Saturday, June 21, 2014

Sheep zombies, wildfires, and monster winds.

It's been a weird week, blog friends.  I woke up (even with earplugs) at 1:03 am earlier this week to a totally creepy noise that sounded, I think, not unlike a disgruntled gang of zombies. These alleged zombies were getting closer and were soon surrounding the tent (the pop-up tent, we were at a field site).  Not to be too anti-climatic, but they weren't zombies. Instead, it was ~600 FREAKING SHEEP! Sheep. Close your eyes for a moment and think about how loud 600 baaa-baa'ing sheep in the middle of the night might sound. ? No, it's louder than you're thinking, trust me. This sucked because we had to get up 3:30 am,  and having to run around in your underwear in the dark chasing after a sheep army should not have been a priority. 

They never really vacated the area and in the field the next day, I witnessed the damage they had already done. Good luck, ground nesters, you're screwed. Seriously, don't get my started on grazing on public land. That many sheep is way too damn many and they crushed the vegetation in less than 4 hours. Hey guys, not cool. I found a vesper's sparrow nest and a mourning dove nest (both on the ground) that morning that I'm sure got trampled.
I spent my days off at Great Basin National Park (one of my favorites). Hiked up to Wheeler Peak (just over 13,000 feet) and got annihilated by 60-70 mph winds. Some fantastic views from the top and I got physically knocked over by the wind 12 times. I said 12 times. That's some gnarly wind. I recommend the hike but make sure you have appropriate gear. Oh yeah, we saw a pair of black rosy finches up there (nice), but apparently, there are no longer pikas in the park. Huge bummer. I was terrified for the finches. When they flew, it was like they were getting launched out of a canon. It was violent and made me cringe. I know they can handle it but geez, guys!
The next day, we had planned a badass 15 mile hike to a little visited bristlecone pine grove. If you weren't aware, I worship bristlcones. They're my gods. Our efforts were thwarted at 11,000 feet when we stopped at a lake to snarf our tofurkey sandwiches. A nice mid-June snowstorm laughed in our face and I quickly lost feeling in my digits. We were going to hike on a ridge with no trail but the visibility was 0% so we decided we'd be smart and headed back down the mountain. It was still a cool hike, but next time I will chat with the weather gods first, because I will get to that b-cone grove. I will!
At our field site a couple days ago (I move around all the time: Utah-Nevada-Oregon-California-Idaho), the rancher leasing the national forest land decided to let his cattle completely demolish the surrounding areas. Again, god bless you ground nesters. May you're 3rd or 4th nesting attempt be successful. So instead of sheep this time around, we had a bunch of cows (remember, I'm vegan and like sheep and cows, but #*!!!^#@ graaazzzing, dammit!) checking out our campsite. Are you aware that cattle often sound like dinosaurs giving birth, or maybe dinosaurs having sex? It's an impressive noise.

Yesterday in the field, I had to soak my bandanna in water and wear it around my face because I was getting all hacky and choke-y from a nearby wildfire. Later we drove around until we barely got internet and were able to find out the fire was less than 20 miles away. (Oh shit). We also found out it had started the night before, had  already burned close to 1,000 acres and was ZERO PERCENT CONTAINED. Lovely.  Given these comforting facts, I did not sleep well last night because I was paranoid we were going to have to pack stuff up at lightening speed and book it the hell out of there. (just an fyi, it was 2 hours to the closest town)

Anyway, that was what happened this week. Fairly entertaining, I think. I've got 6? 7? more days of work and then we've got 8 days off. Thinking a little Wind Rivers backpacking trip sounds real nice, eh? Oh yes! These sky photos aren't from the fire, just your typical fantastic middle of nowhere Nevada sky. And wild horses, too.

6 comments:

Arija said...

Well, that was at least a week and a half you had last week. Letting mobs of 600 sheep graze on public land is not at a ll a good idea and they are herding animals and what they don't eat or trample, they dig holes in to sleep. Cows too ae better in smaller herds. I keep 20 in an 84 acre paddock with shelter belts around paddocks where quail can nest. I like eco-farming. On an other paddock I have nesting plovers.

Hope you did not skin your knees in your windfalls and I'm glad to hear the fire was not too imminent a threat.

The Furry Gnome said...

Yes, that was some week! Glad you can still enjoy it!

TheChieftess said...

Beautiful horses! Sounds like an interesting week...

KaHolly said...

Sometimes, being a champion for Mother Nature is very depressing.

Mary Cromer said...

Goodness gracious at least for all you went through you took some amazing images!

Janie said...

I completely agree about the grazing of federal lands. Cows and sheep in huge numbers do a lot of damage, and there aren't enough forest service/BLM guys to keep the damage in check. Nice pics of the wild horses. I love seeing bristle cones, too.