I departed for Lake Patterson Cabins in the late evening of May 12th and arrived before midnight (after a 4 hour 30 minute drive) and was welcomed by Aaron Long and the Cowgills. They were kind enough to let me set up my sleeping pad …
Since moving to the greater Issy Alps area in 2017 I wanted to complete the Chirico Tenpeat event. The race has developed quite a reputation among my circle of trail running friends and it struck me as something that I needed to do as a …
In May 2022 Apryle and I had the the opportunity to observe Tom and Paula Bartlett banding birds on Kelleys Island and at Springville Marsh. I was first exposed to bird banding at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado back in spring of 2013 and found it to be an interesting experience. Bird banding provides useful data for both scientific research and land management practices. According to USGS, banding individual birds allows for observation of dispersal and migration, behavior and social structure, life-span and survival rate, reproductive success and population growth. Because of the netting and handling, banding can be stressful for birds, but the overall data collected ultimately makes positive impacts in the longterm survival of many species.
Growing up in Tiffin, Ohio, my dad said for many years that I should link up with Tom Bartlett (a Tiffin resident) because he is an avid birder and master bird bander. Tom has banded a over 100,000 birds since 1971. His consistency and longevity over the years is truly a source of inspiration for me in terms of contributing to conservation. He has served as a mentor for numerous banders-in-training, as receiving your bander’s license requires coursework and an intense apprenticeship. Tom is a research associate at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and his banding data provides insight into the biodiversity of habitat and coupled with the work of other scientists, reveals migration routes of birds.
Tom has been banding on Kelleys Island since 1996 and as of 2021, he has banded 23,704 individuals of 122 species. Kelleys Island is located in Lake Erie’s western basin, four miles north of Marblehead (on the mainland). Although the island is only four square miles it is the largest American island in Lake Erie. Apryle and I reached the island by ferry and camped at the state park in order to be ready for early morning birding.
Specifically, Tom sets up his mist nets at the restricted Jones Preserve on Long Point. The Jones Point Preserve is a 21 acre parcel that was donated in the late 1970s. It is a vital stopover point for migratory birds, particularly warblers, prior to crossing Lake Erie. We accompanied the team of banders as they removed birds from the mist nets and then assisted with data entry for each bird we captured. A number of measurements help researchers ascertain the body condition, age, and species of the birds. Following the banding of the birds, we snapped a photo and released them back into the wild. Tom and his team prioritize each bird’s wellbeing and go to every measure to minimize stress on the birds.
Following our Kelleys Island birding adventure, we again accompanied Tom and team at Springville Marsh with bird banding. Springville Marsh State Nature Preserve is 201 acres making it the largest inland wetland in northwest Ohio. Despite the uniform agricultural and industrial disruption in the area, the marsh has persisted in much the same way that it has since the last ice age. There is abundant ground water consisting of calcium-rich springs which nourishes the unique plant life and bird life. Therefore, it is a great place to bird band in the springtime, which is what Tom has done since 1984. The mist nets were set up on the boardwalk with a few in an adjacent woodland. Although we saw many of the same species that we saw on Kelleys Island, there were many different species that prefer marsh habitat.
Overall it was an incredible experience and Apryle and I are very grateful to Tom for allowing us to join in on the banding experience.
The Run Forest Run 50 kilometer race took place on February 18th 2023. I arrived at the start/finish area at Lake Sylvia State Park in the early morning hours as the sun was rising and an eerie translucent fog hung in the air above the …
On January 13th we were scheduled to join a birding group at Las Vegas Springs Preserve, so we made our way in to the city in the early morning equipped with our 600mm zoom camera. Las Vegas Springs Preserve is a lush oasis in an …
On the fourth day in the Mojave Desert we got off to a slow start and left our hotel room rather late (8:30AM) and we decided to explore Pahrump’s own Discovery Park in earnest. Discovery Park is interesting because it is an open space that has been restored from an old golf course. Furthermore, most of the restoration has been done by adjacent land owners. The park has a ~2 mile paved loop trail around it, but there are several informal trails throughout the reclaimed golf course.
The park lies in the middle of a residential neighborhood and offers views of Mount Charleston to the northeast. There is an odd mix of open bare earth, invasive grasses, towering cottonwood trees and pines. There is also a small stream complete with various riparian willows. The centerpiece of the space includes two unnatural looking ponds situated at the halfway point on the trail and there is a bright white fence bookending the trail. It is clear that this space was once a human designed landscape, but it is actually very interesting to watch it being reclaimed by the desert.
The main focus of our walk was birding – we identified several species including: American Widgeon, Canada Goose, Mallard, Snow Goose, White-fronted Goose, Swan Goose, Red-tailed Hawk, American Coot, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Costa’s Hummingbird, Anna’s Hummingbird, Ladder-backed Woodpecker, Northern Flicker, Common Raven, Phainopepla, European Starling, Common Yellowthroat, Great-tailed Grackle, and White-crowned Sparrow. Most of these birds naturally occur in the area, but the pair of Swan Geese was a unique surprise and were likely domestic escapees. In one of the backyards there was a feeding tray which the Swan Geese appeared to be utilizing along with several dozen other waterfowl. Even though this was not a natural setting, I will still count the Swan Geese in my life list of birds.
After our morning birding, we traveled back to Red Rock Canyon for some more trail running. I was so impressed by the beauty of the area on the first day of the trip, that I thought it warranted further exploration. So we made our way entrance of the 13 mile scenic drive and Apryle dropped me at the Turtlehead Peak trailhead. Turtlehead Peak stands 6324 feet and is the highest non-technical summit of Red Rock Canyon. It was a beautiful route that started in a wide dry creek-bed and gradually ascended into a rocky gully. Route finding was a little difficult but ultimately I had my course set for a distant saddle which proceeded the final pitch to the official summit. The slanted final slope had a slight snow accumulation over the red and gray rock. The earth tones were punctuated by barrel cacti, juniper, and manzanita. I reached the summit in 31:33 and felt as though I could have gone a few minutes faster if I had not lost my way on a few occasions. The whole out and back was 4.7 miles with 2000 vertical feet.
Following my summit of Turtlehead, Apryle joined me on the second run which circumnavigated White Rock Mountain. This was in my top five favorite desert loops of all time due to its stunning scenery, vegetation, trail conditions, and historic importance. The route started with a quick jog up a gravel road to the White Rock Loop trail and we elected to go in a counterclockwise direction. The opening two miles gradually ascended from 4600 feet to 5400 feet and passed around the northeast corner of White Rock Mountain. The smooth crushed gravel path meandered through a naturally maintained garden of bitterbrush, sagebrush, cholla, and yucca with the occasional pinyon pine.
As the trail descended southwestward along the mountain the plant life changed once again and the pinyon pines were joined by dense stands of juniper. The understory was dominated by sagebrush, bitterbrush, yucca, manzanita, prickly pear and beavertail cacti. The soil turned from crushed gray gravel to red claylike earth and multicolored pebbles. The mountain slopes of the La Madre Wilderness mountains to the northwest looked like prime Bighorn Sheep habitat, but we saw none. The vermilion and beige cliffside spires towered above the pale green juniper stands creating picturesque views to our southeast.
The loop trail dove southeastward into a gap in the rocks and turned into a much wider trail near a parking area. Here we deviated from the loop to find some petroglyphs carved into the cliff-side. The petroglyphs are estimated to be 800 years old and though Apryle is typically not a fan of art in parks, for these ancient drawings, she made an exception. We got back on the main trail and decided to add onto the White Rock loop by taking the Willow Springs loop trail. This trail passed by more wall art and then split to the Lost Creek trail.
The Lost Creek trail was an unexpected twist to the high desert loop. The trail was under heavy tree cover and straddled a clear running stream. In this riparian ecosystem it was a greatest hits of Red Rock Canyon plant life, the manzanita poked up through bitterbrush, while prickly pear cacti occupied all the spaces in between. Desert willow, western redbud, skunkbrush sumac, and turnbinella oak hugged the rocky shore of the stream while pinyon pine and juniper reached for the sun. The vegetation created a narrow tunnel along the stream and opened up to a shallow basin at the foot of a 20 foot waterfall. We felt very fortunate to see this waterfall in the desert, and assumed that there were very few days throughout the year that water even trickles over the ledge. Water tumbled over the precipice and sprayed mist into the air creating an experience more akin to our home in western Washington.
We returned to Willow Springs loop trail and emerged onto a long wooden boardwalk that overlooked the vast desert below. From here we crossed Rocky Gap Road and got back onto the White Rock loop trail and began an ascent back to the initial trailhead. The southeast side of White Rock Mountain had a completely different look and feel from the northwest side. There were no trees; cholla cacti, yucca and bitterbrush attempted to fill the vertical void, but fell short. The crushed gravel trail snaked along, passing by reddish tan sandstone rock in various stages of decomposition strewn across the undulating landscape. Barrel Cacti emerged from the most inhospitable crags, while ghosts of sagebrush stood in memory of their former photosynthesizing selves. The sun set behind the towering mountains to the west as we completed the White Rock loop (8.5 miles 1545 vertical feet).
On January 11th Apryle and I emerged from our warm hotel room and shuffled out into the cold parking lot in the pre dawn hours. We cleared the frost accumulation from the windshield and loaded the car with our hydration packs and food for a …
We awoke on the morning of January 10th and began our drive northwest through the Amagrosa Valley. The road snaked aimlessly through the treeless plain and anticlimactically crossed the California border. The bleak landscape was barely illuminated by an even bleaker sky. The first landmark …
We arrived at Las Vegas International Airport mid morning January 9th where made our way down Las Vegas Boulevard in order for Apryle to get a tetanus shot she had scheduled the night before. While starting a fire she was stabbed with a rusty piece of metal and thought it was prudent to get the vaccine. After a brief wait in the car, I decided that was enough of the city for me and we made our way west to Red Rock Canyon. The skies were overcast and there was a light drizzle, which actually made for a pleasant contrast to my previous adventure in the scorching desert of Red Rock Canyon.
We pulled into the Late Night trailhead and then continued on the gravel Black Velvet Road until we reached our starting point at the Black Velvet Canyon trailhead. There was standing water in many of the draws that created a claylike mud which clung to our shoes making them increasingly heavy with each foot stroke. However, once we reached the narrow trail that ascended into the canyon the soil consistency transitioned to packed sand with loose rock.
The plant life was an interesting and welcome change to the Pacific Northwest flora. Blackbush, Mormon Tea, Burrobush, Creosote bush, Banana Yucca, Mojave Yucca, Joshua Tree, Cholla Cacti, and Beavertail Cactus dominated the landscape as the high desert funneled into the rocky narrow canyon. The canyon was a striking contrast to the desert and featured more burly shrubs such as Desert Holly and Shrub Live Oak. There were also a few Ponderosa Pine and low growing Pinyon Pine and Juniper that clung to the narrow ribbon of crystal clear water that tumbled down over the boulders.
The backdrop of the canyon featured towering beige sandstone walls and spires punctuated by dark craggy recesses in the rock and layers of red clay. We reached the terminus of our hike up the canyon when we were cliffed out by an 8 meter boulder and a inconspicuous pool that was so clear I nearly walked into it not realizing the pebbles were beneath the water. We picked our way back over the boulders and down into the desert where the light drizzle increased to a slightly heavier rain.
Before we continued westward to our hotel in Pahrump, we drove north into Red Rock Canyon where Apryle dropped me off at South Oak Creek trailhead. At this time the temperatures were in the upper 40s and the rain was steadily falling while the sandstone cliffs were shrouded in a dense cloud. The desert more closely resembled the Peruvian rainforest than the American southwest. The wide stone trail lead to a steep winding trail to the summit of the Knoll. The red rocky soil nearing the top of the Knoll was dotted with juniper, manzanita, and barrel cacti.
After descending the Knoll the rain began to pour and the temperatures dropped. Fortunately I was able reach the North Oak Creek drainage, where the paralleling trail was fairly flat and lead to the trailhead where Apryle was waiting. North Oak Creek was much deeper than expected and like every other stream I had seen in Red Rock Canyon, it was crystal clear. This riparian area contained the greatest volume and diversity of vegetation I had ever seen in the desert. I reached the car and was thoroughly satisfied with day one of our winter desert adventure. We checked into our hotel in Pahrump and prepared for the second day in Death Valley National Park.
I signed up for the Seattle Marathon rather late in the year because a friend (Paul Young) said that he had an entry available. I was excited to switch gears from the trail and hop back on the road to test if my legs still …