Monday, January 29, 2018

Dropping Seeds from the Sky

 When we went out for a Sunday afternoon family outing yesterday, we noted a helicopter south of town. We guessed that they were doing some aerial seeding on the area that burned last Fourth of July. On the way back from our hike, we pulled over and watched the helicopter flying back and forth.

Then we went down to the gravel pit to talk to the crew that was with the seed. I knew a couple of the folks, so we peppered them with questions.

The seed mix they're using has about 20 species in it, a mix of grasses, forbs, and shrubs. Some of the species are galleta grass, Indian rice grass, wild rye, hopsage, blue flax, yellow beeplant, kochia, and globemallow.

When the helicopter took off with one hopper, the truck drove up, and the crew loaded 600 pounds of seed into it.

The helicopter switched out hoppers about every ten minutes. They are applying 16,000 pounds of seed to this fire at about 20 pounds of seeds per acre.

Desert Girl got out to watch.

There's a little bit of snow still left on the ground, so hopefully that will help. We'll also need some well-timed rainstorms so that the seeds will germinate. Fortunately, some of the seeds will stay viable for many years, so even if conditions aren't just right this year, they may have a chance in future years. But once the cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) gets going, it's quite a force to be reckoned with it. And there's also concern about predation, mainly by rodents.

We're crossing our fingers this effort will work, as it would help restore about 800 acres to a wildlife-friendly ecosystem. Plus it would help reduce the probability of wildfire, as cheatgrass-dominated rangelands have a very short fire return interval, sometimes as short as just a couple years. We don't want wildfires that close to town on a frequent basis (or anytime!).
Thanks to everyone who is making this happen, we appreciate your efforts!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

2018 Snowy Birkebeiner Race in Ely, Nevada

 Saturday was the date for the annual Birkebeiner race sponsored by the Ely Outdoor Enthusiasts. We've had a lot of fun at the race in past years and planned to go, snow or not. It was looking like it might be a trail run rather than a cross-country ski race, but Friday night the big storm finally came! We woke up to about eight inches at our house, with reports of over a foot in the mountains.

Our close-knit community reported that a plow had been over the nearest mountain pass, so we decided to see if we could make it. The nearby roads had not been plowed at all, so I was glad we had four-wheel drive. When we got out to US Highway 6 & 50, and it had one lane plowed. Good enough. There wasn't any other traffic. At the pass, the road was plowed both directions. Here's the view at the top of the pass:

The roads were slick and snow was still falling, so even though we left early, we got to the race a little late. Fortunately they started it a little late because others were also having difficulties.

I signed up for the long course, 6.6 km (about 4 miles). Six of us braved the trail. The BLM was going to groom the trail that morning, but because of the government shutdown, didn't. So we took turns breaking trail.

When the front person in our group (one guy went way ahead and stayed ahead the rest of the race), got tired, they moved to the side and everyone continued on.

I was so winded from my turn I got pretty far behind the group. Here they are disappearing into the snow.

But it was fun having the trail all to myself for awhile. it was so beautiful with all the fresh snow. And I wasn't alone. I heard Clark's nutcrackers and mountain chickadees.

I even took a selfie. (I obviously wasn't too concerned about winning the race!)

When I finished, the kids had already started. Fortunately these independent kids were able to get their skis on, practice, and get themselves to the finish line. It helped that there were only three in the race. I skied on their route, waiting to see a skier. And Desert Girl was the first one I saw! She passed me, heading towards the finish line.

Then came Desert Boy. He wasn't in the best mood as his sister was in front of him.

But he persevered, grumbling.

The kids got to go down a hill at the end to the finish line.

Then it was time for awards. Desert Girl was so happy to have come in first. Desert Boy was grumpy.

But then we went and ate the lunch buffet at Twin Wok and he felt better.

It was so much fun doing the course with all the new snow! Ward Mountain Loop D should have a good ski trail on it if anyone wants a little exercise. And the other loops have fresh powder--a lot of it!

Thanks, Ely Outdoor Enthusiasts, for the great excuse to get outside!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

2017 Caves

In a beautiful local cave with friend Teresa and kids
2017 was a terrific year for caving. I went in caves at almost sea level down in Quintana Roo, Mexico, and in a fumarole cave at the top of Mount Rainier, over 14,000 feet high. Plus many in between!

I taught cave rescue classes in Texas, Arizona, and Oregon. The kids and I went to the National Speleological Society (NSS) Western Regional at Lava Beds in California. I was part of the CavesLIVE project filmed in Arkansas. Plus there was lots of great regional caving, including some super paleontological finds and assistance with archeological projects. Cave clean ups included two lint camps and a trip to a well known Utah cave.

Here are a variety of photos. In order to protect some of the caves, I don't necessarily give their name (plus some I've forgotten!).

Surveying a cave in Quintana Roo by float tube (Photo credit: Frank Bogle)

Hiking through the caves is sometimes easier than hiking through the jungle; with Carol and Peter in Quintana Roo

Sunlight filtering through an entrance into a fumarole cave in the summit crater of Mt. Rainier

The Buddha: a landmark in a local cave. It's survived many inundations.
Lint camp is surprisingly fun and brings out lots of smiles
I still don't know how this helictite column formed.
Another cave pretty: a gypsum flower
A trip through the humongous Talus Room at lint camp
A hydrologic oddity--water spouting off to the side. Only happens during fast snow melt.
The beautiful Model Cave harvestman (Sclerobunus ungulatus)

Checking out a cool earth crack cave in Arizona
Stations at a Flagstaff-area cave during a Small Party Assisted Rescue class
On rope next to my brother Ed
It's over a giant snow drift to get into this ice-coated cave
A minuscule millipede, only known from one isolated cave
At the bottom of Nevada's deepest cave, admiring the ice
One of the ephemeral oddities at the bottom of the deepest cave in Nevada
With friends in Blanchard Springs Caverns for the filming of CavesLIVE  (airing in mid-February)
Amazing cave folia
A rare posed photo with friends
Desert Girl in a lava tube at Lava Beds National Monument
Desert Boy in Valentine Cave at Lava Beds National Monument 
A cave millipede
Unusual bones found in a cave
Admiring cool carrot-like stalactites
My good caving pal Doug, who I will go into any cave with
Who will solve the mystery of the ripples on the broken inside of a cave shield?
Cool speleothems
Louise explaining coral pipes
It's always a treat to walk in a Nevada cave!
Classic boneyard ceiling (eroded partially by condensation corrosion)
The lone stalagmite
Checking out more bones in a cave
In a cave with a lot of graffiti for a little cleanup
Bonny smoothing out some of the graffiti in punk rock
A cool cave beetle
We're looking forward to another year with more fun caving. You never know what might be underground!
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