Grand Junctions

Eli Lowry,

Kremmling, CO field office, BLM

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A pic of me pretending to know what I’m doing.


Spending time in grand junction

For the majority of the month of August AIM crew and I were trekking southwest to Grand Junction (GJ) CO. Its about a 3 hour drive from our field office in Kremmling and camping out for the week is a necessity. I’m not sure how many other CLMers out there are also in the AIM program so I’ll explain quickly. AIM mostly involves taking vegetation surveys of predetermined sites that are randomly selected across BLM land. Our goal is to survey at least 4 plots a week, Mondays can be long when you include loading up the truck and commuting. We are narrowing down on available sites for this field season, and there just so happened to be more sites in the GJ area.

This is by far the most transient job / lifestyle I have ever had, as the random plot selecting machine decides our fate and sends us out into some very remote and strange areas. There are times when we hike into backcountry away from trails and roads that I wonder if anyone has ever stepped foot on the land before me. Then I come across a dried up cow pie and know that at least some brave cows have made the journey before. For an idea of where we have been here is a map of plots completed over the field season. We are the Kremming field office, (the purple dots).

aimplotssep222016 Rejected plots

Not all plots are winners, and when they are too far out, steep or just plain dangerous to access they will be rejected. Some plots are obvious rejections that are clearly too difficult to access, while others are rejected only once you get up close and personal. GJ is riddled with steep cliffs and deep gullies and sometimes our plots lie smack dap in the middle of them. This happened twice, but all is not lost, as even rejected plots provide data on the slope and aspect of the area.

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Here you can see me measuring out where our plot would extend to. In this case we would be going off the cliff near the very precariously placed boulder. Needless to say the topography was grounds for rejection.

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The second rejection lies along the steep face of this cliff, nope.

The little things

The drive is not all that bad.  We pass through the spectacular Glenwood canyon and drop down 1,400 feet into a warmer, sandier and fruiter area. GJ is adjacent to the Colorado National Monument and features some pretty Grand Mesas, actually the “Grand Mesa”, which is the largest flat topped mountain on the planet. We had the privilege to camp there for a night, I’ll get to that later. There are also some pretty greet farmers markets in the area that stock delicious Palisade peaches

Fruita is a funky little town outside GJ that is a haven for mountain bikers and pizza lovers, which happens to be two of my favorite things. One night after a long day of looking at plants and digging holes, we decided to reward ourselves by visiting the Hot Tomato, an infamous pizza shop that prides itself on creative topping combinations and bike themed décor. It’s the little things in life that make it worth living, specifically melty cheese.

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There can only be one, off to the highlands.

The beauty of Colorado is that if you are too hot all you have to do is climb. During our most recent visit to GJ we had to cross over from one end of the Grand Mesa to the other. We left a plot from a base elevation of 4,593 ft. and climbed up the 11,332 ft. Mesa. As we passed switch backs after switch back, the hot cab of the truck began to cool, soon enough we were scrambling for our long sleeves and turning off the AC. Suddenly we reached the top and the arid high desert became a montane conifer forest, dappled with vibrant almost turquoise lakes. There was good foraging, with currants and raspberries galore.

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To give you an idea of what the landscape looks like, the Grand Mesa can be seen to the left of the mesa in the foreground.

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Eggleston Lake on top of the Grand Mesa

Cactus Tax

I feel these little buggers deserve their own subheading, as they found their way into my foot several times hiking around GJ. Watch your step folks.

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Opuntia polyacantha being fed on by what I believe to be cactus bugs (Chelinidea vittiger aequoris)

Stay tuned for the next entry of Aspens turning yellow as Autumn makes makes its way through the Rockies.

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