My bicycle is knee deep in mud. The snowline on the nearby mountains is closer than the previous day. The abandoned track has been softened by the stomping of cattle. After an hour of pushing my loaded bike half a mile through the mud, I begin the task of setting up camp. The only suitable configuration in which to pitch my tree tent is over a swamp.
Balancing over several logs, my tent is finally set. It is almost midnight and just as I am nestled in my bag falling asleep, my boots, which were hanging from my tent by rope, splash into the muck below. As I get down to retrieve them, freezing rain begins to fall. Thus far, the carefully planned expedition seems to be hampered by fluctuating weather.
As I continue to ride back to headquarters, I travel along a roadside permanent seepage and stop to take a closer look. There, a male crane fly is hanging from the wet moss. Close inspection reveals a surprise: it is a flightless species. Through time, the species lost the ability to fly and its wings, although present, have deteriorated to small nobs. As I look around I find a female, a remarkable find as this is one of the few known species of flightless crane flies in the country.
Flightless crane fly silhouette
At that moment, it is raining again. My bicycle is sideways in a ditch, I am hunched over behind a large ditch weed, my hands are full of mushy moss dripping mud onto my pant legs, and my face is inches away from the seepage.
Suddenly, a vehicle appears and slows down. The driver lowers his window and asks if I need assistance. I turn around and reply euphorically, “I found a strange fly!”
With a furrowed brow he asks, “Flies? Like… maggots?”
“YES, like maggots!” I replied.
The driver’s eyes open wide as his chin touches his neck. “Ok?..”
He slowly begins to drive away from the grinning man in bright clothes stomping in a watery ditch looking for “maggots”.
New discoveries happen in unexpected places and with an open mind, every expedition is a success.