Sunday, August 3, 2014

Aug 2 (Day 214) - On the road again, some bacterial science

I finally said goodbye to Jackson after a four day stay. My body feels very good at the moment. It was really nice to have several days of relatively light riding during which I was able to add some high quality birds to the year list. The next few days are going to be centered squarely on two birds: Ruffed grouse and Gray partridge. I fully expected the second to be a real chore, but the first one is presenting more headaches than I thought it would. Ruffed grouse are found in the Tetons with some regularity. I searched what I thought was suitable habitat yesterday without success. Today I birded more great habitat south of Wilson also without success. I did find a single feather that I am sure came from a Ruffed grouse, so apparently there was at least one grouse in the area at some point. The only bird of note today was a nice MacGillivray's warbler along the creek. There will be more chances for the grouse, and I am confident that I will find it eventually. The big question is how much time this search will take away from other potential species. We'll find out in the next few days......

I walked up the river valley at the bottom, and 
back down on the aspen-covered ridge at the top right.

The view on the way back down the Aspen ridge

When the failed grouse hunt concluded, it was time to cross Teton pass west into Idaho where I would spend the night. I have now cycled 9,800 miles this year, and the 4 miles to climb Teton Pass were the hardest stretch I have done - bar none. It is a 10% grade the entire way. This means I gained over 2,000 vertical feet in about 4 miles. It was incredible taxing, especially when pushing a loaded bike weighing 85 lbs. I was exhausted when I finally did reach the top, but the view was a nice consolation. The rest of the ride as essentially a nice coast down into Victor, Idaho.

I started WAAAAYYYY down in that valley

The Alley family was cycling over the pass in the other direction.
They gave me a "wing spread" formation as I headed off!

I am staying with Tibby, a friend from high school tonight. She has a really interesting story which currently has her working and living on an organic farm here in Victor, ID. Her and her husband specialize in the production, harvest, and sale of raw milk and cheese made from raw milk (raw = unpasteurized). The general idea is that raw milk has many probiotic properties that are lost during the pasteurization process. Basically, raw milk has living bacteria in it while pasteurized milk does not. As Americans, most of us are horribly (and incorrectly) fearful of anything bacteria. However, this is fast becoming an outdated notion based on much recent research.

For example, much of our individual metabolism is genetic. However, it is becoming increasingly evident that our metabolism is also influenced by the bacteria living in our guts. This collection of gut bacteria is called the "microbiome", and this field of study is currently one of the hottest in biology. Recent experiments have harvested stools from skinny mice and put them into the anus/intestine of fatter mice that have had their native gut bacteria flushed out. That fat mouse will actually get thinner! Likewise, the reverse transplant cane be done and a skinny mouse will gain weight. Pretty cool huh? There is additional evidence that different complements of gut bacteria can influence other aspects of our individual biologies even including brain function. The running joke on my floor at Harvard/Mass General was that in the future there will be a stool bank (like a sperm bank) where people can go to get fecal transplants. It will be called "Shitty bank". Don't laugh too hard - fecal transplants are coming in the near future. A less repulsive idea is that the bacteria in raw milk might alter the microbiome in some beneficial way. Just some food for thought since today's birding was a bit slow today!

The view from Tibby's farm. You can see the Tetons
WAAYYY off to the east against the clouds

A Brown Swiss cow. This is the particular
breed here on the farm. They are very friendly!

Tomorrow I am going to do some grouse hunting in the morning and hopefully head towards Rexburg in the afternoon. Rexburg will be my base as I explore Camas NWR in hopes of finding Gray Partridge. 


  1. Hey Dorian,
    Glad to see you're still chugging along. I crossed Teton Pass in a car several years ago (on the way to our honeymoon in BC) and even that felt exhausting! Anyway, my cousin lives outside of Challis, ID, which I don't believe is on your route, but a friend of his lives in Lewisville, which IS close to Camas NWR - further west than Rexburg (good), but also further south (less good). Anyway, not sure how hard up you are for a place to stay thataway, but if you are interested, let me know (send me an IM via Facebook) & I can put you guys in touch.

  2. "So Amber, how did you lose so much weight?"
    "Well, all I'll say is that I used a really shitty method, but it worked"

  3. Hey Dorian,
    It was great to meet you last night. I wish I would have had more time to chat with you about your experiences, but I had to milk the cows. Didn't want to keep the lovely ladies waiting. I love those Swiss Brown cows like they are my own!

    I hope you found grouse and partridge today. I know they are in the Fox Creek area in Victor. As I told you last night, I had both visit my property before I adopted my rescued huskies and then started accumulating farm animals...

    I'm looking forward to following your big adventure. I admire you for going for it! Too many people never follow their dreams. It's refreshing to meet those who are living their dreams.

    Best wishes on your journey. May it be filled with all the birds on your list!

    PS - I read your bio. I grew up in Ephrata, PA which is just over 60 miles away from Philly!

  4. Hey Dorian!
    Ruffed Grouse are pretty findable near Ellensburg, Washington on the east slope of the Cascades. An advantage in this area is that they tend to hang out in narrow riparian corridors, and you can walk the riparian corridors to flush them. You might seek out similar layouts of habitat in Idaho. Let me know if you want any more info. Dave, Seattle

    P.S. A few Sooty Grouse were still hooting along the Cascade Crest on my backpacking trip this weekend. Not sure how much longer that will be the case. They are thick enough in some of these areas that they should still be findable with work when not hooting.

  5. If Sean Connery were to do a commercial for CitiBank, it would sound like the name of the stool bank you and your friends joked about.