Sunday, December 7, 2014

Grand Gulch Primitive Area

Oh. Well I thought I had already blogged it up about this backpacking trip to Grand Gulch Primitive Area in Southern Utah, but apparently, nope. So here you go, just a few months later. Canyonlands (one of my favorite places ever) was the top choice, but it was time to try something a little different. Grand Gulch was pretty badass, I was glad to switch it up.
Ruins! RUINS! Everywhere. Really, everywhere. And this is one of the places you are able to actually climb up there and check those bad boys out. Pretty cool, guys. Grand Gulch is a series of canyons and mesas and good stuff like that. In addition to tons of ruins (Ancestral Puebloan- 700-2,000 years ago), there are tons of petroglyphs and rock art wherever you look. (If you're observant, that is). Overwhelming, honestly. Our mileage wasn't too high because there was so much to check out and so many places to explore. Not a bad thing.
There were a ridiculous amount of side canyons to explore and even with 5 days there, it didn't cut it. It's great that it's legal and even encouraged to check out the ruins at Grand Gulch, and considering that fact, they are in pretty decent shape- but still, there are those assholes who feel the need to take artifacts, pottery, etc. Vandalism isn't cool, guys. I've got quite a few more photos so rest your pretty head on this for right now, yup? Oh yeah - in case I forget-cryptobiotic crust! It's everywhere in Southern Utah. Pay respect and don't crunch it - it's full of communities of itty bitty living organisms! Ecologically very important!  (seen below near the cactus)

Monday, November 17, 2014

Daily Dose of Cute

Hey hey! A long-tailed weasel! I saw this little friend while hanging out in PikaLand. My patience level can be pretty limited sometimes, but not when it comes to pikas, so I was rewarded by them and this long-tailed weasel, who was really curious about what I was, who I was, and what the hell I was up to. He noticed me from pretty far off and slyly and slowly made his way within maybe 10 feet at the closest. He was crazy hyperactive though, so I'm surprised I got any decent photos of the crazy nut.  As freaking cute as this weasel is, unfortunately, his kind does eat pikas. (This is a bummer, but he's gotta do what he's gotta do I guess).  Sir weasel, may I suggest a bed of lettuce with some grilled tempeh instead? 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Rubies Under Snow

I am still annoyingly behind with blogging. It is what it is, okay?  I spent a lot of quality time in the Ruby Mountains (Northern Nevada) this spring and summer. This is one of my happy places, so I was real pumped I got to run around this place for a while.  Our first few attempts of Ruby play time proved fruitless, because the road was either still snowed in or there was just a kinda gross amount of snow still on the ground- no good for camping. I'm glad we finally just went for it, even though the part of the road was still snowed off. An extra mile or two never hurt anyone. 
We weren't able to backpack because of all the snow (and also I would not have survived the night- so we camped at a lower elevation), but it was still worth some long day hikes.  This was a good idea because no one else wanted to hike in the snow and we pretty much had the place to ourselves. There was still a good 3 feet (at the very least) of snow packed in when we finally ventured out (early June).  I rarely, if ever, hike in snow (reminder: cold + Johnny just doesn't work) so it was a new kinda of adventure. Some of the steep stuff was a little (lot) sketchy and there was a ton of snowmelt underneath the snow pack, which made stuff just a little terrifying at times. 
The pikas were not out yet because all the pika habitat and rocky areas were still under serious snow. This was really upsetting for me initially, not going to lie. Especially since I had lugged the big old 500 mm lens around on 4 hikes at this point..It's okay though, cause I saw my pika friends later in the season.  Also, no snowcocks! Bummer on that one, but not surprising.  The Rubies are such a freaking gem. I hadn't been there with all the snow before and it's drastically different than without snow. The first few miles from the trailhead can be totally overrun and overused by local hoodlums during the season, so it was pretty cool to get to have it all to ourselves. And another plus is that I didn't freeze to death. Go me!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I'll Wrap up when Winter Blows

So long, fall time. See you later, autumn. You are no more! Snow showers tonight, low of 26? Chances are high that I will not make it through the night. I've got no tolerance for this nonsense. It's time to skeedaddle outta Wisconsin I think. Hmm..but alas, there is nowhere to go just yet. Mysteries.
Wisconsin offers a real nice leaf-changing season though. Great nights for fires and wine. I even have been to a couple Packer's games without freezing- what!? Found this little common garter snake a few days ago while wandering around. I was desperately trying to find some salamanders but I'm guessing they're already hunkering down. Snake friend was pretty cute though.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

We've got a Whooper

Hey lookit! It's a whooping crane! This was a pleasant surprise, definitely wasn't expecting to come across any whooping cranes any time soon. She (yes she- her name is Latka and she was hatched on June 13, 2013) was hanging out with a pretty big sandhill flock (about 8oish).  She was banded and luckily, with the big boy lens I could read the bands...which is why I know her life story now, which is kinda fun.  If you're not aware, whooping cranes are one of the most endangered birds in North America, with less than 400 of them in the wild. I've seen them a couple times on the Texas coast, so it was pretty cool to see Latka in Wisconsin.  
Respect these guys, guys! They've been way too close to extinction in the past (at one point, there were only 16 in the wild. Shit. Unacceptable.) Reintroduction and captive breeding have really helped these birds out and their numbers are up, but they definitely still need our help. 

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Attack of the MOBL

Hey! Lookit. Finally put some birds on the blog. These mountain bluebirds ended up being neighbors for a few days in the Ruby Mountains (Nevada). Did a 4 day trip in the midst of our weird sickness (we're thinking it was a lingering water borne thing? That's a whole other story though). We were forced to kind of wimp out and set up a base camp and do day hikes because of the constant puke-it-out feelings, but, we were able to grin and bear it and hike in far enough to get away from everyone and had a lake all to ourselves, so it all worked out in the end. Also, pikas were only 5 minutes away!
So these bluebirds, unbeknownst to us, had a nest close to where we set the tent up.  Both male and female were making constant food carries to the nest cavity, which was pretty cool. Luckily, they didn't seem to mind we were nearby. This MOBL pair were total badasses. I watched them attack a chipmunk and golden-mantled ground squirrel at least ten times. Whenever one of them would get too close, one of the bluebirds would just try to annihilate them-it was a fairly vicious event.  I was sitting near the nest tree at one point and the chipmunk ran across my lap and the male bluebird landed on my knee, then proceeded to chase the chipmunk around me - yes, bluebird and chipmunk were running over and around me. It was kind of, well, it was kind of awesome. 
One day, (and oh do I wish I had a photo of this...) we saw the female fly out of the cavity with a dead nestling. She placed it about 15 meters from the nest tree in some tall grass. Not sure why it had to die, but I would guess there were too many nestlings, just because the other MOBL nests I have seen, there have been 5 nestlings and things seem to get get a little crowded. Only the heartiest survive kinda thing. Sucky. It was a bummer and I of course cried. Because I cry about everything, I'm not going to deny it. (Seriously, blogger doesn't let me center photos I move anymore...does anyone have any insight on this? It's making me a little bit crazy) Nature Notes

Sunday, September 21, 2014

70 mph winds and a couple curmudgeons

Great Basin National Park, hugely underrated. I'd been before and it was automatically placed in my top 3 favorite parks but I got to spend a lot more quality time here in the last few months. Central and Northern Nevada in general don't get enough credit. But that's okay with me - stay away I say! The less people the better! I hiked up Wheeler Peak (13,065 feet) one of the times I was there. It's the second highest peak in the state and it's pretty gnarly. Or at least it was the day I went up there. Granted, at 13,000+ feet, it's never going to be calm and still, but holy wind, guys! It was up to 60-70 mph wind gusts and temperatures dropped to the low 30's once you got higher up. (Below: Wheeler Peak is the flat looking one on the right. Beast of a hike!)
                             
                             
As you should know by now, I'm no fan of cold weather, but despite basically freezing to death for the duration of the hike (see me smile at the top, yah?), it was pretty excellent and it was only the two of us at the peak (benefits of being procrastinators and getting a late start...) which was pretty great. And another reason GBNP rocks it: take that Yosemite and Yellowstone tourist hoards! We passed maybe 7-8 people who were on their way down the mountain.  Only a couple of them had made it all the way to the peak, and all but two only had terribly negative things to say. Example: "There is no joy in this. There is NO JOY in this hike." MAHH! Gotta love a good old curmudgeon! This will remain one of my favorite quotes for years to come. 
                            
Anyway, let's revisit those 70mph winds. I was legitimately knocked over at least 12 times (I stopped counting after that) and the gusts more or less ripped my eyeballs out of their socket and tore holes in my attire. All worth it though. Oh yeah, saw a couple black rosy finches- they only live in higher elevations, so I don't see them too often. The wind was really messing with their flying attempts and  I may or may not have screamed when I saw them get blown away off the mountain.  It's fine, they know what they're doing, but I was terrified for them. More on Great Basin in posts to come! (side note: blogger is being a butthead and won't let me center the photos....or I forgot how to blog properly)  Our World