Thursday, July 08, 2010

A Voice in the Wilderness

Renee, our seasonal Mt Rose employee, has the privilege and duty of climbing some of the Carson Range's highest peaks and peering into the remote parts of the Mt Rose Wilderness to gather important information for the Forest Service—how many people are using the trails, where the invasive weeds are lurking, and monitoring campsites in the wilderness. Lately, she's been taking volunteers up the Hunter Creek trail to pull invasive Bull and Musk thistles. To date, they have pulled more than 5,000 plants. Over the 4th of July weekend, she and Wes completed a 30-mile monitoring backpack from the summit fo the Mt. Rose Highway to the Michael Thompson Trailhead at the bottom of Hunter Creek. Over the course of two days they counted 150 people, 34 dogs, and 10,276 mosquitoes while hiking on the Summit Trail.

Here's a report from Renee, after her first month working in the wild:

I really enjoy working as a wilderness monitor in the Mount Rose Wilderness area. While I knew I would be hiking all day, an unexpected bonus of being a wilderness monitor has been working with some really great people. All of the volunteers I have worked with have been wonderful, very helpful and motivated, especially since I make them pull weeds! I like getting to know the volunteers and learning what led them to Friends of Nevada Wilderness. It is also interesting to see and meet wilderness users. There are so many different ways to enjoy the wilderness; during the course of any day I might meet trail runners, bird watchers, day hikers, backpackers, and the list goes on.

During the course of almost every day “at work,” I get to explore parts of the wilderness I have never seen before! It is a gorgeous wilderness full of wildlife and great views. The other day, I wondered into the territory of an American Kestrel breeding pair. They were not happy with my presence: they hovered above me and then started dive-bombing me, coming within five feet. It was amazing—I got to see these beautiful little orange and white falcons up close and personal. I moved through their territory as quickly as possible to minimize any stress I may cause them, but it was exhilarating to see them in action.

In addition to the kestrels, I’ve seen quite a few animals such as: a golden eagle, western tanagers, flickers, a variety of woodpeckers, lizards, a few bull snakes (no rattlers yet!), deer and signs of bears. I’ve also seen a ton of wildflowers: desert peach, larkspur, wild rose, western peonies, dagger pods, hot-rock penstemon, mountain figwort, heart-leaf arnica, and snowy thistles—just to name a few. I feel so lucky to have the opportunity to wake up every morning, excited to explore a different part of the wilderness and see what surprises lay in store.

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