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Haunted History in Cooperstown

This is very late in the making but I thought I’d share it. Last October, I went on an overnight stay to Cooperstown, New York with my mother and we had an incredible time. It’s amazing how refreshed you can feel after getting away for just a night. I love Cooperstown, especially in the fall because the setting is just idyllic and there’s a lot more to enjoy than just the Baseball Hall of Fame.

We began our day with a few slices of pizza, drove around for a little bit to enjoy the Halloween decorations, checked in to our hotel, took a little nappy and then hit the epic Ommegang Brewery….

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There it is! The mecca for beer enthusiasts: Ommegang Brewery! Where beer goes to die (because it’s heaven).
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I cannot recommend enough making tasting reservations ahead of time. Sadly, I didn’t get to whet my whistle because all of the tours were booked for the day. However, I did get to do some holiday shopping for my friends, family and lets be honest, mostly myself, in their gift shop so I can’t really complain.
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There’s my escort for this festive occasion, Ling Ling.

Then it was off to our ghost tour of Hyde Hall

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Hyde Hall, located in Glimmerglass State Park, is a National Historic Landmark and State Historic Site. They open it up for ghost tours in October and has been investigated on Syfy’s Ghost Adventures.

As soon as that tour was over, we had to hurry across town to the late-night ghost tour of the Farmer’s Museum. Sadly, I didn’t get any photos of the museum tour because it was pitch black, mostly outdoors and very rainy. Our tour guide took one of the worst tumbles I’d ever seen. I truly thought she had broken something but she was a trooper. I think she ended up more embarrassed than hurt. A part of the tour was sitting in on a performance of Poe’s Tell Tale Heart, which was astoundingly good. It was a one man show and he was extremely talented. I’d very much like to revisit the Farmer’s Museum in the daytime because the buildings had such history and their gift shop was pretty awesome. I even saw a book there by a girl that I went to college with. I never knew that she became an author so that tickled me.

Overall, both ghost tours were a lot of fun and I’d highly suggest them for history buffs and paranormal enthusiasts alike. Unfortunately, I didn’t run into any spirits that day although I had a strange inkling in Hyde Hall about people being pushed down this specific staircase and a minute later the tour guide told me that many people have been pushed down those stairs and that animals refuse to approach them. Humm… interesting. The Farmer’s Museum offered a séance at the end of the night but we didn’t join in because I’m not comfortable with such procedures but it’s an option for those adventurous souls.

The next day was spent slinking around the Otesaga Resort Hotel. To say that I’m kind of obsessed with this place is an understatement. Have you even been somewhere for the first time but you recognize it deep in your bones? That’s how I feel about this place. I found out about it because it was featured in an episode of Syfy’s Ghost Hunters (I honestly never get to watch the show but I happened to catch this episode) and I instantly recognized it. A few months later I dragged my boyfriend there to check the place out and have wanted to return ever since.

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You don’t have to book a room to enjoy the amenities of the Otesaga. There’s a couple bars and restaurants inside, a beautiful porch overlooking the lake and yes, there’s even golf.

After walking around Cooperstown, we packed up and headed home but first we had to make a stop at the Fly Creek Cider Mill & Orchard to fill our bellies with tasty food samples and get a whole ton of homemade canned goods. It honestly looked like I was stocking up for the end of days when I left that place. It’s been almost a year since this trip and I still have some goodies left. Fly Creek was worth the trip in and of itself.

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It was a rainy weekend but still fun. Here’s Ling Ling again, posing at Fly Creek.

Last but not least, Howe Caverns was our the way home so that had to be experienced. It had been way too long since I’d been there…probably twenty years, at least. It’s always amazing to take a stroll underground and view all of the formations. I wish I could sleep down there. It feels like being back in the womb again but not gross. Ha! I guess there are caverns out west that they turned into a hotel. I need to experience this.


So that was last October. This October is Gettysburg! Yup, my ghostly dream is coming true. I will keep you posted.

Annual Reports

My Blogging 2015 in Review…Yikes!

Well since I didn’t do any blogging in 2015, I didn’t expect much as far as stats goes. I’m not sure what happened to my blog…What happened blog? Where’d you go? I guess I just didn’t have too much to report. Now, I know that’s not true but maybe after the whirlwind that’s been my life for the past five years or so, this year just didn’t pass my blogging muster. Yup, 2015 just wasn’t bloggable. It certainly wasn’t my usual nail biter, which I’m extremely thankful for. Here’s to hoping that I dust off my chops in 2016 and get back with it. Have a good one and see you next year!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 18 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Annual Reports

2014 in review

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This was how I rang in my new year. Freezing my buns off watching the ball drop, then a full-on barrage of fireworks in downtown Cortland, NY. It was low-key and fun…just how I like it.

Well, my favorite part of having a blog is receiving the yearly stats. For not having posted in a while, I must say that I was delighted with the results. My blog was viewed 3,500 times, with 411 views in one day. Yow! I posted an average of two pictures a day and folks from 49 countries read what I had to say (Mere, little ole me? Awe shucks!). The United States was in the lead but Brazil and the UK weren’t far behind. Wow! Just, wow! Thank you all so much for keeping up with me. A special thanks goes out to Jess Bennett for being the most prolific commenter. I think she’s won three years in a row now. Girlfriend, I have to send you a prize when I get the chance.

From a more personal standpoint, I can say that 2014 was absolute hell for me and many people. I’m beyond relieved to see that it’s over. Back in October 2013, I suffered from a brain aneurism and lost the job I loved because of it. And just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse it, without fail, it did. I struggled for several months to find any work, I finally found a fantastic job only to not be able to physically do it, I had to go on food stamps to feed myself, no one would hire me, I could barely pay rent, I was digging myself into major dept just to pay bills, a store owner literally stole thousands of dollars worth of my products, I was losing my friends to other relationships, I saw a young boy get run over on his bicycle and smeared across the pavement while the driver took off, I witnessed way too may acts of human cruelty…the world was a mess. I had no one and nothing and I was physically and mentally suffering.

Yup, 2014 was a year of being dragged over the hot coals of hellfire but in April things started to turn around when I gave up the apartment I loved (for the second time), swallowed the last shred of pride I had, and moved my sad ass back home. As soon as I threw in the towel, out of the blue, Shenandoah, a long-lost friend from high school, asked me to fill her new store up with products. I spent two blissful, stress-free months creating wonderful things for her and then it was off to Yellowstone for the most amazing field season ever! I slept with wolves, ran around with river otters, literally bumped into moose and was stalked by grizzlies. When I returned home, I enjoyed a few months off and fell into this Cornell job, which is an adventure in itself.

So when I look back to see how far I’ve come in a little over a year, I’m completely in shock. After 2013 and 2014, I never thought that I’d ever see a silver lining again. But all it took was that relatively simple act of swallowing my pride and giving in to where the current was wanting to wash me instead of continuing to struggle against it. Sometimes I’m way too stubborn for my own good.

Even now though, I’m still having a hard time trusting that I’m okay. It’s hard for me to be that smiling, care-free, happy girl I once was because I’ve been through so much. I find myself feeling very depressed, for no good reason, even when people are having fun around me. Honestly, I often feel dead inside…zombified. I know I’m safe and comfortable now and that I should be able to be happy but I’m still very much in that fight or flight mode. With each passing day, I come out of it a smidge more but finding joy again is clearly what I need to work on in 2015. Don’t cry for me Argentina, there’s hope for me yet!

How was your 2014? I’d be interested to hear your take on things.

Here’s an excerpt of my blog stats:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 3,500 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 58 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Yellowstone: Mary Bay

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My field partner and I had fantastic luck this year with finding the unfindable. Seriously. Just like the salamanders hanging out in the Observation wetland, Mary Bay was even more of an unexpected surprise. There are only a handful of wetlands in the Park that have all four amphibian species and we were able to add Mary Bay to that list…it took us a few tries though.

The bottom portion of Mary Bay is filled with small thermal pools that dry up quickly and one very large pond that is so mucky around the edge that you can barely survey it. It’s actually pretty gross in there because it’s all filled with animal poo. The geese (as you can see in the photo above) and swans fill the wetland up. In fact, everything likes to poo in there. I’ve never seen so much tadpole poo in my life. I was scooping up large clumps of it. Heck, I even had to take a station break and go in the trees nearby. That never happens. Hailey’s Comet is more common.There’s just something very bowel releasing about the place. I’m not sure if that has anything to do with the fact that one scientist in the Park is convinced that if Yellowstone erupts, Mary Bay will be ground zero. Coincidence? I think not!

This is our annual July 4th survey. It’s usually scheduled for a half day and always takes a full day. Oh Mary Bay… The smaller sites were finished quickly because most had already dried up. The puddle-sized ones were bursting forth with tadpoles, adults still calling and attempting to lay even more eggs and metamorphs pouring out onto the dry ground. It was glorious. By the time we hit the Bay of Poo, the sky opened up and completely drenched us. Not the best way to begin an 1.5 hour survey! Because of the quicksand shoreline we were both only able to survey a small portion of the wetland. Despite this, we were convinced that we had seen spotted frog tadpoles, a load of chorus frog tadpoles, two fleeting salamander larvae and no toad tadpoles.

Later on, I spoke to Deb about what we’d seen and she mentioned being surprised that toad tadpoles are never found there because it’s thermal and they dig that scene. I began to question my amphibian identification skills at that point because, in retrospect, the thousands of small, dark tads clumped together along the shoreline seemed like they could have been toads. Toad tadpoles love to hang out in large congregations and are very curious. They won’t swim away when you approach them. In fact, they’ll usually swim right over to see what’s up. Other species definitely don’t act this way. At the time, we just couldn’t get that close to really tell for sure. So since we were returning in a few days to survey the dreaded upper sites, I agreed to give Poo Bay another looksee. Well, low-and-behold after much heated debate, we determined that the clumps of spotted frog tads were in fact, toads. By the hundreds! Thus, we were able to add Poo Bay to our small list of sites containing every amphibian species in the Park.

Surveying in Yellowstone is definitely like a box of chocolates…just not as tasty.

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Yellowstone: Solfatara

Yup, still working my way through Yellowstone pics. These ones will not disappoint! No way in heck!

Solfatara is another fun site with tons of wetlands which are not too far from a trail. The trail is an absolute godsend because the forest is all downfall with sparse regrowth from previous burns so there’s a fair amount of hurdling involved. It takes about four days to survey the site so it’s gargantuan but extremely manageable.

Adding to my already impressive list of animal encounters this year, I saw the one creature I’ve been completely dying to see and it was waaaaay better than I’ve ever imagined it could be. Right at the start of the field season, I declared that if I saw a single, solitary river otter, even from a distance, than I could immediately go home a happy camper. That was my absolute #1 bucket list animal. And actually the second animal on my bucket list was a moose and you know how that turned out. (If you don’t, well, shame on you and then click here. Actually, click there anyways because I updated the photos.)

This was my third year surveying Solfatara and I’ve never seen an otter there but I heard through the Yellowstone grapevine that they’ve been hanging around those parts so my fingers were crossed. About halfway through our third survey day we got to a rather large pond/small lake. I began surveying first and about 1/4 of the way around a large brown creature plopped into the water only a few feet ahead of me. As you can tell from other posts, when I’m surveying a wetland, I’m not doing a great job of staying aware of my surroundings. That’s definitely something I need to work on because as you’ve read from the moose post, it’s gotten me into dangerously stupid situations.

Once I heard the plop, I froze and just waited for a second because whatever it was sounded rather large. As I stood at the waters edge, the adorable heads of not one but two river otters popped out of the water right there at my feet. I should have known something was up because I kept seeing spots where something(s) had been sunning itself along the edge and leaving behind half-eaten salamanders. I decided to start my surveys back up again so that I could give them some distance, but much to my surprise, they swam alongside me as I walked along the edge. Then my field partner got into the mix and they had to split their time between us.

Eventually, they found us boring and slid back on to the grassy edge to pose for pictures, perform their obviously well-rehearsed circus routine (which included laying on top of each other and then moving their heads in unison) and tying themselves into a knot and falling asleep. At the end of my survey, I decided to be a bit brazen and see how close I could get to them before they’d actually wake up. Well, it was only about ten feet. They poked their heads up at me, yawned and went back to bed. Its pretty sad when even an otter twosome finds you completely harmless.

Enjoy the pics! Aren’t they something!?!

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Yellowstone: Blacktail Plateau Drive

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Welcome to Disneyland people! This site was another first for me and I certainly hope it’s not my last. Honestly, as soon as we parked our car and started hiking, we had elk bounding across our path and birds were perched on our shoulders singing Zip-A-Dee-Do-Dah. I felt like I was in a cartoon. We followed a great horned owl flying from tree to tree along with its tubby two fledglings. This blew me away because I’ve never encountered an owl in the daytime before and a great horned at that!

Our first wetland was occupied by a bison herd so we had to work around them as best we could. They were less than thrilled so they begrudgingly decided to move on about halfway through my survey. This was a bummer for me because everything is better with bison, including field work. As the mass migration was taking place, a few folks on horseback came down into the valley to chat with us while we surveyed. We must really be a site for people to behold. Here they are in the backcountry taking in the beautiful rolling hills of Yellowstone, never expecting to see another human soul, and two little girls with nets and waders pop out from the middle of a bison herd grazing in a wetland. Surprise!!!

Not only was the hiking and the wildlife viewing spectacular, the surveying wasn’t too shabby either. A few of the wetlands were absolutely filled to the brim with salamanders. No complaints there. The last wetland was an extremely large wet meadow comprised of tall, sharp grass which sliced my skin with every net swipe. Not cool. That’s a lot of pain just to find nothing but that’s how the job goes sometimes. The one rather neat thing about that meadow was that the substrate was comprised of itty-bitty fresh water clams. I kid you not. I’ve never seen anything like it in Yellowstone. Until further inspection, they looked like small pebbles. I told my field partner to examine the substrate and she agreed that I wasn’t totally out of my mind. Later, I told my supervisor what I’d seen and in all of her decades working in the area she’s never heard of anything like it. Thus, I’m not sure if someone slipped me some crack or not but at least my field partner was right there with me.

As you will discover from my blog, we survey a lot of Blacktail sites: Blacktail Pond, Blacktail Plateau, Blacktail something-or-other. These areas are in the northern part of the Park which includes a harrowing, pants-pooping trip over Dunraven Pass to get to. Usually, I’m frazzled and in need of medication and new pair of undies by the time we arrive at our destination. It’s certainly worth the trip though.

In all seriousness, this is where the rubber meets the road for climate change. Here, wetland loss is measurable and can be witnessed from year to year. People can argue the causes all they want but unless they have their head completely in the sand, they can’t deny that climate change is happening. This year Andy, Kenda and crew installed some data loggers in a few Blacktail wetlands to measure how rapidly this is all taking place. Time will tell but for now the future remains uncertain for the amphibians in this area. If only it was as easy as gathering them all into a large knapsack and releasing them somewhere safe. One can dream…

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The adult great horned owl in the trees.
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A garter snake sunning and eating all my tadpoles…jerk!
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This fawn and its mama were hanging out on the road as we drove to the site. Look at it scamper. So darn cute! I just want to pinch it! Pinch…Pinch.
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Yellowstone: Storm Point

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From Indian Pond, to forest, to meadow, to dunes, to lakeside and back again. Storm Point is a super slice of heaven.
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A glorious view of the mountains from the shore of the largest high-altitude lake in the lower 48, Yellowstone Lake.

Storm Point is my absolute favorite hiking trail in Yellowstone. It’s short, non-strenuous, easy to get to and the views are breathtaking. Additionally, I always have interesting animal encounters here. Last year it was an overly-friendly squirrel doing vaudeville, complete with a top hat and cane, right there at my feet. This year was no different. I witnessed a nail-biter of a marmot squabble during my walk. As I approached the rocky cliff pictured above, an older couple warned me that there was a marmot scuffle in progress so I grabbed some popcorn and pulled up a seat (or stump in my case). There was indeed an argument of some sort taking place and I caught the tail end (oooh no pun intended). The triumphant winner is pictured here:

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Sorry for the animal scavenger hunt here. I promise, if you look hard enough, you’ll see the critter peeking out through the dead limbs on the ground…with a satisfied smirk on its face.

The other marmot was sent packing and scurried up the dunes to nurse its pride on a large rock.

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Can you see the pouty face on the rock there?
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Here’s a closer look at the little fella. That, my friends, is the look of defeat. Poor thing. We all win some and lose some, in seemingly equal measure.

Then I literally ran into a rabbit. Yup, tripped right over it. Apparently, it has the right-of-way on the trail? Is this a rule I was not aware of?

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Yet another animal scavenger hunt! Camouflaged against a tree, you’ll see the little scalywag when I’m not running over it.

Then as I approached Indian Pond, right at dusk, I watched the deer graze around the edges and even saw one swim from one end to the other. Ahh… the wonders of nature never cease to amaze. We are all blessed to live in a world where we can witness such things. Don’t take any of it for granted.

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Yellowstone: Dunraven

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Dunraven is another favorite of mine. It has beautiful old-growth forest with lots of small, manageable wetlands to survey. Even better, the hike is super majestic and downright enjoyable. You honestly expect trolls and fairies to pop right out and strike up a conversation. Despite its awesomeness, this year was a bit of a mess when it comes to Dunraven. It was intended to be a one-day survey that turned into a two-day depressing event. To make matters worse, all this went down on my field partner’s birthday. Not good.

All was smooth sailing and we were more than halfway through our survey sites when we happened upon my absolute favorite wetland. I was so psyched to get there and I was telling my field partner all about how awesome it is and how it’s usually packed with tadpoles and such. As I approached the wetland, I was surprised to see that it had shrunk in size compared to previous years. I mean, it was half the size. This was a bit unusual, especially since this year was considered to be fairly wet. I was disappointed but not too floored by this because I have a theory about Dunraven being extremely dynamic and that it’s becoming thermal (no one seems to agree with me on this though). So I was bummed to see my favorite wetland had shrunk but not totally shocked.

Another thing I noticed as I approached was that the water was moving and hundreds of little tails were breaking through the surface and splashing about. This is the kind of stuff that makes a herper jump for joy. So although the wetland had shrunk, the frogs didn’t get the memo and they were still doing their thing. Aces! Just in my first few net swipes I had more spotted frog tadpoles than I could count. This was going to be a fantastic survey! Well, you can guess what’s coming next…

About five minutes into my survey I began to discover that something was very wrong. I netted a dead adult frog, and then another. I stopped and took a good look at the water around me and I saw many dead or dying tadpoles. They were swimming in circles, sometimes upside down, and then just dying. It was extremely eerie. I abandoned my survey, told my field partner that we had ourselves a problem, and then instead of counting the living, we began counting the dead. We searched that wetland with a fine-tooth comb and found two dead adult spotted frogs and about thirty dead spotted frog tadpoles. This is of course not accounting for the hundreds of tads whirling around the surface doing strange stuff.

We both agreed to cut the day short instead of contaminating the other wetlands with our equipment. Being the amphibian lovers we are, all we could feel was dread. Any creature that even so much as walked through that wetland could be spreading something awful throughout the ecosystem.

That night I was able to contact my supervisor, who then contacted the disease specialists for the Park. That crew went out to take samples and either they went to the wrong location or they need eye exams because they couldn’t find anything out of the ordinary.

A few days later we resumed our surveys of Dunraven and on our way out we collected samples for the disease crew. We needed to collect a dozen dead tadpoles, slice their bellies open and place them in vials of alcohol. Since I love blood and guts, I was the slicer and my field partner was the wrangler. She had no problem finding dead things, to the point where I couldn’t keep up with her and we had our dozen within minutes.  The place was certainly in worse shape than we had left it the first time.

I am sad to report that as of right now, months later, we still don’t have any answers. It could be chytrid or it could be something new for all we know. Amphibian die-offs are not a priority in the Park. And even though they are considered species of special concern, that seems to be just on paper. It’s extremely frustrating. You risk life and limb to gather data for absolutely nothing. It all seems so futile at times. As with any job, you have to find your own meaning for doing it or you’ll be miserable and in this case I’ve found it, thankfully.

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Yellowstone: Lewis Lake

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Lewis Lake is in the south end of Yellowstone Park so you can actually see the Grand Tetons in the distance, or at least that’s what I’ve been telling myself all these years.

I love Lewis Lake. It’s like working at a luxury resort and if they ever try to give it to another field crew I’ll go all Cuckoo’s Nest on them. Sadly, many of its wetland sites are permanently drying up. That’s the bittersweet part of surveying here. Still, I’ll enjoy it while it lasts.

This is a site that I know better than the back of my hand and I rarely need to consult the GPS to locate even the most remote wetlands. There’s just something about this place that’s become a part of my mental geography over the years. We have a good history. In 2006, my field partner and I swam the river with our survey equipment attached to our heads because we thought we had to survey everything. Needless to say, the sites across the river were dropped in 2007 and our soggy adventure was totally unnecessary. Still, I get lots of street cred for that maneuver. Since then, it’s all been an uphill, positive experience. I’ll note that this year, the biting insects were the worst here than anywhere else. Even the fishermen in the dorm agreed. Luckily, my homemade insect repellent worked like a charm. My field partner refused to try my concoction so I saw the opportunity for a little science experiment–a little compare and contrast between all-natural oils and DEET. Everywhere we worked she was being absolutely devoured and I was barely touched (and usually I’m a dream buffet of tastiness) so I was hands-down the winner. The only drawback to mine was that I had to apply it a little more often than her DEET.

All this writing about my repellent reminded me that while I was out surveying this site, I received a text from Shenandoah at O.C. Local Mojo telling me that she had basically sold out of most of my products. They had just opened on June 11th and it was only mid July! I remember walking on air for the rest of the day. Plus, I was feeling eager and excited to get back home so I could fill her store back up again. Trust me when I say, I never feel excited to leave Yellowstone after the field season (I’m mostly heartbroken) so this news was a gift.

Lewis Lake was also the location where I righted a terrible wrong. I realized that my field partner did not know who Hall & Oates was. She only knew one song: I Can’t Go For That. In her defense, she grew up in very rural Wyoming where all they played was country music; she never had a chance. And therein lies the travesty of it all. Now, if you’ve made my acquaintance, you’ll know that to me, a life without Daryl & John is absolutely not worth living. No can do! Needless to say, I wrung my hands and shed some tears over this but I was also quick to remedy the situation. In the field that day I provided an exhaustive karaoke primer and then let her hear the real thing on our next trip in my car (and the next trip, and the next, and the one after that…you get the point). I was worried there for a second that she may have grown too accustomed to my expertly sung, stripped down versions of their songs and would be disappointed by the real thing but duh…these are my boyz we’re talking about…they don’t disappoint! She was blown away and floored (at the same time, which is totally confusing) by their musical prowess. She even began requesting them on trips and humming their jams during our surveys. I was so darn proud of her! My mission of preaching the Hall & Oates gospel was complete. I could go back to New York right then if I wanted to, knowing that I had done right by the world. I didn’t, of course, but I could have.

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This little hellion is a predacious diving beetle larvae. They have been nicknamed “water tigers” for very good reason. I’d rather wrestle a bear than one of these.
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A group of Silvery Blue butterflies. Here’s an interesting tidbit: if you ever see a group of butterflies congregating on mammal poo, they’re actually males. Yup, it’s true. The males need the extra nutrients that the poo provides. Ahh… so many awful sexist jokes could be made but I’ll refrain because I believe in being sexy, not sexist.
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One of our survey sites is along the river. I never find tadpoles but there are tons of minnows and trout fry. I’m really good at netting them. You have to be lightning fast and I am…sometimes…on a good day…almost never.
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I took this picture with the idea of texting it to my mother because she fancies herself to be god’s gift to kayaking. Those are kayakers in the far distance but by the time I was ready to take the shot they were too far away to discern. Nevertheless, it’s still a lovely photo. What I wouldn’t give to kayak or raft there. Instead, I’m standing on solid ground netting for tadpoles. It’s a little weird and unconventional but I can’t complain.