Last year I finally made it to the eastern steppes, the largest remaining stretch of an ecosystem that at one time stretched from near the Pacific Ocean all the way west to Hungary. Now there are only remnants and Mongolia has the largest, best preserved part. We were heading west from Toson Hulstay Nature Reserve, a steppe area that is home to Mongolian gazelles and a variety of other mammals and birds, and had just crossed the timber bridge in the painting. We stopped to stretch and walk out on it to see the river. I got out of the van, turned back to look toward the way we’d just come, and saw this enormous cloud formation with rain in the distance. Summer is the rainy season in Mongolia and storms like this are welcomed by the herders whose animals depend on the grass that is watered by the rains. A good grass year means that more animals have a better chance to survive the long hard winters. So I never mind rain when I’m traveling there. I’m just happy for the local people.
At last I was going to see a part of Mongolia that I’d been wanting to for years….the eastern steppe grasslands. Even though Toson Hulstay Nature Reserve covers almost 1.2 million acres, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island, it’s a remnant of an ecosystem that once spread from the Pacific Ocean to the plains of Hungary.
We went back down the slope to a sheltered spot and set up camp. It was a pleasant evening, perfect for our outdoor dining. About 10pm it started to rain…and rain….and rain. It was raining hard in the morning. We had to eat breakfast sitting in the cars. Everyone pitched in to get the tents packed up. I think we set a record for the trip breaking camp. I was wondering what it would be like getting back down the mountain to the road, even though we were in Land Cruisers with a go-anywhere Russian van as our support vehicle. As it turned out the “earth” road was grassy enough that that part was no problem. However, once we arrived at the main road west…
And that concludes the story of the 2013 WildArt Mongolia Expedition.
I’m leaving on Saturday for a road trip to Wyoming. I plan to spend four days in Yellowstone National Park, a day in Jackson for the annual Fall Art Festival and then on east to Dubois for the Susan K. Black Foundation Workshop. Five days, 175 artists, nationally-known instructors…it’s going to be very special week. I hope to post on the blog a couple of times, but will largely cover the goings-on via Twitter and posts to my Facebook fan page.