Heading toward new horizons

Hey everyone,

For several weeks we have surveyed  sagebrush almost exclusively. I finally feel familiar with the plants that inhabit this unique ecosystem. When I was fist introduced to the system, it looked like an indistinguishable, green mat of vegetation. To my surprise I found sagebrush to be much like a forest, just scaled down. It contains multiple layers of plant life, some of the plant species we encounter are quite beautiful. For example the mariposa lily (Calochortus gunnisonii),and showy milkweed (Asclepias speciosa). 


A fine Calochortus gunnisonii specimen found inside a sagebrush plot


Some Asclepias speciosa found outside a plot in Kremmling, CO

Many of the sagebrush plots were located in Walden, CO about and hour and some change north of Kremmling. The city of Walden is nestled in a huge valley with some peculiar features including sand hills and a lake covered in water knotweed (Persicaria amphibian).


Lake almost completely covered in Persicaria amphibian


North Sand Hills Recreation Management Area outside Walden CO

I am still getting used to the intense quietness of the area, where the familiar sounds of humans are nowhere to be found. Aside from the occasional antelope, the only thing you hear is the wind sweeping through the three-pronged leaves of Artemisia tridentata

It is not all peaceful out in the field however, fire has broken out in Beaver Creek and several members of our office have been assigned to help manage the situation. The Beaver creek fire has been raging outside of Walden since late June, and it projected to continue for several weeks. The smoke from the fire could be seen from most of our plots and the smell of burning cigars would fill the air when the wind shifted towards us. Its hard to believe how long a fire can smolder, the latest update on its extent is 35,429 acres.


Smoke rising from the Beaver Creek fire from about 5 miles away

Recently we left the sagebrush and ventured out into coniferous forests. The shade and change of scenery is welcomed. The hike out to our last plot provided us with some breathtaking views of the Rawah Peaks northwest of Rocky Mountain National Park.


The hike out to a plot with the Rawah peaks in the background

The refreshing change comes with a new community of plants to become familiar with but not all the plants in the forests are out of the ordinary. Among the rose plants were a few red raspberry (Rubus idaeus) and wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca), that I was happy to sample when I came across some ripe fruit.

Getting exposure to new sites, provides great opportunities to practice pressing plants, and identifying specimen in the field and the office. I am looking forward to meeting some new plants and expanding my mental plant catalog.  I will leave with some shots of my colleagues hard at work.


Nik pressing plants unbeknownst that he is being photographed, sorry bud


Amy conducting a soil stability test, this test is by far the strangest one we do in the field










Kremmling CO, field office

Bureau of Land Management

Eli Lowry

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