Oooooh Pretty!

I’m constantly amazed at the painter’s palate of nature in Colorado.  So many beautiful colors to admire…guess that’s why they call it ‘colorful Colorado!’

Devil's Head

Last weekend I hiked to Devil's Head, a high mountain vista in the Pike National Forest that culminates at a vertical stairway to a historical fire tower.  Originally built in 1912, this tower has undergone some renovations over the years, but its role has been steadfast in the detection of forest fires in the forest and surrounding areas.  The hike is only a mile, but it climbs rather steeply.

Part way up the trail
End of the trail, beginning of the monster stairs!
The fire tower
The fire finder: this awesome contraption is outfitted with a map, 2 sights, and a line...if you spot smoke, you line up the plume with the sights and a prominent geological feature, and it will correspond to an approximate location on the map...pretty sweet!
This guy has been a smoke watcher in this tower for 28 years!
 The view from the top

Hokie Pride

I recently received a very pleasant surprise from my alma mater, Virginia Tech.  I was awarded the 'Outstanding Recent Alumna of 2012' from the College of Natural Resources.  It is a great honor and I am so proud to represent VT and the CNR in my ambitions.  Check out the little blurb they wrote about me in the alumni newsletter: Erica Santana: Oustanding CNR Alumna of 2012

Fish Frenzy

Electrofishing anyone??? 

One of my more fun days in the field recently was doing fish surveys...tromping around in Goose Creek armed with a backpack shocker, net, and bucket.  As part of a management indicator species monitoring program, we were tasked with capturing and identifiying the fish present in a creek on our forest.  Managers want to know what kind and how many fish there are, specifically how many are native and how many are exotic.  This can help them determine the health of native fish populations and help indicate environmental conditions.

 Two 'shockers' are outfitted with backpack shocking units while everyone else is strategically placed in the creek, ready to pounce on the the fish.  An electric 'wand', of sorts, probes the water, sending out an electric current that temporarily stuns fish and makes them float to the surface. Fish are netted and put into live wells until they are ready to be processed.

Once the stream has been sufficiently shocked, the fish are worked over, and we collect important biological information such as species, size, weight, age, etc.  The entire process is a slime fest, but great fun, and very informative.  After data collection, fish are released back into the creek to finish out their happy little fish lives.

Rip Roarin' Rodeo

My time in Colorado has afforded me several wonderful opportunities to attend some heart-pumpin', hair-rasin' rodeos.  Among them, the 'Daddy of em All', the Challenge Rodeo in Cheyenne Wyoming, which I attended during Cheyenne Frontier days, a spectacular celebration western frontier culture and the pioneer spirit.  It was incredible to see the talent and skill displayed by all the cowboys and cowgirls, and of course, all the beautiful horses!

Buckin' broncos

Barrel Racing

Steer ropin'