This is what two mostly damp beaver advocates look like at a Utah festival, On the left is Mary Obrien of the Grand Canyon trust, and on the right is me looking dazed to be sitting at the first booth at the Utah festival where a bright young college student tells you to take a treasure hunt and find the 5 ways that beavers help wildlife. Then come back wih your card filled out, paint a tail, and decorate a beaver-shaped gingerbread cookie!
It was raining the first time I gave my talk indoors at the nature center. So there were lots of folks who wanted to be dry and listen. Thank goodness it stopped soon and folks turned up anyway. At one point I sat by the pond and gave an interview to their tech crew about our experience, the student asking the questions was actually from Danville! Later we went down to the festival proper where we heard about one little boy who had had gotten the notice at school but his mom said “I’m sure it was probably cancelled with the storm”. He convinced her when he somberly said, “But we have to go check“.
Just in case you think I was exaggerating about the storm, the big empty stone-lined waterway around the nature center was RUSHING with muddy water that day. We were told that it probably rains 2 days a year in St. George and that summer temperatures commonly reach 115.
One great idea we want to try at home was a beaver lodge the children made – with the orignal frame of a dome tent covered with willow that kids added branches to to make a beaver house. They were running in and out hiding from ‘otters’ later in the day. Mary had also boldly invited the trappers association who displayed pelts for the children to feel. One surprising trapper commented, “People just don’t realize how good beavers are for streams and wildlife”. Which might have blown my mind if I was not already through the looking glass.
I gave the talk again in the afternoon and then came back to the hotel while they cleaned up. That night Mary picked us up and brought us to their camp sight in Sand Hallow where 15 tents circled their giant field station horse trailer-with-sattrlite dish. The cooking crew made us an awesome dinner of jumbalaya which we ate in a giant circle under the stars. The looming clouds were on the opposite bank and kindly stayed away from us.
After dinner there was a single darting bat, a crescent moon, and looming stars overhead. The great arc of 21 young students of semester in the west introduced where they were from and their majors, then said the favorite part of their day. It was amazing to hear their stories and did you even know there were political majors like environmental politics or environmental humanities? Then Mary asked me to say a little about the research we did on the historic prevalence papers. A huge gust of wind made my teeth chatter too much to talk anymore and fortunately caused the pages of ‘data’ to blow away so that everyone scrambled to retrieve it. Then we said our goodnights and thank you’s and dashed back to the car where Phil brought us back to the hotel.
This morning, Mary picks us up and brings us back to Cedar Springs, from where we will fly home tomorrow morning. The Whitman crew will head off for North for a 5 hour drive to their final camp, where they will end their journey and take finals before heading back to Walla Walla.
Dinner under the stars with tomorrows smart, talented environmental advocates was definitely the best part of the journey. But the woman who introduced herself at my talk as a docent from Yellowstone who does the beaver talks there was definitely a close second.
Then there was the child who explained he knew why beavers were important because (and I quote) “they make honey”