An Ode to Moab

Coming to Moab felt like walking into an old friends house, kicking off my shoes and slouching into a chair that felt like it had been made just for me. As the Colorado River has effortlessly carved its way through this landscape, Moab has just as effortlessly shaped me in the short time I have been here. Just as water to the desert, this place brought so much life and growth to me.

The desert can seem so barren at a glance. It is such a harsh and trying landscape. Flash-floods, rattlesnakes, extreme heat, scarce water, and the list goes on and on. But if you take a closer look, you see that it is actually teeming with life and the creatures and plants that have made their way out here are each strong and unique. There is inspiration everywhere and everything has a lesson to teach you, if you are willing to listen. Every plant has a story to tell about perseverance, every grain of sand was once a part of something bigger than itself and every drop of water has travelled hundreds of thousands of miles and moved mountains to do so.

Canyon Walls

This uniqueness is not just isolated to the desert. When most people think of Moab they think of arches made of red sandstone or the Colorado River running between two massive rusty walls. It is not the mountains that first come to mind. As you make your way up into the La Sals it is very clear that you have found yourself on an island surrounded by a sea of red. These 12,000 foot giants stand tall above the desert floor. As the sun rises in the morning the desert is slowly untucked from their shadowy embrace, setting the desert ablaze with color. No matter where I am, my eyes are always drawn to these mountains. Perhaps it is the way that these mountains are perched so precariously in the middle of the desert that has me so enamored with them.

The La Sals at sunrise

In a few short days I will be packing up my belongings into my car and driving away from the place I have been lucky enough to call home for the past 5 months. I will be bringing a few lessons with me when I go..

  1. Beautiful things can grow out of difficult circumstances.
  2. Mountains can be moved one grain of sand at a time.
  3. Stand tall, even when you are different.
  4. Always bring more water than you think…
  5. Life. Always. Persists.

The One Where the Seed Girls Build a Fence

July has always been my favorite month for many reasons and this July proved to be no different. Why is July my favorite, you ask? Well, for starters, it’s my birthday month and it so happens to also be my co-intern’s and another coworker’s birthday month all within days of each other. So, as you can imagine we had a LOT of sweets this month. July came with many other reasons to celebrate though, including finishing our first seed collection, completing a project we’d been talking about since I got here, friends and family coming to visit, the fourth of July and so many other things. 

July Seed Work

We started the month off strong collecting Hedyserum boreale and finished our collection with a grand total of over 300,000 seeds. I have since been finding those seeds in every nook and cranny of my house and car. 

Our final Hedyserum boreale collection.

Once done with Hedyserum boreale we began scouting for our next species, Heterotheca villosa. Our last species was found in a location that had been burned a few years back, so it was bare, dry and extremely hot. Much to my excitement, Heterotheca villosa was found in beautifully forested areas or on mountain tops where the temperatures were much cooler and the views unlike anything I had seen before. We found this species higher in elevation so the seeds were not yet ready and wouldn’t be for a week or two, so we left them to mature and began work on other projects.

One of the sites we scouted for Heterotheca villosa.

Medicine Lake Project

The hydrology crew had been talking about the Medicine Lake project since I had started, and it had finally come time to start work on it. The project was to build a fence around Medicine Lake and the surrounding wetland to protect the water and riparian vegetation from cattle. 

Medicine Lake

In preparation for the fence, we had to move large amounts of lumber, t-posts and barbed wire to the project site, which was exhausting work, but we were in one of the most breathtaking spots I have ever worked. We began work on the fence with the help of the Grand Canyon Trust volunteers and the forest service’s range crew. After about 4 long days of hard world, a few rips in my clothes (from barb wire), and 6 Oreo pop tarts (the only thing that kept me going) the fence was complete. 

Creating a base for a section of the fence. Unsure who decided to let me use the ax…
Cows testing out the finished fence.

Now that the cows could no longer get into the wetland, we were able to put in some beaver dam analogs (BDA’s) to help restore the wetland to its natural state. This was one of my favorite parts of the project because it felt more like arts and crafts than anything. We would place aspen poles vertically across the stream channel and then weave willows between the poles to trap sediment. With enough of these placed the stream begins to flood the meadow surrounding it, turning it back into a wetland. 

Me, Savannah and Emma with one of the BDA’s.

July flew by in a flash and brought with it so much hard work but so much joy and left behind so many happy memories. Hopefully august is as sweet!

Cheers! -MS