Showing posts from September, 2011

Teton Crest Trail

My sister just visited for a long, jam-packed weekend. We started things out with a 2-day hike into the Tetons, along the popular Teton Crest Trail. This backcountry route skirts along the back of the Tetons at about 10,000 ft, offering fantastic views of the Tetons from the western side that only backpackers are privileged to see. After we got off the trail, we hitchhiked back to our car and headed for a secret and secluded spot in the park where the Phantom Springs wolf pack has been frequenting. We watched them and listened to them howl at the setting sun, we went back to town for some Thai food and some rest.

Cirque of the Towers

I just returned from a short backpacking trip into the Wind River Range. This intimidating and isolated set of mountains is widely known around the country by backpackers and climbers, but few others. The remoteness of these mountains cannot be understated or overlooked. No roads traverse the range, and although only ten miles from the trailhead, we were thirty from the nearest paved road, and seventy from the nearest town. The mountain range cuts sharply and decisively into Wyoming's sagebrush desert, forming an inter-mountain basin between it and the Tetons' parent range that traps weather so effectively, those living in the basin experience the coldest temperatures in the lower 48. Our destination, Cirque of the Towers, is a rock climber's oasis in the summer, but a secluded escape for us in the fall. Fresh snow dusted the peaks, alpine willows were turning yellow, and the pools of water along the trail were just beginning to ice over. These cliffs make up only the small…

Friday in the office

Most days, I am in an office, at a computer, making maps. Yesterday and today, these were my offices for the afternoon:

And on this particular occasion, these were sharing my office:

These creatures may be the only thing more adorable than saw-whet owls. They're called pikas, and they make noises that you would expect its squeak-toy likeness to make. They also collect grass and flowers to assemble waist-high hay piles, which becomes their winter larder. One of the ongoing projects at Teton Science School's Conservation Research Center is to establish baseline pika habitat occupancy models. These lagomorphs (the name of their evolutionary lineage, which they share with rabbits) live in the space between rocks and boulders on steep, eroding mountain slopes. They are also very temperature sensitive, and with a warming climate, we predict that their populations will be found at higher and higher (therefore cooler and cooler) elevations. Mountain-dwelling species like pika only hav…