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  • Writer's pictureDirk

Spring time in the mountains

Updated: Dec 14, 2019

June many may think is late for spring. You are right, but not for the mountains. June in the mountains is colors everywhere. All kinds of flowers are blooming and attract bees, bumblebees, and butterflies with odors tickling our noses as well. We are up for the first sampling trip this year. Our muscles still not trained for the task, but with heavy backpacks on our backs and determination in our minds. A distraction in form of wonderful flowers, orchids and others, is welcome to keep on going up the steep paths winding up the Pyrenees.

The last snow patches mark a rather long winter with a lot of snow in the mountains. In some places the snow patches are still several meters high. We walk up towards the port de Saleix, finding our mountain legs again (Adeline and Dirk) and getting used to a new terrain (Adriana). The latter excited to see, touch and walk on snow for the first time in her life.

It is always an inspiration to bring someone new into the mountains and see the faces when they discover beautiful views on the mountain landscape. The vallee de Bassies is one of those inspiring views where everyone we know was in awe of the beauty, especially when seen from above.

Apart of the beautiful landscape, other biological wonders await us. While in the lowlands tadpoles of Rana temporaria have already metamorphed we find freshly laid eggs along our way up in the mountains. The lake water being so cold that it hurts your hands. What an adaptive species this is. Being able to live under those conditions. It is also the only amphibian which occurs up to Cap North in Scandinavia and needs every single day to finish metamorphosis. Hibernation in the tadpole stage as done by other species, is not an option for R. temporaria. So, the tadpoles try to find the warmest parts of the waterbodies and in the egg clutches the outer layers forms an insulating layer to protect the inner eggs from late frost. What a great strategy!

With these wonders in mind, we reach our sites after 3 hours of hiking, take our samples and start discussing what the host of the mountain refuge will cook tonight. And there is nothing better after a long day of hiking and working than a nice warm soup, cheese from Ariege and an excellent mousse au chocolat. After sleeping one night in the refuge we get up with sour muscles in the morning and face a steep climb back up to Port de Saleix. Not easy, but we made it slowly but steadily and were heading to other sites along the way back to the car. We chose the perfect days for this, no rain (the first days since months!), perfect temperature and flowers all over. A perfect first sampling trip.

Ah, and below the stone Atelopus statue looking over the vallee de Bassies.

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