Hiking with the Nature Conservancy in Gunnison
With our middle son Axel, I got into my friend’s car with her two children and set off on our road trip to Crested Butte to partake in an exploratory Nature Conservancy field trip to the Mexican Cut/Galena Mountain Research Preserve in Gunnison.
Axel was elated that we left his brothers at home and he had his mommy all to himself, but he still had to contend with my excitement to have four hours of adult conversation with my friend. In the hopes that my quiet, unsocial boy would meld with her children, I banned the PSP and of course five minutes into the trip he announced that he was bored. I don’t know when or why I finally gave in to video games but they definitely abort all imagination.
I told him that the most wonderful thing about children is their active imaginations and that children don’t get bored. All he had to do was look out the window at the incredible scenery and enjoy his thoughts. That went over well!
My friend’s children, who are heavily involved in Jane Gottlieb’s incredible local children’s theater program, had no problem enjoying the road trip. Their minds were filled with songs and images from productions that they had been involved in like The Sound of Music which became our theme for the weekend. It was a big reality check when they kept requesting for Evita to be played through the iPod, a far departure from the music of our boys. I must expose my children to more culture.
We stopped on Kebler Pass to run through the field of wildflowers, and bees, which made it quite unlike The Sound of Music as we ran through the field with trepidation, but nevertheless it felt good. Flushed and happy we gathered back around the car and I broke into song finishing Do, Re, Me with a high note which then sent off a very nearby local pack of coyotes into a full group howl. I’ve always known that my singing needed improving.
Setting camp by a lake the children ran off to play in the beautiful summer evening light and jump off rocks into the cool water but it was getting late and we needed to get to town for dinner.
Early the next morning we met at the Rocky Mountain Biological general store and listened to the story of Scottie and Bob Willey, a couple who fifty years ago fought to save the preserve. Scottie carried the fishing net with her that she had used to stop a bulldozer from widening the road and draining the ponds back in the sixties.
The hike begins at 12,000 feet and rises up four miles to a private preserve that provides limitless opportunity for aquatic research. Off we trudged up the sub Alpine trail with Scott Wissinger, a Professor of Biology and Environmental Science at Allegheny college. Since the Mexican Cut preserve is not open to the public and its remote, high altitude location is difficult to get to, it makes a great natural laboratory and is the highest Conservancy protected land in the world. In this remote part of Colorado, a variety of aquatic creatures live in ponds formed by a glacial cirque, an area once carved flat by ancient glaciers.
Axel did not fare well in the high altitude but I think his undying love for me, which he announced every five minutes, got him to the top. When we reached the top, all of his ailments dissipated as he searched for rocks with copper, calcite, pyrite and other beautiful minerals embedded in them.
Scott fascinated us with the results found from the scientific studies on the paedomorphic and metamorphic salamanders and the damselflies and caddisflies. Desperately trying to retain this invaluable information, I made mental logs of all that Scott was teaching us. Unfortunately, my chaotic mind just jumbled up my notes and I had to visit the website when I got home to review it all.
Coming home we were filled with a whole new understanding of, and respect for, nature. Realizing the importance of the Nature Conservancy’s mission to help save and protect Earths most important natural places, I was ready to give my last dollar to the Nature Conservancy. You too can learn more about these natural environments by visiting http://www.nature.org.
For more scientific facts visit www.aslo.org/lo/toc/vol_44/issue_3/0487.pdf –