After spending the last year not staying in the same place for more than a few months at a time it feels wonderful to come to rest in Lander WY, looking forward to a season spent surrounded by the smell of sage and an open sky. Already in the two weeks I’ve been here I’ve started to feel quite at home. Truthfully, this isn’t hard to do in such a small, welcoming community. I think I’ve found my kindred of spirit, who will delight in backpacking, rock climbing, and weekend yard sales as much as I do. There are familiar faces, or at the very least friendly ones at every turn.
Our first week at the Lander Field Office led into Lander’s second week of straight of rain, which has been relentless since we arrived. We’ve been told this is highly unusual even for the rainy season here, but is none the less a great delight to ranchers (and their prospective BLM permitters). It has also made an initial tour of the field office, which contains approximately 6.6 million acres, a little more difficult. Rain here means that many of the dirt roads, made up of various types of expansive clays, turn into a slippery, sink-able mess and therefore are impassable. It will be an added challenge for Erin and I to navigate and problem solve around as we venture more out into the field this week!
The rain also means though, that EVERYTHING, including the WILDFLOWERS, are going to go CRAZY this year. Lander hasn’t seen this much rain in a long time. One quick drive to Government Draw proved the impact the rain will have on the fields, which are already bursting with color. Wyoming paintbrush was exploding through the tufts of grass and sage like tiny fireworks of orange and pink and red. We walked around “oo-ing” and “ah-ing” at every other plant and how bright the colors were. In Sinks Canyon, just 15 minutes from where we live, the hillsides are beaming with arrowleaf balsamroot, phlox and blue-bells. I’m looking forward to watching this place evolve and transform like a seasonal kaleidoscope over the coming months.
Erin and I had our first crash course in plant ID last week, which for me has included my first true experience with identifying grasses. Already notoriously tricky, it’s made a little more difficult that the grasses are in an early stage and show much variation even within a single species. We are practicing picking out species like Sandberg bluegrass, mutton bluegrass, prairie junegrass, various wheatgrasses, blue bunchgrass and indian rice grass. We’ll also be differentiating soon between the many types of sage and small annual forbes – something I look forward to very much!