Over the week of July 18th, the Taos and Santa Fe SOS crews joined forces to scour the slopes of the Carson National Forest for native seeds. We met at the Taos BLM field office, our government pickups laden down with tents, sleeping bags, a few musical instruments, plant presses and all the other essentials for an overnight in the field. Joining us on our hitch into Carson was the one and only Jessa “seed czar” Davis, the Taos AIM crew, Kerry Dicks (resident Archeologist), and Olivia Messinger Carril, co-author of “Bees in Your Backyard” (an awesome reference book for the bees of N. America). Together we drove north out of Taos through the sagebrush Mesa in a line of government white Chevy Silverado’s. To the locals we must have looked as much like a convoy of Botanists as something out of Mad Max.
Eventually we turned down the dirt road into the Carson National Forest and made our first stop in the foothill slopes of San Antonio Mountain. There we discovered a population of Oxytropis sericea and Linum lewisii, which we would collect from the following day.
Onward and upward we drove, into the aspen groves, buckwheat fields, and alpine lakes of the Carson NF, stopping for plenty of “drive-by botany” along the way. Several times during these stops, Olivia let loose her little tikes, each outfitted with their own bug nets. The cuteness was hardly bearable.
Eventually we arrived at the lower Lagunitas Campground, and set up aside the mountain lake nearby. Olivia then schooled us in some pollinator collection techniques, one of which involved deploying several cups of soap at regular intervals throughout the landscape before returning to collect and pin your specimens. As the light grew dim, the SOS interns, AIM crew, Jessa, Kerry, and the Carril family gathered around an inviting campfire. Alex, one of the AIM crew members, roasted a fish he caught from the lake and shared it with everyone as musical instruments were tuned and played into the night.
The largest and smallest bees found in N. America. Right: Xylocopa, and Left: Perdita. Photo from “Bees in Your Back Yard”, photo by Joseph Wilson (quarter used for scale).
I couldn’t remember the last time I had been regaled by ghost stories around a campfire, but I won’t soon forget the stories told that night.
As the sun slowly rose the next morning, so too did our crew. After breakfast, each group drove began to depart separately. We in the Taos-Santa Fe SOS team then proceeded to descend from the Lake, and made two collections along the way down that surely wouldn’t have been possible if not for the combined man (and woman) power of the group. On our drive towards a third collection in Questa we stopped at the Taos Cow for some world-famous ice cream of the coffee, chocolate, and lavender varieties.
That night, Ella Samuel, Laura Holloway, and Rebecca Schaub of the Santa Fe crew stayed in the modest home of the Taos Crew; Sophie Duncan, Jack Dietrich, and myself. Luckily our synergistic efforts at seed collecting were also transferrable to the grill, and together made a pretty solid pasta salad, some mouth-watering veggie burgers, and fragrant grilled pineapple. Like any good night, we finished it off with a game of Settlers of Catan before falling into well a deserved sleep.
The next morning, we collected seeds downstate in Truchas and Chimayo before parting ways. We’re currently planning another reunion… hopefully it will involve just as much comraderie and Catan as our former gathering.
Until next time,
CLM intern (BLM) — Taos, New Mexico