Fall musings in Carlsbad

October 26, 2018

Fall is finally arriving here in southeast New Mexico. The fall chill set in very suddenly and caught me off guard (see photo of me with socks as gloves).

When your hands are cold but you didn’t pack gloves because you didn’t think it would get cold in the desert…

Back when I was in school, I used to dread the stress and work of starting school in fall so much that I never really appreciated the reds and oranges and yellows of fall foliage in the Midwest. The color of fall here seems to be yellow. Yellow leaves falling from aspen groves in the mountains, and from cottonwood trees along the rivers. The hills glow with golden flowers of all shapes and sizes. Sartwellia flaviarae in particular dominates the landscape with its bright yellow hues. It is an aster subshrub that is very common in this area but not prevalent outside of our region.

It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that we just have a month and a half left of our internship. After the initial shock of moving to a small oil/ranching town in the middle of the desert, Carlsbad has begun to feel almost like – dare I say it? – home. I’ve gone from the landscape being totally foreign to recognizing many of the plants I see while in the field. Of course, I always have more plants to learn. But it is kind of exciting to reflect on where I was—barely being able to recognize any plant genuses—to now being able to identify several species on sight. And grasses! I’m amazed that now I can generally tell grass genuses apart. Before this internship, all I could tell you was if a plant was a grass or not.

This month we also served as science fair judges for the Carlsbad middle school. I was in charge of judging Environmental Engineering projects—a little off from my expertise but I gave it my best! Some seventh and eighth graders had impressively higher-level projects, from thinking about what grass is best for preventing eroision, to testing soil salinity and its impact on crops. One eighth grader even made their own biodegradable plant-based plastic six pack ring.

Fall colors in Lincoln National Forest

These projects gave me a lot of hope about what the next generation of scientists are capable of!

In my weekend time, I’ve been experiencing parts of New Mexico and Texas. Early this month, I attempted to see the hot air balloons at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta. Much to my chagrin, the wind prevented any balloon launches, but I was still able to check out Albuquerque and the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. It was a great way to learn about the Pueblo culture, and see some local Pueblo artists displaying paintings, pottery, and jewelry.

The tippy-top of Texas!

The surrounding mountain ranges offer fantastic hiking opportunities here. To the south, Guadalupe National Park offers a hike to the highest point in Texas—Guadalupe Peak. Talk about jello legs coming down the trail! To the northwest of Carlsbad, Cloudcroft also has great mountain hiking trails in Lincoln National Forest. We were able to see the aspens changing color here!


With my internship in its last month and a half, I’m trying to learn all I can and really get the full New Mexico experience, but so far I would say it’s been pretty fulfilling.



Bonus cactus picture!…I just thought it was pretty. Mammillaria heyderi – “Little nipple cactus”



BLM Carlsbad, NM


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