Friday, July 24, 2015

Pictures From Volunteering (Um, Touring) Wyoming

According to us, you really cannot beat a gig that provides you a vehicle, a credit card for fuel and says “Go... Wander through the forest.  Oh, and if you wouldn’t mind cleaning a few restrooms and emptying some trash cans while you are out. we’d really appreciate it.”

                              All geared up and ready for battle!

There are things that you never think you will learn in life.  How to maintain a pit toilet bathroom is one of those things we didn’t really give a thought to in our previous lives.  And while bragging rights for such a skill probably aren’t high on many folks lists we can proudly say...

                        ‘Our $#!+ers don’t stink.’

    We are gold medal winners in Bathroom Maintenance.

Positive comments are flooding in and admittedly it feels good to know that we are fulfilling our obligations to the satisfaction of our bosses and the visiting public.  But we’re really here for the driving around the forest part.  And that is what we will share with you because honestly there are only so many photos you can take of a pit toilet.

Spring comes a tad later at 9000’ elevation.  When we arrived
the aspens still had the look of winter.

Our ‘yard’ still had some snow on the ground and a couple of feet here or there piled in the shadows.  The weight of winter had last years grasses laid flat in the field.

We were anxious to get started driving around and exploring this (new to us) beautiful area and our first few days did not disappoint.

                                                 On the way to Lake Owen - What a view!

          At Lake Owen - We have two trailheads and a campground to take care of here.
                           That’s enough to require a lunch break with a view!

While at Lake Owen Campground one day, Nicole heard a different kind of bird call.  She spotted it a ways away in a tree and snapped a few photos.  It was a bird we had never seen before...

                                                   Evening Grosbeak (male)

                                Evening Grosbeak (female)

Since we’ve only had one spotting of these at a great distance, here’s a drawing of them.


        And, for a new-to-us bird that we see often around our home-spot...

                              the Pine Siskin is a treat to watch.

                    The juveniles have quite the personality, as well.

             The Gray-headed Junco is one of the constants in our area.

                 For some reason they are not afraid to get close.

                Perhaps it is their ability to look ‘tough’ after a bath.

                               A fledgling rested on the picnic table the other day.

When it turned around, the Junco ID became obvious (note rust splotch on back).

    It wasn’t long before our fields started showing color.

To date we’ve counted over 50 different flowers (not including grasses).
There is no way we can show you all of them so we’ll spotlight a few.

                              Some of the first to show were the Pasque Flower.

                    Reportedly, they are white with a bluish tinge.

We have only seen one clump of white however and all others have been purple.

         We’ve heard they are also called Moptops (once they go to seed).

The Purple Fringe made its appearance shortly after the Lupine.


Well, guess we’re headed to town so that seems like a suitably beautiful place to end for now.  Until we meet again...

Saturday, July 18, 2015

We Repeat With The Laramie Ranger District

One of our thoughts about our volunteer experiences has always been that we will not “repeat”.  It has less to do with how good or bad our time in a particular location was and more about there being such a wide variety of experiences to be had, places to see and people to meet. 

Three years ago we accepted our first volunteer position with the Laramie, Wyoming, Ranger District to be camphost at Vedauwoo.  We loved that position and Vedauwoo will always be a magical place in our hearts.  However, despite their offering, we knew that we did not want to return to the same position at the same location. 

After three years, the rangers here in Laramie knew that we weren’t prone to repeating so they got smart.  They offered us a position here that entailed living in a location we’ve never been to and driving all over the forest (one of our favorite things to do) cleaning toilets and collecting trash (um... yes, we actually like to do those two things also).

And that is how we wound up doing 1/3 of something we said we’d never do.

When we arrived (two months ago) the approach to our new home at 9000’ was still dusted.

                      After already experiencing summer-like temps in FL and GA

                    it was nice to see (and feel) a little more winter.

      Although we don’t make it often, our drive to and from town definitely does not suck.

While it is about forty miles one way, it is replete with the beautiful Wyoming
scenery that we have fallen in love with.

Mostly though, for us, town is only visited when absolutely necessary.  We’d rather
spend our free time at our new home, the Foxpark Work Center.  Foxpark is a community with a population of 22 located next to our workcenter.  We have been told by one member that only three people actually reside there year round.  Three is the total number of people we may have actually seen so far.  So, at least our numbers line up.  Our area, the Forest Service Workcenter, is government property (i.e., off limits to the public) and we are the only people who reside there.  So, two is the number of people we typically see in our neck of the woods save for the occasional FS employee.

We are located at about the half way point of the Med Bow Rail Trail.
It is a 21 mile long section of the old Laramie, Hahns Peak and Pacific
Railroad that has been converted to a non-motorized trail.

  We have a very large yard with a major water feature that our resident beaver maintains.

This is the fence that Nicole likes to visit to watch the birds.  They’ve grown used to her daily visits and rarely hide.  She’s seen close to fifty different birds since we arrived - many of which we have not seen before.

Our fields have gone through a myriad of transitions since we arrived and, like
the birds, the different flowers have almost grown too numerous to count.


Speaking of, the task of figuring out how to share all that we have seen and are seeing (before we leave and start new adventures) is still ahead.  So, for now we shall say...


It is time for us to head back “up the hill” (as they say in these parts).
                  In the east we’d call it a mountain!

Friday, July 10, 2015

West By North West

Well, just about anything via road travel is North when you leave Florida.  We last left you in Arkansas with Nicole on the great hunt for an Alligator Snapping Turtle.  That dream pretty much died as we crossed into Missouri for the night. 

The small town of Thayer is just across the border from Mammoth Springs, Arkansas, and we had been to both in previous (pre-Annie) travels.  So, in the morning, we opted for a little reminiscing.  We headed down toward Mammoth Springs and decided to explore the new-to-us visitor center at the FWS Fish Hatchery. 

There wasn’t much going on at the hatchery (fish wise) this particular time of the year but we heard some birds and were up for a walkabout so we exited stage rear.  We encountered a group of kids receiving a presentation by a ranger. 

Being the curious sort we hung around for a bit and listened in.  After all, he kept pulling things out of boxes.  Who wouldn’t stick around for that?! 

And then it happened.  Something we never expected.  It was a complete shock and yet, admittedly, a little bit exciting.  O.K.  It was a LOT exciting!  One minute he is cracking jokes with the kids and the next minute the man just whips out...

                            AN ALLIGATOR SNAPPING TURTLE!!!!!

                                      Seriously!  It was so cool!

Moving right along... We saw some other neat things, as well.  At a volunteer position in PA we assisted with some wood duck box monitoring / repair and such.  Yet, we never saw a Wood Duck.

                                      Here we saw our first.

                                      Both male and female.

An Eastern Kingbird sat upon a post and observed us observing.

A Killdeer stayed very close and appeared to be leading us away from a nest.

       The Starlings had claimed the Purple Martin condo for the season.

                               And were busy feeding the family.

This Eastern Phoebe toyed with us staying just a few feet ahead our whole walk.

Before long, our stretch was over and it was time to get back on the road.  Although the only fish we saw at the hatchery were in the visitor center, we did see a lot of birds and, of course...

                           The Amazing Alligator Snapping Turtle!

Tooling on down the road we headed north until we could enter Nebraska and then we made a beeline west.  The weather quickly changed and the skies were a bit questionable. 

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Before we left Florida we had watched a movie about tornado chasers that drove a cool ‘tornado-proof’ vehicle so they could get very close and even drive right into the middle of one (that last part may have just been for the movie).  Perhaps that was on our minds as Annie is not exactly tornado proof!

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We pushed on though and according to news reports managed to stay just ahead or just behind the true nastiness.  Not that we were trying to be a part of it.  We were just cruising along at our normally very slow rate of driving though when this “thing” goes whizzing by us!  You’ll never guess what it was.

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      We only caught the tail end of it photography wise.  Can you guess?

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OK  Here’s a ‘web acquired’ shot.  It was the T.I.V. that we saw in the movie!
Well, not exactly that one... we think.  But one of them.  T.I.V. stands for Tornado Intercept Vehicle.  Too cool!

Despite the impending doom look of the sky the whole time our trip through Nebraska was a smooth one.  We stopped off at the last rest area in NE for a short bit and spotted these.

                                          Western Kingbird

When they weren’t posing for our collection they were busy furiously building a nest.

    Having just seen the Eastern Kingbird in Arkansas this was a real treat.

We spent our last night of “freedom” (yes, we are headed to volunteer, again) at a rest area in Wyoming that we had overnighted at prior to full-timing.  The last time we were here we were on a month long cross country rock climbing adventure.  Although we do not climb nearly as much as we used to, we still had to hop on that rest area boulder just once for sentimental purposes.


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We also explored the trails a bit before settling in for a relaxing night.

                  Yes, we saw some things... like this neat flower.

             And many other flowers, bugs and such.

                     Mostly, we focused on being back in Wyoming.

                                         It felt really good.

          Wyoming definitely speaks to us (in quiet and soothing tones).

      There is something about the state that we can’t put our finger on.

   People ask why we like Wyoming so much and truthfully we can’t tell you.

               We just know that we like it a lot.

                            And that is all that we need to know.

With that, we have finally caught up to our present location (well, our present State anyway).  As for exact locations and happenings... for those of you that we don’t communicate with in other ways, thanks for reading and we’ll get there (sooner or later).