An End in the West.

STATS:

16,883 – total miles driven, the equivalent of driving the entire stretch of Interstate 10 (from Santa Monica, CA to Jacksonville, FL) almost 7 times

0 – number of cows hit with our government rig (and there were a few close calls)

40 – number of seed collections collected! We saved the worst for last – Cylindropuntia leptocaulis (Desert Christmas Cactus) – where every fruit was covered with hundreds of tiny glochids (prickles) and every branch was covered with hundreds of four-inch spiny terror barbs.

56 – miles walked in the Dripping Springs Natural Area trails during my bi-monthly trail monitoring. I have a tough life, let me tell you.

2 – forgotten lunches on travel days that resulted in my upending of rural gas stations looking for anything that wasn’t a candy bar or a savory meat by-product

1- fantastic Indiana Jones-esque hat purchased in Santa Fe. Nothing beats having a rakish, cool look while on your hands and knees crawling under creosote bushes.

1- sweet gig acquired working as a Food Security Coordinator at the Sacramento Food Bank for Americorps! Hooray!

Thanks to Mike Howard, a super cool mentor and great State Botanist, and Krissa and Wes at the Chicago Botanic Garden for making the whole internship process so easy and streamlined and relaxed!  This internship has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience and has helped me tremendously to narrow my future career goals and aspirations.

New Mexico, as I’ve already known, is a unique, beautiful place. You just can’t top the endless vistas, solitude, craggy mountain ranges, diversity of plant life, and quality of the people.

I’ll end with two quotes by my favorite author Ed Abbey, a devoted lover and protector of the desert.  He wrote, “May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.”

And one of my all-time favorites from Desert Solitaire:

“The fire. The odor of burning juniper is the sweetest fragrance on the face of the earth, in my honest judgment; I doubt if all the smoking censers of Dante’s paradise could equal it. One breath of juniper smoke, like the perfume of sagebrush after rain, evokes in magical catalysis, like certain music, the space and light and clarity and piercing strangeness of the American West. Long may it burn.”

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