Last week I had the opportunity to monitor a couple of populations of Gibbon’s Penstemon down by powder rim, and a population of Wyoming toads over by Laramie. Gibbon’s Penstemon is a BLM sensitive plant, and Wyoming toads are the most endangered species of amphibian in North America. The work was a good change of pace from seed collecting, and I really enjoyed it. It was immensely rewarding to be able to see and learn about these rare and beautiful organisms, threatened by humankind’s never-ending and destructive expansion.
Gibbon’s Penstemon is a purple flowered plant that grows in soil that has a lot of volcanic ash in it, giving its habitat a distinctive color and texture. To me this seems like a very narrow range that limits the plant to growth in somewhat predictable locations. Similarly, meadow milkvetch (another BLM sensitive species, with delicate cream-colored flowers and green stems that sprawl across the white soil to form a spider we pattern) only grows in alkali flats on the lower side of greasewood in the chain lake region of the field office. I found it fascinating that a plant would specialize to such a narrow and theoretically predictable habitat.
Wednesday morning, I arrived at Bennet Peak Campground, the backseat of the 2019 Dodge Ram 1500 was loaded with power tools and the bed was loaded with dark painted boards; however, our most important cargo was a clipboard, a pen, and a pile of visitor use surveys. We quickly found a picnic bench in dire need of repair. Mike showed us how to remove the bolts from the picnic bench and replace the old rotting boards with our new freshly painted ones. In a few minutes we had one drop-dead-gorgeous freshly painted picnic bench. We replaced the boards on another picnic bench; but by the time we finished it was time for our most important task of the day: Visitor Use Surveys at the nearby Corral Creek Campground.
Upon arriving we immediately encountered a parked truck occupied by a genial old man. He agreed to take the survey and we waited comfortably under a tree while he filled out the sheet front and back with vitally important and useful information about his experience at the corral creek campground.
The corral creek campground is a beautiful BLM operated site about a mile down the road from the Bennet peak campground near the North Platte river. It is a great spot for fishing and floating, with beautiful views of nearby mountains, and wildlife, including: pronghorns, mule-deer, elk, and cattle. However, the nearby Bennet peak campground is closer to the river, making it far more popular than Corral Creek, which essentially operates as an overflow campsite for when Bennet Peak is full.
For the next four hours we relaxed and enjoyed a cool and pleasant summer day. An incredibly nice couple arrived and asked us for directions to Bennet peak; a truck pulled through for a quick pit stop at the immaculately maintained bathroom facility; we handed out zero surveys. I also found out that the surveys themselves were incredibly general, designed to be applicable to any BLM recreation site. Consequently, the information from them is very hard to interpret, and make use of.
On the way back from the field we listened to a couple of inspirational Oprah podcasts:
He had been awake and driving for over 24 hours. His Wal-Mart truck was traveling about twenty miles over the posted speed limit on the dark interstate highway. That’s when he struck the back of a car containing beloved comic legend Tracy Morgan, and several of Tracy’s close friends. People died in the accident, including one of Tracy’s close friends. Tracy suffered life-threatening injuries that sent him into a coma lasting for weeks. Tracy wasn’t sure if he was ever going to be able to walk again. Tracy was worried that he would never be funny again. Tracy briefly questioned his faith in god. Why did this happen? Why did his friend have to die so suddenly and so young? However, in a conversation with Oprah a few months after the accident both Oprah, and Tracy agree: “EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON,” & “THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS COINCIDENCE”, after all coincidence is never mentioned in The Bible.
In conclusion, as Oprah says: “JUST BE YOURSELF, IT’S THAT SIMPLE.”
Until next time,
SOS intern in Rawlins Wyoming