Working with the U.S. Geological Survey
Week 6: May 08-12, 2006
Mid Hills Camp
Campsite and my tent.

On my 6th week with the USGS, we headed back to Mojave National Preserve. This time we worked near a main road and camped in Mid Hills Campground. We worked and camped in the Pinyon Juniper Woodland Life Zone at 5,600 feet elevation.

The Pill went this week, but she gave Poncho and me the "silent treatment" from Monday to Thursday, so that was pretty nice. On Friday, she was quite talkative and friendly -- seemed a bit schitzo to me.

The Pill tried to force us back to work after a 12-minute lunch on Monday, but the three of us (including Julie this time!) just sat there, and after putting on her pack and stamping her feet for a few minutes, she went off to pout. The rest of the week we enjoyed 30-minute lunches.

Mojave Mound Cactus
Mound cactus in bloom.

On the way to the study plots on Friday morning, we had a good chat about what it took to be a good crew leader and why Poncho and I were so unhappy. The Pill mostly sat silently, but Julie actually seemed to be interested in what we had to say. Poncho is ready to quit too, so he didn't care if they got mad at what we said and fired us. Julie seemed oblivious to the fact that if you push people to work too fast, you will get sloppy data.

I made the most of my week and went hiking every evening after work. Monday evening, I just hiked around the burned flat marveling at the spring wildflowers that came up after everything else burned. There were a few patches, like the one at left, that did not burn.

Flowers
Orange and yellow flowers; Providence Mountains in the background.

Tuesday, I hiked ridges and watched the sunset from west of camp. Again, the wildflowers were stunning.

Mountain Summit
Desert summit at sunset (view east).

Wednesday evening, I climbed the peak east of camp and watched the sunset again. This picture is from the summit looking east. We had a little sunset color, but it was all in the west. I stayed out too late and got down just at dark, but the bosses had already gone to bed, so that was OK.

Tallest Mojave Yucca
Tallest Mojave Yucca in the world.

On Thursday, Poncho and I took the truck and drove about 20 minutes south of camp. From there, we hiking about 1 mile to see the world's tallest Mojave Yucca. They often get about as tall as the shortest one next to me, so the tall one is not only tall, but unusual. It was fortunate that the fire missed this spot -- it burned down to the edge of the wash a short ways behind the camera.

The flowers were so great that Liz and I went back down on Saturday and spent a wonderful afternoon looking at flowers, wandering around, taking pictures, and catching snakes.

I caught a little Gopher Snake, which look similar to rattlesnakes but usually are quite docile, and it instantly reared around and bit me on the hand. For a split second, I thought that I had made a terrible mistake. It bit me another 4-5 times before we moved it off the road and into the bushes. The aggressive little creature even left a tooth in my thumb. Later we caught two Glossy Snakes on the way home.

Note: All distances, elevations, and other facts are approximate.
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