Happiness in precarious places

Juniper Mountain HIke

Not this particular canyon, but another one of my favorite hikes and favorite views. The tiny white dot on the right is our vehicle

For this post I’m just going to outline one of my favorite days at work so far this summer. We have been past our seed collection quota for a while, so our recent initiative has been to continue periodic censuses for sensitive plant species. Today, we planned on surveying a 2-mile long canyon that seemed fairly straightforward.The plants we were looking for should be clear on the rim of the canyon, growing on the uppermost rock outcrops. So we hiked up the first ridge. Took about an hour. Onward, towards the target rock outcrops.They were slanted almost, and all along the inner slope of the canyon. Count plants, try not to slip on the “skree”, feel like a mountain goat, get rattled at by a rattlesnake, run away. We continued to climb and hike up and down the slope, counting thousands of individuals, for another few hours until we finally reached our end point – for the first side of the canyon. The sun had begun to emerge from the clouds, high in the sky, the humidity dropped, we slid skillfully to the bottom of the canyon. Found peace and wild mint in the strip of flat ground until climbing up the south slope. This has been one of the most challenging hikes I’ve ever been on. Once we get to the top, I think, easy stuff, beeline for the mouth of the canyon, toward the truck, toward the water. We follow the ridge for a while, see a rattlesnake skin, start to talk about watermelon and other high-water-content fruits while we become drier and drier. Walk another two miles through sagebrush and spiny shrubs. Rationing water, seems like we will never get to the beginning. We see the truck, still another mile down the ridge at the mouth, trying not to slide down the loose gravel and staying on deer and cattle pathways. We’re beat once we finally arrive back to our beloved vehicle. Five hours of intense and difficult hiking, multiple dangerous situations (I’m a little dramatic when it comes to snakes), a field notebook filled with data, scraped hands and knees. For some reason, even though at first I was fearing for my life, I began to appreciate this day more and more as I sat in the truck sore and thirsty and restful, traveling back to the office. I am in love with the fact that out here the abilities of navigation, driving to remote locations, endurance hiking in the desert in places where people haven’t been perhaps in several years on volcanic rocks that really do not facilitate hiking, these are the essential and expected activities of a botanist and that all of this work and struggle is necessary for the completion of a simple census.



Lakeview, OR BLM

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