Writing and Photos by Grace Elison
ASC Landmark Volunteer

Out on the prairie, every day brings something new and exciting—I never know what to expect. Here are a few of my favorite memories.
May 19
Rachel and I pause as we crest the top of a ridge, our panting slowing as we catch our breath. We haven’t quite reached the halfway point yet on our transect, and already our blistered feet are irritated. We’ve seen only a few solitary pronghorn so far.

We scan the valley below us for signs of life, see nothing and decide to walk a little closer to the edge to get a better look. Suddenly, there’s movement below. Looking through our binoculars, Rachel points to a group of 14 pronghorn. In awe, I take a photo and fill out an animal sighting form on the tablet.

As I look around, I notice that what appear to be rocks further down the valley are moving up the slope. A look through the binoculars reveals another 12 pronghorn. Rachel fills out the second form, and we have just started moving when 12 more pronghorn pour onto the ridge 100 yards away. They pause for a few seconds to turn and stare at us before sprinting over a neighboring hill. 

June 11
Brady and I amble toward the picnic table where Ryan and Caroline wait in the shade. Its 2 p.m., and we just completed a 13.6 mile transect on Sun Prairie North. The sun is intense, and with little wind and high temperatures, my clothes are soaked with sweat. As I relax, my sweat dries, forming salt crystals across my skin.

When Rachel and Nathan to arrive from their transect 30 minutes later, we pack into the car and head to Fourchette Bay to swim. Our swimming clothes range from actual bathing suits for Rachel and Caroline, to Nathan’s “swimming jeans” (he neglected to bring shorts with him to the prairie).

Brady jumps from the end of dock, sending a spray of water into the air, while Nathan slowly takes his time and wades in from shore. I finally run off the dock and leap into the air momentarily before dropping into the brisk cool water. 

June 15
Nathan and I clamber into the car with Rachel and Ryan after finishing a short five mile hike to check two cameras. Together we head towards our last location for the day to set up a camera that was previously taken down, but our stomachs begin to growl, so we decide to stop for lunch in the area. We spot a rocky ledge higher up on the slope and scramble to the top. As we sit munching on our sandwiches and crackers, we take in the scenery and watch the shadows of clouds roll over neighboring ridges and the valley below. Suddenly, Nathan exclaims and points across to the opposite slope where a group of ten elk are grazing with several calves, enjoying their lunch, too. 

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