We all have less than a month of work left in Carson City, NV and we all went on a week-long seed collecting trip that took us next to the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest in the White Mountains. It was a unique botany experience to see the gnarled trunks of Pinus longaeva rise up out of the alkaline dolomite soil, in some cases the tangled roots wrap around large rocks forever keeping them from rolling downhill. The ancient P. longeava are a magnificent sight to behold.
Inyo Forest Bristlecone Pine Forest
At the top of the mountain I discovered a baby pine cone that held little nodules of sap between its tiny scales. As the sunlight reflected off of the little sap bubbles it gave the appearance of gold flakes resting between the tine blue scales.
A baby cone with glistening gold sap
Within the ancient P. longeava forest we chanced upon an old mine with dilapidated cabins and mine shafts still standing. Near one of the hidden dilapidated cabins there were trees that presented carved hearts in their trunks. Whoever carved these hearts carved them deep into the heartwood; they have left a lasting scar on the trees.
Old miners cabin
A heart carved deep into the trunk of a tree.
It feels like I just arrived in Buffalo and I am already rapping up my time here. The countdown is on and there are only a brief three weeks left at the Buffalo Field Office. The office feels empty since one of our fellow interns, Justin Chappelle, left. However, there is a lot to do before my time is up and there is no time for sulking!
Since all but one seed collection has been sent in to Bend, and almost all of the herbarium specimens have been mailed to the Smithsonian, I have been able to participate in a series of new and interesting projects throughout the office. First, I have been assisting a fellow intern, Heather Bromberg, in working on her PRBR Historic Fire project, in which we have walked historic fires through the core sage grouse area, mapping invasive species throughout like cheatgrass within its perimeter. Second, I joined the Montana Conservation Crew in assisting with seeding and weed mapping at a controlled burn site up in the Big Horns! That was an awesome way to get out of the office and talk to other young individuals working in the conservation and land management field. We were able to walk around the cliffs, hang out, and enjoy the scenery with some really cool people, and I gained a great deal of useful mapping and GPS experience in the process!
Working at Billy Creek with the MCC
Finally, we have started working on range improvements at the office, which means we basically get to go out and explore different patches of BLM land in various Allotments throughout our field office, while mapping different range improvements along the way. It is another great lesson on using GPS Trimble systems and Terrasync, as well as GIS. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to work Seed Collections for SOS this summer, but I am even more glad to have the opportunity to try out all of these other projects and to work with so many intelligent and interesting people!
Although the interns have been working hard, we have also been playing some to before I head back to Chicago for the winter! Last weekend we spent the chilly Saturday night backpacking to Lost Twin Lakes! It was both beautiful and exhausting, but well worth it for the view and the thrill.
A photo of the two of us over one of the Lost twin lakes!
Heather and I sporting the newest style for frozen backpackers.
Just an update to let you know I am still alive!
The season for most is winding down. Many interns are packing their bags and heading home as their internships come to a close. The Buffalo interns, however, have been offered extensions. One of our close knit group has left us already. Apparently the call of quality family time and the minor detail of bird watching in the Amazon was too loud to ignore. I mean, who would choose the boring Amazon Rain Forest over our exciting town of 4,500 people?? Not me, well, OK, that is a lie. On a more serious note, we have already felt the empty void left by our favorite, newly appointed BLM Legend, Justin Chappelle. WE MISS YOU, JUSTIN!!!
Our wonderful Jill Pastick has accepted a partial extension, but will only be in our company for less than one more month. Heather Bromberg and I are the last of the original four, and have plans to experience what Buffalo, Wyoming looks like in January. Kind of starts to feel like that book, And Then There Were None.
Many new opportunities have come our way since the Rangeland Health season has drawn to a close. Bird watching for population status, inspecting failed Sage grouse sites, providing local environmental and wildlife education to home and public schooled children, and inspecting retired gas wells are just a few of the various activities we have been provided to make our standard resumes transform into something spectacular.
Each week that passes our experience grows and so does our homesickness. The realization of being away from family and old friends starts to sink in when we realize we have been away for five months. Luckily, being busy has the perk of distracting us from this somber thought. Former intern from last year, Sean Casler, was able to get his hands on a vintage VHS documentary about the Big Horn Mountains. The remaining three of us have now made it our mission to locate some sort of device to be able to view this ancient time capsule of footage. Who knows what amazing secrets could be discovered in the twenty-three minutes of video dedicated to our own back yard.