Archive for August, 2012


Lost Creek: When Fire Changes Cherished Places

[this post inadvertently got published as ‘Glenn F Cowan’ when I was using the short post creator tool here – sorry for the mix-up!]

[post updated 8/26/12]

Have been reading Montucky’s recent posts that document a wildfire in a range he knows well, entitled “Little Thomson Peak 1-4.” Reading how a trail he used to use was “all but completely obscured by the fire” reminded me of wildfires in areas I have known. It inspired me to share a mountane I knew in younger days that was hit by fire 10 years ago. The Hayman Fire, in Pike National Forest southwest of Denver, burned 113K+ acres in the wilderness area known as “Lost Creek.” I backpacked to a particular spot on the Lost Creek 3 times from 1974-1980. We saw Mountain Sheep there that first trip in 1974, backpacking with Lynn and Gary. We tried our hands at fishing in 1980, backpacking with Jill, Greg and John. And the 3rd time, in between and kind of a faint memory, we found an exhilarating waterfall.

At the time of the Hayman Fire in summer of 2002, living 400 miles away, all I could do was imagine what was happening to such a beautiful area. That summer I spent a tile week with Carolyn Barford at Ghost Ranch and created this tile from my memory of the area:

Ode to Lost Creek © 2002 CSniderBryan all rights reserved

I was remembering this area this past winter and found this photo on the Wikipedia page for Pike National Forest:

by Glenn F Cowan
from Hermit’s Peak in Pike National Forest

“A picture of the Pike National Forest taken from the trail to the Devil’s Head Lookout in Colorado. Tall tree is Picea engelmannii, with Pinus flexilis right of it, and Populus tremuloides left of it.” photo and description by Glenn F Cowan via Wikipedia

Glenn F Cowan’s shot shows no burned trees. When I saw this, even though it is not the same view I had from the Lost Creek drainage, I was elated. The forest was still alive in the vicinity of my visits. I remember searching the internet for more photos to see if I could find the exact location of the fire – I could not. But saw the more recent fire in the same area and how close it was to a friend’s childhood home. Memories flooded back of that area, too. How many generations does it take for a ravaged forest to regenerate?

Last summer’s (2011) Las Conchas Fire in the Jemez mountains (40 m. NW of ABQ) devastated over 156K acres. When we drove through the ancient volcanic caldera (called the Valle Grande) in those mountains last October, a major portion of the eastern rim was burned. (for photos go here – )

Burns are important to forest and tree health. But wildfires these days occur on lands that have been protected since the movement in 1911 (?) to put them all out. So when they burn, they devastate. Luckily forest policy has changed in the last 20 years, and prescribed burns in areas not close to human habitation will help those areas avoid future ravaging.
I am joining in with Montucky’s spirit to honor special places.


yard log 8/18/12: the wee worms, tiny bees, snails

What would I do without my yard – mi yarda I would like to call it. As my mind is taken over with life at the Museum Education Department, if I didn’t have the paths to follow with the hose for 15 minutes each morning, I would be too overwhelmed with my all-encompassing job.

The image that keeps coming back to me from this summer is of Tomato Horn Worms the size of Inch Worms. Tiny. Have not seen them that little before – they were on the Datura. Previous summers these horn worms have devoured the Datura so that no leaves nor blossoms were present and the tough plant would re-burst some new sets of leaves. Knowing the hallucinogenic properties when humans ingest the root, I wondered at the worm’s experience. I was amazed to see horn worms so tiny on the plant this year – worms I have always seen at their most fat and lengthy stage. This summer the worms have not succeeded in stripping off all the Datura leaves, thank goodness.


[photo by George Bedehof, Michigan]

So, I have spent some time learning about these, at the easiest online place to learn – good ole Wikipedia. Please bear with as I share what I am learning.

First off, I found that these worms have been observed to regurgitate 98% of toxicity from plants like tobacco. So that explains why they aren’t in a stupor on the Moon Flowers.

These worms become the nocturnal Sphinx Moth that pollinates the Datura. Sphingidae! Their flight has been observed to incorporate “swing-hovering.” These ‘hawk moths’ are one of 4 nectar-eating flyers to be able to do such rapid, sustained flying. Have learned that they are some of the fastest flying insects – they can fly up to 30 mph. Pretty neat for their small size.

These animals have had our tomato plants to gorge themselves on as well these past few years, probably 50 feet away. The eggs can hatch from between 3 to 21 days. So as I water this morning, I am looking for the eggs. The caterpillars will pupate in the ground – and I learn they will emerge as moths in about 2 weeks. The last of the pupas to be developed later in September October will overwinter til next year. These caterpillars must be pretty smart to pupate not directly in the soil beneath the tomatoes, which I will spade up next March. Only rarely have I discovered pupae, and am not sure if they are Sphingoids. I have hoped they were Papilio rutulus pupae. I remember when my students Benito and Juanelo brought in the pupa they found last spring in the maceta in their sand box only a few blocks away. As Benito held the big brown wonder in his hand, it was moving. I have found those same ones en mi yarda.


[photo of my tile,”Tiger Swallowtail on your way to grapes” © 2008 CC Snider-Bryan all rights reserved]

I think it’s the caterpillars that have been eating big bites from each of my actual tomato fruit, instead of just the young leaves as the article states. I am not finding horn worms this morning though. So maybe it’s the grasshoppers who are eating the fruit.

Acutally, come to think of it, I haven’t seen a horn worm on my plants since I captured two of them to take to my classroom at the beginning of July. They did not live past the weekend in the gallon jar supplied with tomato branches and bit of water. I was not nice to them – better to have smashed them with a rock and put them out of their misery quickly.


[photo by CC Snider-Bryan ‘Bloomin’ Chives en mi yarda’]

Right now is my favorite midsummer time when all the chives are flowering! And there are tiny bees pollinating them. My co-worker Mike Sanchez, inspiring encyclopaedia about arthropods, told me about them on a training hike. I thought they were flies. But oh, no, they are “hymnoptera” – the class of 2 sets of wings that are bees and wasps. This luxurious day at home I am observing them – on the chives and on the mint flowers.

Snails, why snails in the title you ask? Well, I saw them scaling my basil. And I realize that i need to thoroughly wash basil de mi yarda! Our daughter is moving out this weekend and she wanted to go to the Growers Market for her larder and I replied that she could have chard, tomatoes and basil from our yard and the eggplant and onion from her house sitting job. But she better wash the basil.

clay & log posts

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 12 other followers