As I walk out into the plain from the field site, the fragrance from crushed sagebrush wafts up from beneath my boots. In the wide-open expanse of the Laramie Valley, the smell is always around, but the uniqueness of the aroma never seems to get old. Taking a seat near the dirt road that leads to the field site, I watch the White-Tailed Prairie Dogs go about their business in their towns, consisting of a tunneled network inhabited by related individuals. The occasional sentry warns his compatriots of my presence, and his persistent chirping breaks up the otherwise silent atmosphere. The ground is flat and sparse with sedge, grass, prickly pear cactus and ground sage dominating the crusty soil dotted with loose rock. Few plants grow over a few inches high but the flat and unassuming landscape gains character upon closer inspection. Various wildflowers add color to the ground while Horned Larks and Swallows fly out over the Prairie Dog towns. Large dark beetles and grasshoppers with vibrant wing patterns crawl nearby with the latter releasing an occasional trill.
Looking up and out, the blue cloudy sky extends to the far away mountains that seem so close. Other than a farmhouse or two, the prairie appears uninhabited with the most obvious sign of human habitation being a line of windmills in the distance. At night, their blinking red lights are one of the only things that keep you from feeling complete isolation. Invisible airplanes can be heard from far away; sound travels great distances in the valley, especially when the wind is mild. Another side effect of a windless day is the presence of mosquitos. Watching them crawl up my legs I realize I have once again neglected to apply bug repellant, a must-have in Wyoming. The bug bites along with a persistently chattering Prairie Dog, obviously annoyed with my intrusion, give me the motivation to leave my seat and return to camp behind me. As I walk back, I can’t help but look over my shoulder, hoping to see the family of Swift Foxes that live nearby. The entertaining creatures are always a pleasure to observe. Today, however, they remain in their burrow beneath the sunbaked ground.