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Sunday, September 30, 2018

Autumn in the Badlands

It's been a long week. I needed to get away for a bit so even thought the weather was cool and gray I bombed out to the Badlands for a night. The campground was full ish. Unlike summer when people arrive late into the night and leave out early well before sunrise this crowd was pretty settled. I heard someone leave around 4am but generally the campground didn't stir until after sunrise.

I walked the next day, wandered really, and found myself headed towards the confluence of Sage Creek and the South Fork creek that runs by the campground. This confluence was one of the monitoring sites for the Badlands Monitoring project. I was trying a different route, one that I had attempted before but missed the confluence and ended up downstream at the Creek.  All who wander are not lost, sometimes we are are just trying again.

As always there were new (to me) things to see as I have not spent much time in the grasslands during autumn. Usually by now I move my hiking to the front part of the park with the formations.

The flowers were fewer although there were still a few hardy souls still blooming, particularly in the riparian areas near the creek.





The buffalo currant which is an early bloomer was mostly reduced to branches. The few leaves that remained were deep red. The guidebook says the buffalo currant is a favorite of deer to browse and I would have to agree.

Someone, I don't know who, is doing bioacoustic research. Sorry if my walking by and snapping a pictures fuddles up the data.


A first for me, I saw pincushion cactus. If a cactus can be cute, it's the pincushion.
 Those who know more about photography than I like gray skies for taking pictures since the light softens the colors. I have been trying to take a picture of the yellow mounds for a while and have yet to get one that I think does justice. This one comes close. 
I did do some tweaking on the color filter but only to make the photos look more like they actually did. I took this with my camera phone (I haven't upgraded yet) and there is only so much you can do with that.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

That Moment When...

I have been following the Exploration Vessel (E/V) Nautilus for a bit now, ever since I arranged to have a ship to shore remote with the crew during the South Dakota Discovery Center's water festival.  It's been both exciting and enlightening to see exploration done real time.

The other night, I tuned in to the Nautilus live feed just because I do that sort of thing. (I also watch a lot of Explore.org) Currently, the Nautilus is mapping the Papahānaumokuākea National Marine Monument to learn more about the seamounts (or underwater mountains) and the biological communities that live on them. This is a relatively unimpacted area of the ocean as it not fished by trawlers. I wrote about my first hand experience with trawlers when I went to Seattle. The upshot: they are massive.

I enjoyed listening to the scientists' commentary as the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) sailed through the depths. I was impressed how scientists could identify corals at a glance. These weren't the reef corals I was familiar with but rather delicate looking things straight out of a Dr. Seuss illustration.

The area where they worked was not the deepest area of the ocean like the Marianas Trench  but it was deep enough, beyond the photic zone where sunlight penetrates. I freely admit I don't know much about this zone so everything was an oddity to me.

And even the scientists weren't familiar with everything as evidenced by this moment when the ROV came upon a strange critter.  I suggest watching that moment here on You Tube  so you get the full effect then read the story at National Geographic

And what a moment it was. The BBC and the Washington Post (and probably several others by now) picked it up and reported on it.

I was so impressed by that moment that I immediately went on Twitter and Facebook and announced to the world that they should start watching Nautilus. I think I inspired a few people to tune in, hopefully on a regular basis as there are still yet to come many more moments when...

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Rocky Mountain National Park

Back from my week away in Rocky Mountain National Park. My husband and I took a short vacation to the western side. We stayed in the town of Granby about a 20 minute drive from Kawunechee Visitor Center. We were able to get into the park fairly early every day so we saw quite a bit of animal activity including:

  • A cow moose and her calf.
  • Two harems with bugling elk
  • Random elk herds, grazing
  • Pikas and marmots
  • Coyote scampering through the marmot area
  • Deer

On day one we hiked and got caught in the rain. Fortunately, we had rain gear with us.

On day two, we hiked the Tundra trail which is where we saw the marmots and pikas.

On day three we  hiked out along the Tombstone Ridge/Ute Trail, a trail above treeline, and had to turn back because of an incoming thunderstorm. Only it didn't bring rain, it brought sleet. We made it back to the car about 5 minutes before it started to precipitate. We were hauling as we hiked, stopping for nothing, not even to take a picture of a blooming Rydbergia which blooms only after setting roots, stems and leaves for 20 years. 

I saw it, though. 

The incoming weather must have been severe as it closed down the Alpine visitor center at the top of Trail Ridge Road, the highest visitor center in the National Park system and close to the Tombstone Ridge Trail. As we drove back down the mountain, the weather quickly turned and remained lovely. It was so nice we stopped for lunch in Grand Lake and then spent a happy hour doing some window shopping.

I took lots of flower photos, most of which came out well, and lots of scenery photos most of which did not. Rather, they came out but there is only so much you can do photography wise with a phone. After a lot of discussion and soul searching on my part, we decided to invest in a camera with a wide lens and optical zoom.

Why the soul searching? I have made it a point to use only my phone camera to prove that you don't need expensive equipment to have the explorer's eye. The things most of us have at hand will do. But I'm now reconsidering that the phone alone may not always be enough.

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Mushroom

I am blogging about the butterfly monitoring for the Adventure Scientists project at Open Explorer.

But I've been neglecting the every day exploration of Earth Explorations this summer because, well, it's been summer.  Now that it is officially meteorological autumn, I feel I should get back to at least weekly entries.

So this makes a nice welcome back post. What should I find in my front yard this morning but a mushroom?


I've not studied mushrooms much and my field guide is somewhat vague. It is a cap and stem with gills, I think. I can't be sure, it's hard to get a look under the cap. I took a picture but the camera didn't focus well.

The mushroom is growing on the edge of the lawn, near where the leaf and needle fall from deciduous and coniferous trees are. It's an adorable little fellow. I feel like it sprung up overnight but I might be that unobservant. I'm headed out of town for a week in a few days so I won't be able to watch its aging progression. Still, I'll keep an eye on it and see what comes of it. You can learn a lot just through intentional observation.