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  • Andrew Pritchard

January 14-16th 2020 | Vegas Desert Business Casual Hike

For my work as an agricultural meteorologist with Nutrien Ag Solutions, I get the luxury of spending much of the winter and early spring months of Jan, Feb, Mar on the road playing "traveling meteorologist". During the winter off-season many ag/farm conferences, expos, meetings, what-have-you take place allowing folks to reflect on the past year, share trade secrets, and plan for the coming season.

My role is essentially to do that same thing, but focused on weather. Recap the last year - what made it a win, or in the case of 2019, what made it so awful? I'll talk about disruptive weather patterns in high production ag areas, specifically, what do they look like, and what are some of the warning signs we're typically looking for when we put together seasonal forecasts for 2-3 weeks and beyond. Then, digesting all that, I'll give my best guess as to where the pattern is headed as we go into another growing season. It's at that moment that I'm most thankful to be working alongside Eric Snodgrass, who is among the best at digesting all of the factors that go into making a long-range weather forecast.

I was invited to speak at the 2020 Potato Expo which was hosted in Las Vegas, Nevada this year. I was excited about the opportunity for many reasons. First, this was the first potato-centric conference I'd attended and I was very excited for the exposure to that industry.

I don't come from a farming background. I grew up surrounded by them, dated a farmer's daughter through high school, and grew up under the wings of Ed Kieser who fostered a wonderful relationship with the local ag community. But at the end of the day, attending these conferences and meetings are my way of keeping a finger on the pulse of what is keeping these folks up at night.

Playing the role of traveling meteorologist is a lot of fun, and getting out of the office and spending a little time on the road is often what the doctor ordered during the dead of winter in the Midwest. But it comes with challenges, too. It's no a vacation. In fact, I'm still handing all the typical forecasting duties that I'd be handling back at the office. But now I'm trying to fit those into a travel schedule, whether it be catching morning flights or needing to hit the road early, or perhaps squeeze it in before I've got to present at the conference. Then there's the work putting things together. The weather is always changing, so unfortunately this isn't a default slide deck that can be recycled for every meeting.

So all the regularly scheduled weather forecasting work, plus putting together and presenting the show, combined with travel time. I'm a family guy too, and while it's always nice to get away and get some quiet, it usually only takes until I'm laying down in my hotel bed for the first night that I kind of start to miss my crew back at home. It leads to a lot of exhaustion, and if I'm not careful, can even trigger some of the anxiety and low-grade depression issues that I've battled. It's a tricky balance.

All of this is to say that while I was mostly busy while in Vegas, I did find time to sneak away for the final evening and do a little exploring. Perhaps not the type of exploring that most might choose when in Vegas. No, I didn't map my way to the nearest Casino - instead I found the nearest trail that would take me into the mountains.

First, per suggestion, I hit up the nearest In-And-Out for my first I/O burger. Worth the hype. And there are times I'll admit that a burger doesn't pass the hype - Whataburger.

So after overstuffing myself with a pair of double doubles and a shake, I hit the Oak Creek Trail which no, was not in Red Rock Canyon State Park. I only had a couple of hours to explore and after being overstimulated by travel and conference duties, I wanted serenity. So instead of picking a potentially more crowded state park and potentially having to pay entry fees, I picked this quiet little trail.

The other wonky thing here - I pack as light as possible. That meant I brought one pair of shoes, the shoes I wore over here, my leather business casual shoes. Super comfortable, great for wearing all day when I need to look decent. But I wouldn't say I was prepared for hiking in the desert.

Still, I made it work. What a fantastic hike. I only passed a few other folks, which was just what this introvert needed. The sun was shining, which made the afternoon high temperature of 60 degrees feel great. Once the sun went behind the mountains though, a chill hit the air. My face turned rosy and the sniffles set in.

Part of me wanted to stick around for the sunlight to disappear and the desert stars to pop, but I had a 2:30 AM alarm coming up to catch my flight home the next morning so I made my way back to the hotel. The original Ghost Busters was on TV when I got back, which was all the distraction and sleep-zapping fun I needed.

Here are a few photos from my walk down the Oak Creek Trail outside of Las Vegas, Nevada:

Gorgeous view high atop what was a gloomy departure morning in central Illinois:

Time to carb up pre-hike:

The road leading to the trail:

It was a business casual hike, remember:

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SKYDRAMA | Meteorologist & Atmospheric Photographer Andrew Pritchard

I'm a meteorologist born and raised in the American Midwest passionate about forecasting and observing severe storms.

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