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We don’t know what we’ve already lost: A road trip

July 7th, 2016 | Posted by in Adventures

As much as we love North Cascadian landscapes, we here at the Institute are still called to visit and experience other amazing places on our planet. We publish accounts of the places Institute staff and graduate students visit in our Road Trip series.

By David “Hutch” Hutchison, naturalist at the Institute.

We paddle our small boats upon the black still water, reflecting a mirror image of the great sandstone walls rising perpendicularly from its depth.  The mountains beyond covered in snow on this early March morning provide a stunning backdrop and increase our sense of remoteness.   Each paddle stroke brings us further into the land of sandstone canyons, the land of water reclamation, of summer recreation, and the great pause which the Colorado River makes along its journey to the Sea of Cortez.  We have entered a land of contrast; nature and human design merge here in beauty and tragedy, revealing much, while obscuring much more.

Lake Powell, so named in honor of the first European/American expedition to explore the length of the Green and Colorado Rivers, remains a beautiful place despite the changes made by the Glen Canyon dam.  During our six days on the waterway in sea kayaks, we explore only a relatively small area of this vast reservoir.  Chinese Teapots Wholesale Chinese Teapots Amber Spiral Bracelets
The tributaries and channels of the watershed are now backfilled creating a labyrinth of flat, motionless water, a maze of passages which cry out for the slow exploration of motorless boating.  At this time of year, the houseboats and party barges remain quietly moored in their harbors and our only companions are the occasional early-rising fisherman buzzing to a secret spot among the myriad twists of side-canyons and channels which make these hectares of water feel so expansive and at once so intimate.

» Continue reading We don’t know what we’ve already lost: A road trip


Listening to Coyote

May 13th, 2016 | Posted by in Adventures

By Emily Ford, part of the Institute’s 15th Graduate Cohort.

After a rainy and dark winter, I’ve started to recognize the North Cascades as I remember them when I arrived last summer. Pyramid Mountain’s East wing is shaking off the snow, reminding me of summer as if it were an old friend. Soon again, Pyramid will be the snowless, chiseled, gray spire that taunted my stout climbing heart, and proved to me that its summit remains sacred beyond tired muscles, novice skills and terminal daylight. It is no longer capped by cornices like ice cream cone swirls that soften its thrust into the clouds. Pyramid stands out along the Diablo Lake skyline once more, and reminds me how deeply at home I have become.

Ok I got a little carried away. This blog is not about the North Cascades. In fact, I desperately needed to leave. I needed to go back to the desert, where I’ve returned to backpack and guide river trips for many years. When water has been scorned in the Northwest for being too much, the water in the desert is praised – and as Edward Abbey notes – exactly the right amount. Which is hilarious because it was 90 degrees in Seattle, but it rained every day, and even hailed, during my spring break trip in the Canyonlands.

Eating dinner in a slickrock alcove, I watched a storm approach at sunset.Chinese Teapots Wholesale Chinese Teapots Amber Spiral Bracelets
Shadows danced among the spires creating quite the dinner theater.

» Continue reading Listening to Coyote

Bunchgrass Dreams : High Desert Ecology with Mark Darrach

April 15th, 2010 | Posted by in Field Excursions

The Institute is venturing over to eastern Washington the weekend of May 15-16 for a very special field excursion with biologist and geologist Mark Darrach. “Bunchgrass Dreams: High Desert Ecology” explores the Arid Land Ecology Reserve, located within the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near the Tri-Cities in Eastern Washington, which is the largest remnant of native sagebrush-steppe habitat in the state. An unspoiled refuge for an indigenous landscape disappearing throughout the intermountain West, the ALE is home to an entire community of diverse and unique plants, reptiles, birds and mammals, including Rattlesnake Mountain milk-vetch, Rocky Mountain elk, Piper’s daisies, burrowing owls, sagebrush lizards, Swainson’s hawks and more than 45 species of butterflies.

This excursion is extra-special because the ALE is off-limits to the general public and there are very few guides that have permission to enter it. We’re very fortunate that Mark has access to this landscape and is willing to lead an Institute exploration for us. There are a handful of spots still open for registration — you can sign up via our website or by calling Kacey at (360) 854-2599.

And finally, here are an Institute staffer’s reflections from attending this field excursions a few years ago:

Our weekend on Rattlesnake Mountain is one I will never forget. I’d seen that mysterious hump across the shrub steppe ranchland of southeastern Washington as I criss-crossed the state by car, but never knew much about it.  It’s big! At more than 3,500 feet, it’s one of the tallest, treeless mountains in the world and you can see vast stretches of Washington from its crown. It’s also impossible for casual hikers to visit because access to it is very limited. The Institute’s entree under Mark Darrach’s guidance is something special. When Mark unlocked the access road gate at the foot of the mountain, and we quietly entered, I felt like we were being allowed “backstage” into one of the most mysterious and complex landscapes in the Northwest.

The mountain is a convergence of culture, natural history, politics and botany and I can’t imagine anyone knows more about it than Mark Darrach. We spent two days with him and the questions and conversations ranged widely; I don’t believe we ever asked him a question that he couldn’t answer. A luxury of intellect in a remarkable natural setting.

–Kris Molesworth (Photos by Carl Molesworth)