Precisely a year ago, most of the same participants on this trip to Hubei Province in the PRC were together in northern Vietnam; Ozzie Johnson, Scott McMahan, Andrew Bunting, and myself (this year we have been gratifyingly conjoined by Dr. Donglin Zhang from the University of Georgia, Athens, graduate student Ms. Tung and Professor Cheng from the Dept of Botany from the University of Wuhan). Twelve months prior, our ‘two day’ trek up and over a sheer mountain range known as Five Fingers had turned into 3.5 day death march. During that experience, the lot of us were not only pushed to our limits, but were adamantly committed to making sure that such a situation would never arise again. [Read more…]
Bleary eyed from arriving to our lodging at midnight, after over 50 hours of continual travel, we arose early the next morning to sodden skies in the village of Shennong. This mountainous area of eastern Hubei has both the highest peak of this part of Central China (Shennong Peak, just under 11,000’) as well as the perfect collision of eastern and western floral elements. We worked up a small road in starts and stops, piling out of our transport, piling in, progressively more saturated. Yet the plants were exciting to see and unexpected all in one place together holding onto their own tiny bits of real estate; Hydrangea longipes, Cotinus coggygria, Epimedium fargesi, Metapanax davidii, Chloranthus fortunei. The richness was beyond our most hopeful imaginations. Yet, it continued to pour buckets the entire day, making photography and the logistics of collecting seed and taking notes wearisome. Factoring in our collective fatigue with the weather, there was little argument when we made the decision at 4 pm to drive back to the village and our accommodation. [Read more…]
This evening I am writing while sitting on a floor propped against the door between cars of a chockablock train departing Wuhan, Hubei on a Friday night at rush hour. My comrades are bestrewed along the aisles, sentry to our piles of duffels and backpacks. I have found a small redoubt of discretion as I am wearing a very smart chocolate brown pajama top courtesy of EVA Airway and am reminded, as I lift my arms while adjusting my stance, just how long I have been wearing it.
A palpable degree of dissonance in the stars was sensed by me, Tuesday last, when an automated call from EVA plucked the web confirming a disharmonic wobble. My scheduled 2 am departure from Seattle to Taipei was now to leave at 4:30 am. The first in a long string of dominoes teetered momentarily in my brain as I performed ‘connection math,’ and then they, quite gracefully actually, and in slow motion, began toppling. With five connecting flights on multiple carriers, my goose appeared precooked. [Read more…]
On October 23rd, 2013, Shayne Chandler and I awoke at early dawn in a tent pitched at just over 10,800′ on a narrow ridge leading to the summit of Mt. Phangan in northern Burma. It was a crisp morning with a lucidity to the sky we had not yet witnessed, while across the immense sweeps of forest on either side of our campsite echoed hauntingly beautiful vocalizations of monkeys and languars. As we would attempt to climb to the top of the peak this morning and back again to our camp before nightfall, we were ecstatic by what promised to be very cooperative weather. [Read more…]
We awoke at Camp 1 at 6:00am on October 22nd, 2013 to brilliant blue skies and great anticipation of ending this day well above 8,000′, assuredly amongst a palette of plants adaptive to zone 8. Our bees were back in full force by the time we sat for breakfast so I was glad to begin hiking again up the ridge shortly before 8am. A twelve mile hike with nearly 4,000′ of vertical gain would keep us occupied for most of the day. Shayne had developed a lower intestinal infection and began a course of Ciprofloxin and one of the porters had become very ill with malaria. Our drinking water was no longer that of pristine glacial-fed rivers but from a hole dug in mucky depression and scooped from the bottom. Though it was boiled, it had the taste and color of a very inexpensive and smoky single-malt scotch. [Read more…]
We knew, as we left Ziyardam and our gloriously dry quarters — the upper story of a bamboo clad structure with hard sleeping platforms — that any sense of luxury would not be had again for several days ahead. It rained heavily during the night that had awakened both of us repeatedly. By the time our packs were on our back and the party left the last village under heavy rainfall, we had resigned ourselves to a wet day ahead. We knew we were at last leaving this valley and heading to altitude and hardy plants, so the steady rain did not dampen spirits. [Read more…]
We awoke again to brilliant skies which remained clear and clean throughout the day, which was both a blessing and a curse. This was to be a 12 mile march and we would be holding at a steady and the sultry elevation of 3500′ for the entirety. On sunny days at lower altitudes in northern Burma during this season, one meets up with sand flies in great abundance, and today was no exception. These tiny insects would best be compared to no-see-ums, the difference being that you do not feel their bite. It is long after they have devoured a wee bit of your being that itchy, red welts appear that remain annoying for days following. [Read more…]