The ASC Spring Giveaway is now live! Enter to win an amazing bundle of gear and goodies! Click here to throw your name in the hat:
The package includes Clif Bars, a Steripen Classic 3 water purifier, a pair of Sunski sunglasses of your choice, and either an Osprey Men's Osprey Talon 18 backpack, or a or women's Tempest 16. Giveaway open through June 10.
Story and Paintings by Emilie Lee
ASC Partner Artist
It’s 5 a.m., and I’m crammed in the back of a car with six strangers, rattling down a dirt road as we race to beat the sunrise. Sleep has overtaken me by the time we reach our destination, but I snap out of it when we step into the chilly air. The night sky is lifting, and a pale light illuminates the endless expanse of rolling grasslands that greet me.
It’s my first morning on the American Prairie Reserve, and I feel disoriented, but Elaine and Tim—the pair of Landmark wildlife researchers I’m following—consult their GPS and strike out with confidence, striding through the prickly sage brush and cactus. I hustle to keep up, as we have three miles to go, and we can’t be late for the big performance. As we hike, I notice patterns in the grass, a twisting rhythm that brings to mind flowing water. Further on, I see the abstract beauty of a singular cloud taking shape in the morning light and try to sear the vision in my memory.
I am an artist, not a scientist, and I’m observing my surroundings in terms of color, line and form. I’m aware that my scientist companions have a different perspective, so I wrack my brain for questions. What is this plant? What bird makes that call? Why is the land shaped like this? Why are there cactus growing here?
I’m hungry for information on my first prairie hike, and my hope is that this time spent shadowing the ASC Landmark crew will give me new insight into the land I will be painting.
Suddenly I become painfully aware of the unstoppable march of time as the sun, a molten red orb, rises with surprising speed from behind the perfectly flat horizon. We pause for a few seconds to witness this singular moment that marks the day’s birth and then hurry onward.
Tim checks the GPS with more frequency, warning that we should be there soon. The anticipation is thrilling. We move cautiously, listening and checking through our binoculars, until we hear the sounds of corks popping—the party is not far away. That sound, I’m told, is the mating call of the greater sage grouse.
Story and Photos by Joe Klementovich
ASC Microplastics Adventurer
I like to think the little things we do can add up to bigger changes, no matter how massive the challenge. So over the past few months, I’ve been chomping at the bit to get involved with and sample for ASC's Microplastics project. A photography assignment came up that involved several days in Florida Bay and the Keys, fly fishing and camping in and around the Everglades—a perfect location to start sampling. A quick look at the project map showed that there were little or no samples from the areas we were planning to go to, so with a quick email to ASC Partnerships Coordinator Alex I was signed up.
Photos and Captions by Elaine Kennedy
The American Prairie Reserve is composed of vast expanses of native prairie, and teeming with beautiful and unique wildlife. Being part of the ASC Landmark crew was a great way to experience the Great Plains ecosystem while contributing to an ambitious research and conservation project. Through photography, I hope to share some of the interesting species we’ve seen on the prairie, and encourage the public to appreciate and value wildlife and the environment.
By Alex Hamilton
Last Saturday, I climbed into a truck bound for Utah alongside ASC Program Manager Mike Quist Kautz, two mountain bikes, a motorcycle, three pairs of skis and a pile of maps. Our goal was to scout trailheads and camera trap sites for ASC’s Uinta Carnivore Study.
As with many good adventures, we had a mountain of gear and only the vaguest sense of what conditions would be like.
The High Uinta Wilderness is out there, and that’s part of its magic: The crest danced on the horizon like a mirage, always visible, always distant. After a mid-April snowstorm, driving access was limited to roads plowed for logging.
On the first morning, we wound through rain, snow and fog towards the Henry’s Fork trailhead, popping through to alpine sunshine around 9,000 feet, stymied by snowy roads at 9,200. We strapped on our fat backcountry skis and glided for 13 miles through breakable crust, slush and mud, rolling up the drainage. As expected, the lynx and wolverines didn’t come out to congratulate us on our effort. The moose and coyotes made appearances but gave up no clues.
“Try again later,” they shrugged. “Thanks for breaking trail."
To our surprise, we managed to use every piece of equipment we brought. In the Bear River Range near Logan, we mountain biked until we hit snow, then hiked and post-holed until we gained the ridge. While eating the last of our trail mix, we realized it was Earth Day. We’d been inadvertently celebrating all day.
ASC volunteers looking for adventure will find it on the way to their camera sites. Probably not the “wow-this-is-fun-what-perfect-conditions” type of adventure—although there will likely be some of that, too. Instead, they’ll find type-two fun. That’s what we encountered: Scrambles through downed trees, mud, creek crossings and fading trails. Our grinning hikes were interspersed with moments of deep longing to be back at the trailhead, only to arrive and think, “Hey, that was a good time!”
We’re excited for this summer.
By John Seaton Callahan
ASC Microplastics Adventurer
Papua Province on the island of New Guinea is a wild and remote area. Poor infrastructure and the simmering conflict between native Papuan and the Indonesian government have restricted development.
While exploring the coastline, our surfEXPLORE team met a cross-section of local residents, including tribal people with little involvement or concern for the 21st century, betel-nut chewing indigenous Papuan people who have lived in this area continuously for roughly 30,000 years, quite a few trans-migrasi ethnic Malay Asian Indonesians who’ve received government assistance to leave crowded areas like Java and Bali and resettle in Papua.
What we did not see was a single Caucasian foreigner.
SurfEXPLORE is a multi-national group who travel to some of the world's more remote and exotic locations seeking undiscovered surfing waves. Our core team is French surfer Erwan Simon, British longboard champion Sam Bleakley, Italian surfer Emiliano Cataldi, and me, Hawaiian photographer John Seaton Callahan. This was our fifth project in Pacific Indonesia, and it remains one of our favorite places to travel, explore and surf.
When we contacted the Tourism Official in Sarmi, a large town on the coast known as "Kota Ombak," or “City of Waves” in Bahasa, the woman there said they recorded 24 foreign visitors in all of 2014.
We had researched the coastline for several months prior, and we found that some of our marked areas did have good waves, some did not, and we found several waves in unexpected places!
Before the rest of the surfEXPLORE team arrived, Erwan spent a week trekking in the Baliem Valley, near the town of Wamena. After hiking in for two days into the Papuan highlands, he met and stayed with members of the Dani tribe. “The people are really friendly, and in the most remote places they are curious but happy to see foreigners,” he said. The Dani subside on agriculture, hunting and fishing, and the older men still wear the Koteka gourd. (Photo by Erwan Simon)
Erwan washes some of the dust off after a long drive at a beach break near Sarmi. “Not a very good surfing location, but we had just arrived and the wind was a favorable offshore direction at this river mouth, so it was a good opportunity to get wet,” John says. “This wave broke close to the beach, so our Indonesian cameraman Joko could also film some action material.” (Photo by JS Callahan)
The team hangs with the local kids at a river mouth near the large village of Sarmi. “Although the waves were not very good, it was a great opportunity to film and have some fun with the kids,” John says. “It is unlikely these kids have had any contact with surfers, but they’re in the water every day and already riding waves on pieces of wood, so the transition to modern surfboards is easy for them.” (Photo by JS Callahan)
“This local outrigger was our standard boat and method of access to many waves that were not drivable due to bad roads, damaged bridges or no road at all,” John said. “With a single 40-horsepower outboard motor and an accommodating captain, we could range quite far up and down the coast.” (Photo by JS Callahan)
By Emily Stifler Wolfe
No one is sure if wolverines or Canada lynx live in the Uinta Mountains. In summer 2015, Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation aims to find out.
This rugged, wild range northeast of Salt Lake City runs nearly 60 miles east to west. Although unglaciated, this is the highest alpine area in the Intermountain West, with more than 1,000 lakes. Wildlife including bighorn sheep, black bear and mountain lion live in the High Uintas Wilderness, and Utah’s highest point, 13,528-foot King’s Peak, is the range’s crown jewel.
Historically, the range was home to limited numbers of both wolverines and lynx, but fur trapping and predator poisoning programs in the 18th and 19th centuries devastated them in the lower 48.
There have been only 10 lynx sightings reported here in the past 100 years, and although Forest Service biologists caught a wolverine on a camera trap last year, they're unsure if it was a resident animal or just passing through. Prior to that, the last confirmed wolverine sighting was a dead animal found in 1979.
The ASC Uinta Carnivore Survey will recruit, manage and train a skilled, dedicated corps of outdoorspeople to maintain 30 baited, motion-activated cameras on the range’s north slope. The project is a partnership with the Uinta-Cache-Wasatch National Forest.
With wolverine populations now rebounding in the Northern Rockies and numerous lynx sightings in Wyoming, Uinta National Forest biologists are already using five cameras in an effort to search for wolverines on the range’s north slope.
A few weeks ago, ASC's Executive Director Gregg Treinish was honored by receiving a letter and a blue marble from Jacob Almengor, a fifth grader from Munsey Elementary School in Bakersfield, California.
"I wish I could be out there with you really doing things," Jacob wrote. "I'm trying to do my part to help by learning about plastics, the power of recycling, the effects of trash in the oceans, and how to conserve water in my own home, with my own family. I know I'm just one person, but I can make a difference."
"The blue marble is a way to say 'thank you' for what you are doing... Maybe if we all work together our world will be a better place."
Jacob's words strengthen our belief in the ASC value of optimism, and our belief that people are inherently good. Click "Read More to see the full letter."
By Emily Stifler Wolfe
Forming the base of nearly all aquatic food chains, diatoms are essential to the health of the planet. These single-celled photosynthetic plants account for around 40% of carbon fixation and oxygen production worldwide, according Dr. Loren Bahls, curator of the Montana Diatom Collection.
“Diatoms appeared sometime during the Cretaceous, about the same time as flowering plants and when dinosaurs ruled the land,” explains Dr. Bahls, who has been an ASC partner since 2012. “When you slip on the rocks in a mountain stream, you are slipping on a thin layer of diatoms and the mucilage they produce.”
Story and Photos by Tim Brtis
Landmark Crew Member
There is more to walking through mud than just moving each leg in turn. During my time with Landmark, I’ve learned that technique can be the difference between voyaging through the mud at a swift 1.2 mph, and struggling in one spot for 15 minutes. Becoming stuck can drain valuable energy, and if freedom isn’t regained, you might run the risk of attracting a hungry, circling turkey vulture.
I hereby propose the compilation of an academically thorough guide to mud maneuvering. I will begin the effort by sharing the knowledge a coworker and I have compiled here. However, because I don’t possess every technique related to mud walking, I plan to consult experts from around the world for future volumes.
It’s best to avoid becoming stuck. Maintaining your liberty may require one or more of the following techniques.
The Pointed-Foot Technique
While trudging through an increasingly mucky area, I could feel the ground playfully tugging at my feet with each step. Eventually, the mud got greedy and did not let go. With my literal next step denied, I was pulled back to the gluttonous ground, which then took my second foot.
“Walk on the balls of your feet, and you don’t stick as much!” Elaine called over to me. I tried walking in place using this technique and was promptly liberated.
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