Driving southward through Arkansas, I couldn't think of how far I had already come. From the surveys I did near Eastport and Porthill, Idaho in early July, my truck and I had conquered several thousand of miles of road on the way back to LSU, and I had trouble making myself remember those innumerable miles. My mind was focused on the journey ahead, and all the roads I still have to drive in my life. It is still almost hard to believe that I am finally here: the second day of classes is over, Carolina Chickadees and Blue Jays are calling from the Live Oaks around my dorm, and I already have homework to work on. Regardless, I still feel like I have parts in different places. I'm a long way from Africa, and an even longer distance from who I was the last time I was at school, and currently trying hard to find a good graduate school program to apply to. It is, however, off to a good start. It's good to see every familiar face once again, and the calls of Great Crested Flycatchers and Northern Cardinals are slowly sucking me back into a North American mindset. I'm looking forward to birding more, but for the time being, I am still just trying to get my room organized and live-able!
My last adventure was that long drive down, though. I went to the front range of Colorado and visited my high school friend, Kevin, for the weekend. We drove out to Pawnee National Grasslands for a night, and camped near the buttes. The next day we roamed across the plains, finding a dust bowl era cemetery and my lifer Chestnut-collared Longspur near the Nebraska state line. The next day, we continued our catching up by heading high into the Rockies, camping near Idaho Springs and then waking around 5 AM to head up to the top of Mt. Evans. In the pre-dawn darkness, I spotted my first ever White-tailed Ptarmigan on the side of the road, and we then scrambled to the top of the 14,264 foot peak to watch the sun rise over Denver. We talked, joked, and took pictures, but as the sun broke through the haze of the distance and lit the eastern plains, I had the feeling that even though I have no idea what the year holds for me, it's going to be a good one.