Early season desert tenting a delight | Information


The sky is on fire as the sun slowly sinks in the west. The intense colors are framed by foreboding dark clouds. It is a breathtaking sight with the intense sunset shining through dark clouds with precipitation. Occasional lightning and distant rumblings of thunder provide entertainment in the hinterland.

I am camping with Dobby, my young Australian Shepherd, in the middle of nowhere. Each direction is a hilly prairie with barren low table mountains in the distance. The sea of ​​bushes, with some fatty wood and hops mixed with the mugwort, occasionally opens into clearings of deep-lying salt bushes, mixed with sparse tufts of Indian rice grass.

The storm is coming faster than expected, first with a raindrop, then another that patters on my motorhome cover. Dobby stands straddled next to me and looks at the open rear of the truck. We laze around while Dobby watches the prairie and watches the creatures move. I’m reading a book right now, just enjoying the solitude and, thanks to the early season, the absence of annoying mosquitos and flies. There is no buzz.

My camping setup is simple and mobile. I built a wooden platform that takes up half the cargo area. Below is storage space and above is my bedroom. In my work as a wildlife biologist, camping is not just a hobby, it’s part of the job. I avoid daily trips to a motel in the nearest town. Instead of wasting time, I spend day and night on a project site; I’m really getting to know the pulse of the prairie.

The other half of my shell has a storage box that doubles as a bedside table, and then I have an open area where Dobby, when he is so inclined, sleeps at night. But he prefers to stay in bed. Fortunately for him, I’m small, so we both have enough space to sleep through the night.

Rain, lightning and thunder come serious. I close the tailgate, pull down the window and go back to Dobby, listening to the increasing rain. Dobby looks at me questioningly. “What are all these noises?” he seems to be asking.

“Don’t worry,” I tell him, grateful that the thunder didn’t panic him. I’m a little worried, I’ll admit, that the rain could turn into hail and damage my not-very-old truck. I have no place to move for protection; the closest cover is miles away.

The sound of rain when the intensity subsides is relaxing. The pitter pattern lulls me to sleep when it gets dark. Before I know it, dawn comes and instead of ominous clouds, the sky is azure blue. It’s calm and mild with perfect weather in Wyoming’s lonely prairie in late May.

I get to work; My goal for the day is to record the vegetation cover and note all of the plant species that I observe. I am also always on the lookout for creatures that I could discover with luck.

Reptiles are the most common on this excursion, not counting songbirds. The mugwort lizards are particularly light-footed. They scurry through the sandy ground, their tails leaving a squiggle trail and hurrying from one bush to the next.

They grab Dobby’s attention when he excitedly tries to catch one by looking into a bush, not realizing that the lizard has long since disappeared to another bush in the other direction.

I managed to catch a lazily horned toad and hold it up for a photo.

“Smile,” I tell the toad. Maybe his answer was a toad smile, but he looked rather grumpy and annoyed by the attention.

I carefully place it in the same bush in which I found it. Dobby watches for a moment and then his attention goes elsewhere. Next, he examines a rather impressive pile of feces left over from one of the wild horses that inhabit this no man’s land in southwest Wyoming. On the plus side, Dobby is just sniffing; A year ago, as a puppy, he would have tasted these horse droppings without hesitation.

So our day goes looking for living things, identifying plants and, in Dobby’s case, checking out the amazing variety of smells. It’s the best time of year to be outside, away from the heat and the bugs, with only the occasional thunderstorm.