A Year of Few Outings, but Promising New Places Ahead

This year of 2015 we did not get out much, hence the few stories to blog about here.  After my spring post about eastern Oregon, June and July were consumed by the emergency medical care for our old dog, who later died.  Along the way, we set in motion a home relocation to Lakeview, Oregon!  I posted a photo in the last blog entry from a reconnaissance trip to Lakeview and its nearby forests, and that trip sealed the deal.  The area is fabulous, in part for the views, in part for the diverse and new plant and insect communities in southern Oregon and northern California.

The view of Lakeview, Oregon from the cell phone towers above town.

The view of Lakeview, Oregon from the cell phone towers above town.

With so much going on at home, plus a 3 weeks trip to Maine and New Hampshire thrown in, we had only a few camping trips since May.

Our trip marking our parting with our Idaho home was a final spot on the top of the Owyhee Mountains in southern Idaho.  It was Labor Day weekend in early September and we found this spot just below a ridge with a beautiful field of flowers still finishing their life cycle (called a nivation hollow).

Camp spot nestled into the mountain mahogany near War Eagle Mountain. We had 4 bars of 3G so Gina kept up on her emails...

Camp spot nestled into the mountain mahogany near War Eagle Mountain. We had 4 bars of 3G so Gina kept up on her emails…

Aphids were few except on the sage brushes, but as usual treasures are there to reward perseverance.  One such find was the final stages of one of the species of Aphis that feeds on Veratrum (corn-husk lily).  The biology of this aphid-plant interaction seems complicated, or at least has escaped my understanding for 25 years.  There are clearly at least two species of Aphis on Veratrum out west here, but their life cycles are not obvious to me.

Black groups of aphids feeding on the nearly fully senesced stem of Veratrum. This photo points out the need to recognize aphid host plants in all their developmental stages.

Black groups of aphids feeding on the nearly fully senesced stem of Veratrum. This photo points out the need to recognize aphid host plants in all their developmental stages.

In this site I was able to find the final Veratrum portion of the life cycle of one of the species.  I look forward to seeing the slide mounts and maybe take one more step toward understanding the complex of aphid species on this plant.

We figure there will be lots of cool stuff to see down the road.  Join us!

Spring is Time for Eastern Oregon

One thing we have learned living in southwestern Idaho is that eastern Oregon is full of great places to camp and explore that are almost unknown to anyone and rarely visited.  Spring is the time to visit many of these places because they are relatively low elevation and rather arid during the summer — spring is when they are green and comfortable.

We made 2 trips in May this year, the first to a juniper-sagebrush habitat south of Hwy 20 called Stinking Water Mountains.

Hunting camp among the junipers, Stinking Water Mts., Oregon.

Hunting camp among the junipers, Stinking Water Mts., Oregon.

We drove past wild horses and through the remains of a recent range fire to arrive at this huge hunting camp (hunting camps are used by hunters in the fall hunting season, and only by the occasional back country camper the rest of the year). It was still early in the season at this site, but a few aphids and psyllids were found.  One of the plants I study for the biology of Nasonovia (Kakimia) and Aphis (Bursaphis) was common: Ribes cereum.  This is the host for some well-known aphid species, and some that seem to be poorly known or undescribed.  It is among the first plants to break dormancy in spring, and the aphids are right there with it, developing in the coldest spring weather these high deserts can dish out.Ribes cereum.

The second trip was to the mountains outside Lakeview, Oregon, called the Warner Mountains. While most years this area would have been under snow on Memorial Day, climate change and a warm winter let us reach almost anyplace we wanted to without snow.  There was a threat of rain here and there, but fabulous weather, with temperatures above 10C most of the time and clouds floating by to mix up the sky.  Aphids were not abundant, but some unusual finds were made nonetheless, including my first ever collection on the uncommon sagebrush called Artemisia spinescens (on the way home, heading toward Denio, Nevada).  Our camp was set up among some fabulous giant ponderosa pines.

Gina with one of the ponderosa pines at camp.

Gina with one of the ponderosa pines at camp.

Travels, Tips

In the blog section of AphidTrek we plan to give details and stories about our trips — where we go, what we cook, obstacles overcome,

Just some of the places we've been since 2011, almost all camping spots.

Just some of the places we’ve been since 2011, almost all camping spots.

sights seen. We get out a lot, using mostly my Toyota FJ Cruiser to access remote back roads, and quite a range of equipment and supplies for tent camping in dispersed camping settings (i.e. without campgrounds, tables, restrooms, etc.). We see some amazing sights, explore habitats on the edge at high altitudes, and camp in the cold, rain, snow, wind, and plenty of perfect sunny calm days.  Food is by no means standard camping food; no hotdogs, hamburgers, or potato salad to be found at our camps.  Often we cook Thai curries, Indian-style lentils with spinach, fajitas, pasta with home-made tomato sauce.  The dogs lounge in the shade (or sun, if it’s cold out!), and we stay up late watching the stars and warming our feet by a camp fire.  Morning is insect collecting time, anywhere from 2 to 4 or 5 hours depending on the season, location, and difficulty of the terrain.

A fall camp in the mountains of central Idaho, near Fisher Creek.

A fall camp in the mountains of central Idaho, near Fisher Creek.