I’m back from my two-week ramble through the public lands of Arizona and New Mexico. This was an ideal destination for me: I’ve been in the area a few times before, just enough to begin to know what to seek out and what sorts of landscape patterns might be waiting for me, but not nearly enough for it not to seem entirely exotic and impossible to my boreal-based brain. Well, I’ve only now scratched the variations on landscape and vegetation and physiognomy of the great American southwest. But I did get to run down some old leads and spend some really solid time in a couple of regions I’ve long wanted to. And do so with the wonder of ignorance.
And oh yes, I was there to do some research reconnaissance. Looking to see what vegetation pattern looks like from side-on and roots-up instead of from above. I have a lot of digesting to do, but I suspect the trip was successful on that criterion. For sure I had great meetings with people who really do know the ecology of the magnificent semi-arid zones: Dave Breshears (who made time for me the day his right-hand-guy was leaving for a faculty position), Neil Cobb (who made time for me the week he was prepping for his wedding celebration) and Michaela Buenemann (who made time for me in between settling into her new faculty position and road tripping to Dr. Cobb’s wedding celebration). The reflexive generosity of time and ideas that researchers have for each other is one of the things I love about working in the sciences. It seems the best people are the ones who are the most giving of their resources. (Including data! Thanks guys. Thanks also to Dr. Alfredo Huete, whom I now really regret not having been organized enough to ask for a meeting with.)
Thanks also to this guy, whose website drove home the point that, unless it specifically says “no camping”, you can pretty much camp anywhere you want in the southwest. This turned out to be a key idea in my trip. There were a lot of places I wanted to camp, and did. And while I’m at it, thanks also to Enterprise, for not freaking out when I brought some rental cars back with a little dust in the wheel-wells.
Much of the point of being there was to take photos I could later reference while taking the remote-sensing god’s eye view of the same landscapes. So I had my camera in my hand a lot, and I’ll post some photos as I work through them.