to have managed a fine balance out here in Wenatchee, WA. By living in Leavenworth, I’ve opened my off time to Mountain Time and my work life to explorations in the Columbia Plateau…and I’ve got lots of maps!!IMG_1508

The adventures always continue out here in the vast Shrub-Steppe. Until next time… Ima get a mountain bike =)

~Here’s to the healing side of Nature~
Calo Girl and her Mischievous Mutt

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