About dmnarem

I am an intern working at the BLM office in Lakeview, OR.

From Oregon to California

Who knew that beautiful mountains and forest existed immediately north of the L.A. suburbs? Probably lots of people know that; I was not one of them. Driving from the north into L.A., I was flabbergasted by the dramatic beauty of the San Gabriel Mountains. The dramatic peaks and valleys stretch out on either side of the highway. Seen from a distance the chaparral ecosystem that covers them has unique shapes and colors, very distinct from other mountains. The overall effect is breathtaking.

Before coming down to L.A., my original CLM internship position was located in southern Oregon in a small town at a BLM office. I went from that to a suburb of Los Angeles working for the Forest Service. The change was extreme, but I have enjoyed learning a whole new set of skills and the inner workings of another government agency. The hectic pace of a city put me off at first, but once I became accustomed to the sheer amount of humanity I began to like it. Plus, you can’t beat the convenience of living in an urban area.

I am working on the weed crew, doing invasive weed removal in the area of the Angeles Forest that was burned by the Station Fire two years ago. The work consists of hiking into canyons, following drainages and pulling invasive plant species by hand. Although the job is physically demanding, it is extremely rewarding.

So Long Lakeview

I suppose it’s a good thing when I say that this internship has flown by. The time passed so quickly, but I don’t feel like it escaped me. I feel as if I took advantage of the opportunities this internship and the locality offered. Through my job, I was able to see amazing landscapes in remote areas that very few people ever see. On the weekends, I did my own traveling, mostly around Oregon. I treated these weekends like adventures, pushing my physical and mental boundaries, and I ended up making great memories with some great people.

I thoroughly enjoyed the duties I was assigned this summer. I was excited to go out in the field almost every day. The best part of the job was that my fellow intern and I were given the chance to work without supervision. We both liked having the responsibility and freedom that comes with planning our day. The trust that my mentor and the other members in the office had in me boosted my confidence. I am continuing on to a short-term position in L.A. after this, and I feel no apprehension though the work and the city will be completely new experiences for me.

I just want to say thank you to all the people that make the CLM internship possible!

Mahoghany Butte-iful

Oregon is a large state made up of a gradient starting with the huge pine forests on the west to sagebrush steppe on the east. I can tell from observing the reactions of visitors to the area and those who look at my photos from Lakeview that the bleakness of the high desert in fall is not attractive to everybody. The majestic beauty of pine stands impresses the average person, while the stark beauty of the high desert may be lost upon them. This time of year it is especially easy to dismiss the splendor of southeast Oregon, when everything but the shrubs and junipers have said their goodbyes and turned a hopeless shade of blonde. Maybe because I grew up on the prairie, making me partial to empty horizons, but the beauty of the high desert continues to amaze me everyday.

The sagebrush steppe may seem like an endless homogeneous ecosystem, but upon closer look there are numerous distinct micro-ecosystems. The extremely varied geology of this area creates semi-isolated pockets with their own specific soil types, and microclimates, allowing for an array of unique places to develop.

Among these unique places is a formation called Mahoghany Butte. At first glance there is nothing remarkable about this compared to the other buttes it is nestled between. It is a large, regular, butte-shaped, covered in grasses, rocks, and sagebrush. However, on closer inspection of the very top of this butte one sees a dark patch. This patch is a very old mountain mahoghany forest that crowns the butte at 6800 ft, and barely spills over the edges. This shrub has grown to 12 to 15 feet making it the tallest thing for miles. Looking out over the area, one can see nothing similar to it, and the recruitment for new mountain mahoghany seedlings lower on the butte seems to be quite low. The isolated forest is one of Mother Nature’s mysteries. I am sure that with a little soil and climate inspection the forest could be readily explained. But on top of the butte, surrounded by the twisted mountain mahoghany limbs and the feathery seeds, shimmering in the sun, the place feels almost magical.

Mahoghany Butte from a distance

A view from the top of Mahoghany Butte

In the "forest"

Settling In

As August rolls around, Lakeview, OR is feeling more like home. Work has become routine, collecting seed, filling out data sheets, and sending seeds off. My fellow intern and I have exceeded our seed collection quota, and still continue to bring in more everyday. At this point, I feel like I have one of the least stressful jobs out there; at least, it’s the least stressful job I have ever had.

It’s not only work that has me relaxed. My social circle in Lakeview has expanded enough to keep me more than busy. Between Thursdays at the Eagle’s Nest, weekend travels, and Monday barbecues with the fire crew, I have little free time on my hands. When I do, I try to play guitar or chip away at the job application block. Often these productive activities are pushed aside in order to watch the favorite sitcom of the trailer community, How I Met Your Mother.

I have continued to explore Oregon. During the second weekend of August I made a quick trip up to the coast, visiting Newport and Depot Bay. Although it was not the first time I had seen it, the west coast took my breath away. The beach stretches for miles in spots, fading melding into the ocean before disappearing in the distance. Newport, Oregon has a phenomenal beach where constant winds have blown the sand into large dunes, four to five feet high. A friend and I did not let these cushy, mattress-like formations go to waste. Sleeping bags in toe, we had an old fashioned camp out on the beach. I woke up a few times in the night, confused and a bit panicked until I heard the soothing sound of the waves, and saw the stars overhead. It sure as hell beat paying for a hotel room.

All in all, life is good out West.

Newport Beach

July already?

The days are flying by on the west side of the country. Working ten-hour days in the hot sun make the weeks jet past, while the weekends fill up with their own time-crushing diversions.

July started off with a bang for me at the High Sierra Music Festival, and a hang gliding flight. I followed that up with a trip back home to South Dakota the next weekend. After so much traveling I was excited to spend some quality time in the field and in my trailer.

At work seed collecting season is in full swing. The pressure is on to meet the ARRA collection requirements of the internship because most of the species on our target list mature within the same three weeks. This is no time for slacking. Calluses have begun forming between the pointer fingers and thumbs on my hands, and I’m running out of music to listen to on my iPod, but a feeling of satisfaction comes after each collection is complete. Although stripping seeds from plants might not be the most exciting activity of the internship, it makes me feel productive to know restoration work will be the direct results from my actions. It has also given me the opportunity to really explore the large Lakeview BLM resource area. The diversity of landscapes in southern Oregon continues to amaze me.

As July comes to an end, I find myself wishing summer would slow down (well, maybe not between the hours of seven to five).

The Black Hills

The lengths I'll go to collect seeds!

Expectations, First Impressions

The initial excitement of accepting the intern position in Lakeview, Oregon, accompanied a feeling of ambivalence about moving to a remote town with a population of 2,500. I am in no position to feel superior to a rural lifestyle. I was raised in the country, attended high school in a town of 4,500 and spent the past four and a half years of my life in a Brookings, South Dakota, a university town of 20,000 (not counting the students). I am from South Dakota; a state with more cows that people. What I actually felt nervous about was leaving the life I had established in South Dakota, leaving my friends and family, and venturing out west on my own.

Although I was anxious about the move, I was absolutely stoked about the job. I recognize that I am one of the fortunate college graduates entering a paid position in their career field. I would just like to thank the stimulus money (ARRA), the SOS program, the Chicago Botanic Garden, the BLM and the Academy for this great opportunity. I have been given the chance to apply the knowledge that I have so laboriously crammed into my skull the past four and a half years. In addition, the whole making money instead of spending money part appeals to me.

Fast forward to my first month in Lakeview. Every day I find a new reason to like it here. The establishments in this town are classic; from the Adele convenience store filled with more animal heads than a Cabela’s to the local diner complete with mismatched chairs and homemade carrot cake. The people are classic too. Friendliness is not an optional personality trait in Lakeview: it’s a requirement. Strangers will literally yell something out to you on the street, if they think it’s pertinent, and pertinent is a relative term. For example, one day I walked past an old man washing his car in the heat of the afternoon. He offered, “a shower“ from his water hose. I politely declined. He muttered, not too softly, “chicken” and sniggered at me.

My job has turned out to be as wonderful as I had hoped. To put it simply, I get paid to walk around and identify plants all day. As I am one of those rare souls who enjoy physical labor, and keying out plants, I can’t wait to hike the field sites each day. The sagebrush steppe of eastern Oregon is a completely new ecosystem to me, and the landscapes are breathtaking. There are flat basins with lakes that exist one month, and the next are a torrent of dust devils, plateaus of solid sagebrush that seem more like forest than steppe to my 5’2” frame, distant mountains, pine forests, exposed fault lines and sassy creeks that wind through jagged valleys. This job has me excited to go to work each day.

I know this job won’t be all unicorns and rainbows forever. But lets hope the novelty doesn’t wear off too quickly. My mentor had a great response after the third day when I exclaimed, “Getting paid to be outside all day? Geez, this job is awesome!” He replied, “Yeah, it’s great. Let’s hope you’re still saying that by the end of the September. “ All I could do was laugh and agree.