Wild About Utah: Reinhard Jockel, naturalist
Naturalists are fading. They have been replaced by specialists- botanists, ornithologists, entomologists, geologists, or one of many other natural resource specialists. I consider myself a naturalist, or generalist. I have high interest in all of these disciplines, but do not consider myself an expert on any of them.
I’ve met a handful of other naturalists in Utah, but they are an endangered species. A few weeks ago we lost one here in Cache Valley. Reinhard Jockel was our version of John Muir. He came from Germany in the 1950s as a teenager for better educational opportunities.
I first met Reinhard in the late 1980s. Living in a tiny second story apartment, he chose a bike and boots as his only mode of transportation. With a long beard, thick German accent, and antiquated outdoor equipment including a wooden hiking staff, Reindard became a local legend. Many birders and botanists befriended him for his local knowledge, which he was very willing to share and was awarded the Bridgerland Audubon educator award in 2012. Another contribution came from the detailed, meticulous records he kept on blooming dates for many wildflowers and migratory birds, a treasure trove of data on life’s response to our a changing climate.
Reinhard’s passion for nature’s offerings knew no boundaries. Although he only lacked a few credits to attain a PhD in botany, Reinhard abandoned his studies at UC Berkley and headed back to Cache Valley Utah to resume his independent field studies in our valley and mountains. I was one of the benefactors.
As a backcountry Ranger in the Naomi and Wellsville Wilderness, Reinhard often joined me for a free ride to his beloved mountains. I welcomed him knowing he would add to my knowledge base on all wildlife and plants we encountered- birds, butterflies, wildflowers, tiger salamanders, leopard frogs- whatever might cross our paths. In our years together, we kept track of the dwindling populations of pica and amphibians, goshawks, and a few other species of special concern.
Occasionally we would happen onto a rarity that made Reinhard dance with delight. Following a long, rigorous hike into the high country of Naomi wilderness, we found ourselves at the base of Mt. Elmer cliffs. “An Alp lily”! His excitement couldn’t be contained. This beauty is circumpolar found in high latitudes and altitudes around the globe. It reminded him of his homeland alpine heights.
Another discovery came on our hike into Whitepine Lake above Tony Grove. Reinhard was ecstatic to discovered a Whipple’s penstemon growing along the trail, a delicious surprise! Others came- orchids, gentians, new butterfly and bird species expanded my list.
Two weeks ago, Reinhard became part of his beloved earth in the Logan cemetery. He has good company with 58 species of birds recorded within its confines. The Bridgerland Audubon has planned a Reinhard memorial bird outing 9 am on February 5th beginning at his grave. Seemore detail on our bridgerlandaudubon.org website. Jack Greene, and I’m totally wild about Utah!
Sound credit: Kevin Colver.