Work and Play

The Work (The Weeds)

Since wrapping up our main portion of the field season we have been doing any and all tasks that have come up. Corinne and I have been primarily occupied with the many weeds-related activities. One of which includes pulling weeds quite regularly for a vegetation plot found on BLM land within a special recreation area known as Welch Ranch. While pulling weeds on a vegetation plot may sound like a relatively simple task, (and at any given moment it is) never could I have imagined we’d be needing to pull out what seems like 99.9% of the plants found on the plot. While progress has been made, progress has also been slow, and a task that started a ways back still requires work to be done. The weeds are certainly relentless.

Since weeds not only grow on research vegetation plots, we were honored to help out Justin with his weed mapping activities. We joined in on an adventure to help locate the many invasive and weedy plants that had grown out in the field. The database we were adding to, known as NISIMS (the acronym is a difficult one to remember what it stands for), is one we are becoming familiar with recently. And so we had a fun filled day of hiking and mapping, and with this training we are now involved with a large-scale weed mapping project at Welch Ranch.

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Justin and Corinne on a mission to find the weeds.

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Justin mapping weeds with tenacity. As Justin may say: No dreams weeds, only tears.

While we’ve just recently begun our time at Welch Ranch, we have certainly been shown quite the task ahead. Welch Ranch, the location of the infamous vegetation plot, contains a great variety of NISIMS species requiring mapping. With many walking points to map, and hills to traverse, we may be looking at many many miles of fieldwork over the course of coming weeks.

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Located at Welch Ranch is a coal seam that has been on fire for some time. Fairly surreal to stand over smoking, hot, moist air coming from deep underground. The cheatgrass sure loves it though.

The Play

Recently I took off for an 11 day adventure across Colorado and primarily Utah. I had been looking forward to taking off a chunk of days for quite some time now. And with Labor Day around the corner I got to planning. The trip would include friends visiting in Fort Collins, Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP, Moab, Arches NP, Canyonlands NP, Zion NP (the main goal), and visiting a friend in Salt Lake City. Quite the adventure ahead with an unfortunate amount of driving.

The first stop was Fort Collins, and with lucky timing I was able to make the annual Tour de Fat put on by New Belgium Brewing Company. Missing this event the year prior it was great to finally make it. And what an event it is. Also a difficult one to fully describe. Involved is a celebration of biking and dressing up in costumes with no discernible theme. The highlight for me may have been a 4-person tandem bicycle pulling a giant rocket with a man playing guitar and singing atop. Beyond the fascinating costumes and bicycles comes the multitude of strange events, such as the slow ride, live music, and a bike pulled karaoke stage.

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A glimpse of the Tour de Fat action.

But eventually my time in Fort Collins was at an end, and I was off to see some nature. The first trek was off to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park. At first arrival I decided to shake out the legs by going on a 6-7 mile trail run atop the canyon. And what a canyon it is. The scale is pretty incredible and also difficult to fully capture in pictures. With steep, dark, hard rock walls, the canyon is very dramatic. But sadly I was still on a self-imposed schedule to make it to Utah the next afternoon so I did not get to spend nearly as much time as I would have liked there.

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The Black Canyon in all its glory.

Southern Utah, National Parks, Moab, trails, biking, running, where to even start. This section of the trip was a blast. Never having been to the Southern Utah region and always hearing about it, it was finally time to make the trip. Starting off in Moab was a fantastic dive into limitless recreation activities. With Arches, Canyonlands, and extensive opportunities on BLM and Forest Service land nearby it’d be hard to run out of things to do there. Arches proved to be even more fun than I had originally expected. While I only had an afternoon to explore, I went on a long and scenic hike/run in the Devil’s Garden. This may have been the most fun I’ve ever had on a trail. Beyond the obvious scenic locations (arches, etc.), was traversing atop sandstone ridges, following rock cairns, and moving along sandy trails. It truly felt like a natural made playground.

Canyonlands was filled with some massive views. Most of my day there was spent on short hikes, and I can say for sure that I saw a good chunk of the Island in the Sky region. And after attempting to take it easy that day (a sure failure on my part), I ended up going on my first mountain biking ride outside Moab. Finding a significantly more difficult trail than I was capable of doing was apparently my choice for the day. With the grace of a fainting goat, I tackled the trail and was off to Zion the next day.

The three pictures blow are: Arches (Double O Arch), Canyonlands (the view from Island in the Sky), and Zion (Angel’s Landing)

20160905_17195420160906_11515220160907_172352 Zion National Park was easily the highlight of the whole trip. Seeing pictures and being blown away by the supposed views, I had to set several days for the park. The first hike I attempted was the well known Angel’s Landing hike, a hike known for multiple reasons. One, the views are incredible atop Angel’s Landing. Two, it is known to be a semi-dangerous hike with a fairly exposed scramble to the top. And three, it has a steep section of switchbacks known as Walter’s Wiggles. While several people have died here over the past 12 years, and with nearby drop offs sure to challenge those with a fear of heights, it is fairly reassuring knowing how many people make it to the top daily, and that chains are present to grab all along the way.

My last and worthwhile adventure in Zion was a solo backpacking trip through Echo Canyon. I was off to the East Rim of Zion, a location that appears to see somewhat little backpacking, likely due to the lack of water once reaching the camping zone. And the hike I chose to get there wasn’t lacking on the elevation gain either (roughly 2,400 ft in 4 or so miles). But setting up my hammock atop a mesa overlooking the canyon was a great end to my outdoors portion of my trip. My last several days were spent in Salt Lake City for the cozy household life, and ultimately making it back to Buffalo.

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The spot for the night in Zion

All in all it was an incredible time and a rejuvenating break from the work-life. Now back onto the weeds.

Nick Melone

Buffalo, WY

 

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Bonus: Little lady dog creeping out the truck, silently judging our Chinese Buffet food choices.

 

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