We arrived at Tyson in the late afternoon when the sun was making its descent. Two graduate students showed us around the facilities and pointed out various research projects and buildings. The large, abandoned warehouses stood as testament to the history of the land and its previous owner. Yet all around these relics nature flourished. After a brief tour we strapped our packs up and headed out to find a camp site. Less than five minutes in we spotted a group of five large birds foraging along the road. Upon closer inspection we identified the birds as wild turkeys. We came upon another road which veered off from the main one and made a slow ascent to the foot hills above. Following this we soon reached the top of the hills after a few short pauses where Stan identified wild nut trees. After reaching the top of the first hill we immediately began to go down into the forest below. As we made our way deeper into the forest and lower in elevation the sun began to fade above the canopy. The gnats collected in large clouds along the trail. In this valley, where the trail cut between the foot hills, were concrete and rock foundations from the town that used to exist here. Near the foundations were always a few trees that had the signs of age in their large trunks. These older, thicker trees were surrounded on all sides by younger, thinner trees, evidence of clear cutting for the town. We continued to follow this valley trail as the sun beganto set and late noon turned to dusk. Just before reaching the end of the valley trail a large stag jumped out of the forest wall and hopped across the trail before disappearing into the other side. At the end of the trail was a chain-link fence that marked the edge of the property. From here we turned right and began following another uphill trail. This trail was short and dropped us off in front of a huge cliff wall that ran parallel to a large abandoned road. Just a few short steps to the right of where we emerged from the uphill trail was a large cave entrance into the side of the cliff. This, as it turned out, was a large abandoned quarry that had been mined for lime. It was settled with much excitement that we would bed down for the night in the entrance to this underworld. After setting up camp we explored what would lay behind us as we slept. The cave was massive and the light only penetrated a short distance into it. There were small bats that flew and screeched as we entered their home. Also small cricket-like insects could be seen when they hopped as they were otherwise camouflaged with the rocky cave floor. Once we were all sure this quarry wasn’t home to Bigfoot we made our way back to the tents and began cooking dinner. The nights feast included ramen, rice, and beans all cooked with boiling water. After dinner we gathered round the fire and enjoyed s’mores as Dr. Braude read a story about a Native American named Coyote. We later discovered he was the author of this enchanting tale. After the fire died down we hit the sack and went to sleep. My night was disturbed by terrifying dreams of spiders and bats crawling on my face and I awoke several times in a hot sweat only to find myself creepy-crawly free inside my tent. The morning came as it always does and we rubbed our eyes and packed up our stuff. A nice cup of warm tea settled in my stomach as we set out on the trail back to our car. On the way back we climbed up and down the side of hills that lined the border of Tyson. Towards the return trip we came across several abandoned military bunkers that were built into the sides of hills. At the end of this trail we reached the parking lot with our van in it and concluded what was a short yet memorable trip. It was obvious that this land was old and had many stories to tell, it had been exploited for minerals and used for industry yet nature always got the last laugh as it overwhelmed the man-made structures and reclaimed the land.

Entry by John Evan Lee

Tyson Research Center

After camping overnight near the cave, we took the long way back to the parking lot and were able to see the wolf enclosures. We had to be completely silent as we walked around the perimeter and it was an experience that I will never forget. In contrast to animals at the zoos, these wolves were curious and noticed us the second we got close to the outer fences. They were much smaller than I had imagined them in my mind to be. If I recall correctly, there were actually multiple species of wolves. As we walked by, the wolves stared directly at us wondering who was creeping up on their home. Sadly, we were unable to take any photos, but I will carry this memory with me forever.

Here are some photos of the cave created by mining and one of our tents at the campsite.

Entry by Thomas Kong


Our experiences at Tyson involved many different aspects to set it apart from the visit by last year’s class. On the first day, we arrived at the visitor’s center and met with one of the directors in charge of managing the park, who gave us a tour of the facility and showed us projects undertaken by previous grad students, such as one involving the testing and treatment of soil. She taught us about the Asian Tiger Mosquito and its spread across the United States, explaining to us the dangers of one small insect and the diseases it could carry. We hiked on throughout the day, exploring various glade habitats left behind from previous experiments and research, and had a fun time chucking walnuts in the name of science. Tyson was our first real experience with graduate and professional-level research projects, and one I heard about that really stuck with me was the mapping and recording of trees in the park with trunks wider than at least one’s thumb. Such an undertaking boggles my mind in terms of the sheer manpower and hours necessary to accomplish a painstaking feat of that magnitude. We eventually settled down for the night on a rocky area over by an abandoned mine, but our experiences didn’t end following day one. On the way back we briefly visited the wolves in their enclosures, and returned to the visitor’s center for lunch and team building. Together, we got into groups and constructed towers of PVC pipes, as well as other gimmicky activities with which we could bond with one another. Overall, I found the experience to be enriching, and both the fun and educational aspects of the trip remain relatively fresh in my mind as I continue on through this class and the rest of my stay here at WashU.

View from campsite (Halley Cummings, 2014)

Looking out of limestone quarry (Halley Cummings)

Entry by August Gremaud