14 Sep The View from the Top
Once again, it’s me, Ivan. But hopefully you know that by now. Welcome back to another installment of my blog.
Since last time, I have been keeping up with regular deployment and maintenance of the audio monitors. For the most part, it’s been business as usual. The hikes to the sites continue to entertain, and when I keep quiet, I’ve had the chance to see wildlife from up close (as close as the animals will let me). On the hike back from one of my stations I heard a big flapping, and when I looked up there was a Spotted Owl flying away from me! It was my first sighting of my target species, so it took me some time to calm down. Very encouraging for me. No pictures for you though, it was too quick; you’ll have to settle for this Bewick’s Wren I saw through my binoculars.
As part of my other weekly duties, I check the readings and change the filters at an air quality monitoring station on the park. To get there, it takes a fun drive on a dirt road, and the windy viewpoint from the station hasn’t gotten old yet. Recently, the computers in the shed were acting up, so I put on my IT hat and started pressing buttons. Not really. I got instructions to unscrew some things and replace a few parts, so it was easier than it looked. Don’t tell my ego, though, because it was feeling pretty inflated when the thing started working again.
One Saturday, I decided to climb the highest point in Texas, Guadalupe Peak, which is conveniently located within the park. I started at 8:00 in the morning, feeling very confident in myself. I eventually had to face my own humanity, because it was tougher than I expected. The beginning and the final push are the steepest parts, but the middle is no joke either. My final ascent was spurred on by encouragement from a man who looked suspiciously like a vacationing John Travolta (I regret not asking him about it).
At the top, there were nice views all around, and I was able to look down on El Capitan. Swallows would fly by, sounding surprisingly like airplanes cutting through the air. And you already know I had to get a self-timed picture with the pyramid on the summit. Stainless steel, it was set up by American Airlines before this was a national park.
Getting back to official work events, the interpretation team let me tag along and see the inner workings of the park’s first public program since COVID-19. It was also the first program ever in the white sand dunes on the east side of the park (added years after the park was founded). The event was a sunset/night hike in the dunes, which are rumored to be the best place to see a sunset. In a brilliantly planned move by the interp folks, it was also very near to a full moon. We met as the sun was going down and hike out into the dunes, eventually stopping at the top of one to look at the stars and wait for the moon to rise. The stars were doing their thing, and we even saw a few meteors. But the real kicker was when the moon came out from behind the mountains. It was stupid bright and lit up the landscape. Majestic. Breathtaking, even.
On the walk back out, we had a UV light to look for scorpions, which glow when you shine it on them. Neat! The glow was a lot stronger than you might think, so it was no problem finding them, even the tiniest ones. I probably spotted 50 just in the mile it took to get to the parking lot.
You’ve made it through another one of these, good work. I’ll continue to compile and curate the highlights of my work, with none of the in-between moments, all for your reading pleasure. Y’all remember to come back, you hear?