First Day of Fall

It’s hard to believe summer is officially over! Though the weather supports the calendar. Temperatures have already dropped with most days lingering in the 70s while nights have become brisk. However, it’s even chillier outside the valley. We’ve done a couple of camping trips these last 2 weeks for work with more to come in the next couple of weeks and it’s dropped down to the 40s some of those nights. Fortunately my coworker and I have kept warm in our sturdy bags and tents, but it takes extra will power to part them in the chilly mornings, especially now that the sun refuses to rise before 6:30. Our work this week was the usual noxious weed surveys at an area called Watermelon Hill, but unlike what the name suggests, there is sadly no watermelons of any kind present (It was a bigger disappointment than it should have been). On the contrary to delicious fruit, the place was covered in noxious weeds. The area is roughly 1.5 square miles and nearly all of it had invasive weeds present. Don’t get me wrong, it was still a pretty area and if I had still been back in the days when I was blissfully unaware of what a noxious weed even was I’d surely find it an “ideal” natural area.  But regardless of the weed situation, the trip was a fun one and I could never complain about having to hike around all day.

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Watermelon Hill (oh look, no watermelons)

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Chondrilla juncea or Rush Skeleton Weed, a Class B noxious weed.

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Taeniatherum caput-medusae or medusahead, a highly invasive grass.

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Cynoglossum or houndstongue and you guessed it, another noxious weed and obnoxious to remove from your pants.

Next week we travel to another area with a fruit in the name, Huckleberry Mountain (it seems more realistic to hope for the actual presence of huckleberries this time). It’s supposed to be a beautiful area, perhaps even the nicest place we’ll see during our internship. And instead of the usual crew of two, two others will be joining us as well. It’s time to spread our knowledge of the ways of the weeds, as in I’ll take on a crazed Newman alter ego from Seinfeld “The weeds never stop! They just keep coming and coming and coming. There’s never a letup, they’re relentless. The more you take out the more that come! And then the Trimble dies and weeds consume you!” It will be a great time for all. Last week I helped out at the annual Salmon Festival that’s held at a salmon hatchery in Leavenworth (30 min north of here). Elementary school kids from the area come to the hatchery, where several different federal and state agencies have interactive setups to inform the students on a variety of subjects. Ranging from salmon life history and other cool wildlife (mammals, birds, other fish) to learning about Native American culture. Our booth was particularly popular, an obstacle course to represent what salmon have to go through to reach their spawning grounds. Kids had to run through the fish nets and hooks (streamers with hooks drawn on them), over the dam (slide), under the wildfire (more streamers), past the bear (cardboard cut out), over the rapids (speed bumps), and finally through the culvert (an actual culvert) to spawn at their nesting site (dropping a wiffle gulf ball in a kiddie pool filled with gravel). To make things more interesting, I hid behind the cut out bear and surprised kids by roaring and having it lunge at them. It always startled a squeak out of the first kid before throwing them and the followers into fits of giggles while they attempted to dodge me. It was actually really fun and I was sad when my shift ended!

Anyways, I brought this up to make another point but got carried away. One of the booths was run by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and they had an assortment of mammalian skulls. I got to talking with the woman running it and she mentioned that there is an established wolf pack up in the Huckleberry area we will be camping in next week. She said that if I wait until dark and do a little howling I may get some return howls from the pack! How cool would that be? A pack of wolves howling with me. I’m super excited to try it out, though the thought of being out in the woods in the dark being howled at by wolves even now makes my hairs stand on end. But she assured me that of all the wildlife out there, wolves were the least to worry about due to their extremely cautious and shy nature.

Howl ya later!

Kat

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