Summer’s over — Time to Go Home

It’s amusing now to reflect on the day I crossed the Oregon border for the first time. Dougherty slide is one of the first landmarks one passes when driving into Oregon from Nevada. In addition to serving motorists as part of a highway, it serves hang-gliders as a drop point – steep is an understatement. Prior to reaching the slide, we spent hours on the straight, flat highways of Nevada’s desert. After this monotony, the signs warning travelers of the slide’s impending sharp downgrade seemed implausible. Suddenly, however, we drove out of a curve and Highway 140 appeared to drop away before us.  From the summit the landscape plummets off the highway’s shoulder, impressively displaying the Lakeview Bureau of Land Management District.  At the time, however, the land I surveyed through my windshield appeared anything but familiar. The high mountains, the lack of trees, and the expansive brownness of dry ground looked nothing like the mid-west and also nothing my preconceived notions of Oregon. On this day in June, I followed 140 in to Lakeview for the first of many times. In the following months, Molly (the other CBG intern) and I drove this road to and from our work sites almost every day.  Over time its scenery, its sharps curves and its steepness over the two highest passes in Oregon became quite common place. Fittingly, in less than a week, I will drive this road one last time — back up Dougherty slide and home. As I reflect on my time in Oregon, I am most amazed at how quickly the alien ecosystems and experiences of my first few weeks here became familiar and comfortable – how I began to call this new place home.

In addition to the unfamiliarity of the landscape the people who I met on arrival in Lakeview seemed quite unfamiliar.  During my first few days, I met character after character. Later in the summer Molly and I joked that the host of transient summer seasonals, quirky supervisors, eccentric town’s people and the “boys’-club” of post-adolescent fire fighters (stereotyped of course) we met here might make for entertaining reality television. Over the summer, my home, the government trailers at the Lakeview Interagency Fire Center, formed a center for a nebulous community of non-locals. In keeping with the reality TV metaphor, the trailers functioned as a “Real World-esque” pad where strangers arrived, lived, and worked before leaving again — forging relationships that produced both drama and merriment along the way. On the day I arrived, two Hawaiian fire-fighters greeted me to let me in. Prior to that day, I’d never actually met anyone from Hawaii and my two new roommates made quite the pair. One stood tall and skinny while the other cut a more compact figure –earning him the nickname “muscle hamster” later in the summer.  The two maintained a constant, endearing banter and left our trailer noticeably quieter when they ultimately left. A few minutes later, a car pulled up and I met my roommate and crewmate, Molly. In some respects, Molly and I are opposites. She, for example, is quite quiet (especially with new people) and I, for example, am quite not. During the first few weeks, I mistook her silence for anger before learning otherwise. Building and maintaining a positive and effective working relationship with Molly may prove my most important personal growth experience of the internship. I have never spent so much continuous time with one person in my entire life and probably never will again.

For five months, Molly and I spent nearly twenty-four hours a day together – sharing a trailer camping, cooking, traveling and even grocery shopping together. This summer demonstrated that spending so much time with one person necessitates personal growth in order to remain friends at the end of the day. If communication felt strained to me at the beginning, over the course of the summer we tailored our phrasing to better understand each other. Furthermore, we learned to work through problems together – pitting ideas off each other and compromising to arrive at effective solutions. By the end, development of our non-verbal communication skills meant that we could even perform tasks without speaking at times. Our partnership forced both of us to evaluate the ways that we spoke or didn’t speak to each other so that we could work more efficiently and effectively as a team. While we learned to speak up to keep unhappiness from brewing and boiling, we also learned to let smaller grievances go – valuing the continuation of our positive working relationship over proving a point or “winning” an argument. We gained new respect for personal space  – even when we had to find this space in silence at times. Over all, I feel lucky to have found a close friend in a person who I might not have befriended or ever chanced to meet otherwise. I feel a marked absence in our trailer and at work since Molly left Lakeview for home a week ago. After spending so much time working as a team it feels weird to work alone.

On Molly's last day we got to explore the Lost Forest in search of seeds. This amazing pine forest exists with very little water in the middle of the desert -- forty miles from the next forest.

In addition to solid communication skills, Molly and I made an effective team because that our skills complemented each other. While I have experience camping and hiking, Molly holds a wealth of knowledge about Botany. By contrast, despite taking a number of biology and ecology classes as an undergraduate, my transcript exposes the noticeable absence of a botany class. Before I started my internship, for example, buying a plant guide to the Pacific Northwest never even crossed my mind and this foresight betrayed my inexperience. More importantly, without taking botany, I lacked a taxonomic basis to help identify the plants that I saw or to mentally categorize these plants when I learned their names. On my first day of work I felt over-whelmed by the sheer number of plants I needed to learn and to learn quickly. Thanks to the patience of Molly and my mentor Brennan Hauk, however, I picked up this knowledge on the job and gained a whole new skill set to take home. After only a few weeks, I could identify most of the plants I passed as I collected seed. By the time my mom visited towards the end of the summer, I felt a great sense of accomplishment as I told her not only the common names but also the scientific names of nearly all of the plants we saw.  Although a different flora covers Iowa’s prairies, I am excited to apply my new understanding of plant families to those plants communities. I also feel confident extending my botanical experience to future conservation jobs.

First snowfall time to go home.

Over all, I feel really grateful for the opportunity presented by this internship. I learned a tremendous amount about plants and disturbance ecology – invaluable knowledge as I pursue a career in conservation and land management. Moreover, as our mentor gave us progressively more freedom to plan our own schedules over the course of the summer, he pushed us to act confidently and independently in the work place – to grow capable of navigating the adult world alone (with support) and to grow up.  I improved my communication skills and made friendships as I dealt with not only Molly but everyone in the BLM office and in the greater Lakeview community. Finally, I had an awesome summer in a beautiful place that I probably never would have even visited if not for this internship. Thank you to the Lakeview BLM and CBG for everything.

Amy Hadow


Lakeview, OR

Lakeview, Oregon — a pleasant community nowhere near a Lake

Cars enter the arena at the Lake County Destruction Derby

This is my second to last blog post. At this point — close to the end of my time in Lakeview, OR — I have significant material to reflect on. I feel comfortable in Lakeview now even though, at two thousand people, it is the smallest town I that have ever lived in. To make it clear, Lakeview lacks a lake (some might argue that it also lacks a view). Drought and the human need for water have shrunk the shores of nearby Goose Lake far out of Lakeview’s view. Perched amid mountains in the high desert, Lakeview’s barren, sagebrush speckled landscape is also unlike any other place I’ve ever lived or even seen. I find it very beautiful and yet also a poignant reminder of the environmental expense we pay to satisfy our lustful reliance on water. After working here for almost five months, I now associate Lakeview with the expansive upside-down blue bowl of the sky. Without the natural and man-made structures that block it in other parts of the country, one can experience the sky here in a uniquely complete way. I find this view quite freeing and fulfilling for the soul.

After five months in Lakeview, I also feel as though I’m beginning to understand its culture — especially after attending the Lake County Fair. Lakeview hosts this event — possibly the seminal event of the town’s identity — annually. On Labor Day weekend, ranchers and revelers of all ages inundate Lakeview from the surrounding communities to show their animals, and enjoy the entertainment provided by the rodeo, fair rides, and the unusually vibrant nightlife that the fair creates. This event also serves as a family, and high school reunion, reuniting love ones from all over as well as fueling a drastic (if fleeting) upturn in the town’s economy. In September, I took full advantage of what might prove to be my singular opportunity to attend the Lake County Fair. I smelled burning rubber and heard squealing tires as I watched the local destruction derby – the fair’s most popular event. (On derby day fair-goers begin lining up more than two hours early to secure a good seat). I also went to my first rodeo – experiencing a truly western culture that is foreign to most Iowans. At the rodeo I learned to identify saddle bronc, team roping, and bull dogging amongst other events. I also learned some of the rules and traditions regulating rodeos. In one exciting moment, a cowboy competing in the roping competition knocked the open the gate constraining a bronco used in the saddle bronco riding competition. Freed of his stall, the aggravated stallion careened into the competition ring, charging everything in sight and sending anyone not on horseback fleeing from the arena. The situation took numerous mounted cowboys and about ten minutes to resolve – with the cowboys finally wrangling the wild horse and returning him to his stall.

At cowboy is thrown from a bucking bronco at the Lake County Fair Rodeo

While the last month has seen some unique cultural events, seed collection has slowed. The end of September through October falls at an awkward point in the seed ripening schedule – after most of the grasses and forbs have lost there seeds but before the sage seed has ripened. On a positive note, this gap period has given us an opportunity to explore new areas in search of different plants with ripe seeds. Lately, we have filled our days by collecting Mountain Mahogany. We stumbled upon this hidden population on one such exploration expedition. Trees present the challenge of height. Despite its somewhat shrubby form, Mountain Mahogany seeds often hang from branches way above our reach. Therefore, over the past few weeks, in addition to hiking we’ve begun climbing to reach seed populations. We often find ourselves perched atop a protruding rock or amongst sprawling Mountain Mahogany branches. I appreciate this more difficult means of reaching seeds though – it keeps things exciting.

Amy Hadow

Lakeview, OR

Bureau of Land Management

Life in the High Desert

After my previous post, Molly (another intern) and I finished monitoring and began seed collection. Despite new responsibilities our daily schedule has remained nearly the same. We arrive at work, meet with our mentor, sign out and drive the two hours between our work site – Beatty’s Butte – and the Lakeview BLM office. While spending four hours in the car everyday sometimes gets tiresome, we often meet excitement along the open road. On one occasion a dust devil ran in to the side of our vehicle. It snuck up on us from the other side of a cattle guard. By the time we saw it, we only had time to take a big breath and hold it before a whirling wall of dust smashed into our faces. Another day a cattle drive down the highway blocked our path as about two hundred head of cattle surrounded us. I have added both of these events to my list of “things that don’t happen in the Midwest.”

This never happens in Iowa.

When we arrive at our work sites we usually spend about a half an hour scouting for an appropriate place to collect seed. When we choose our site, we collect herbarium vouchers and then begin collecting the actual seeds. After only a few weeks of seed collection, Molly and I appreciate the potential of seed collection to lead us deep into thought (borderline insanity?). The other day we realized that we had begun thinking of large, seed-filled, plants as treasures. When I found myself imagining that I was pillaging plants for their seeds, I knew that it was time to take a break, look around, and reconnect with the real world for a moment. None-the-less we enjoy our jobs and love being outside!

Often we camp near our sites to avoid the drive. Camping also allows us to experience the desert in the cool light of the morning and the warm light of sunset. The desert seems like a completely different place out of the heat of the day. In the hours surrounding sunset and sunrise we’ve flushed a number of sage grouse and heard the yips of coyote pups near our tent. The other night we also saw the sun reflect off the sides of the surrounding mountains, creating a ball of light and giving the illusion of a floating lantern. We are currently trying to spread a ghost story surrounding this incident. So far no one believes us but we’re having fun.

Amy Hadow

Lakeview, OR


This is where we work!

Adventuring in the High-Desert

The decision to move to Oregon felt huge when I made it. Lakeview, Oregon seemed a world a way from my home in Iowa. As a graduation neared, however, I realized that I was ready for an adventure. As I look back now, I know that I made the right decision.

I live in the government trailers on the grounds of the Interagency Fire Center in Lakeview, Oregon with two Hawaiian fire fighters, a bat biologist, and my crewmate Molly. Combined with the archeologists living in the trailer in front of us and the other BLM-ers living in the trailer behind us, we make quite an eclectic mix. I enjoy coming home to this bustling community. Someone is almost always available to make dinner with or just talk to.

I work and live with Molly Baughman, another intern from Indiana. Molly and I split our internship time between 40/60 between fire ecology and seed collection. So far, however, we have been working almost exclusively on fire ecology portion. We work in beautiful and very remote areas. The BLM Lakeview district covers about 3 million acres so our sites are often far away. We have worked at Beatty Butte for the past four weeks. Early in our internship, we drove the two and a half hours to our sites from the Lakeview BLM office daily. Lately, with our new and improved high desert plant identification skills we have begun camping in the field and working without our supervisor to maximize our time. As a bonus we wake up to the unique beauty and though provoking isolation of sage country. We seldom see anyone else all week when camping.

As we approach our sites we start searching for the fence posts that mark individual plots. Often the initial search for our plots results in minor frustration (although we have improved with practice.) It requires a bit of luck, binoculars, time and some creative (abet cautious) driving. On our first day working without our supervisor, we turned down the wrong road and spent half a day searching in vain for a plot before realizing our mistake. Since our first attempt, we feel more familiar with the topography and have learned the importance of following maps. On that occasion, Molly ingeniously found our way by measuring out miles with a gummy bear — saving us from having to call our supervisor in defeat.

After finding our sites from the road, we hike to them and set up our transects. The transects we construct look like giant measuring-tape forks. We string sixty-meter tapes across the sage at thirty-meter intervals. Then, we walk along these and census plants at three-meter intervals using a quadrate. Through these transects, we have learned a lot about high desert plant identification. It feels really good to look around and recognize everything or almost everything that we see.

So far, it has been a great summer.

Amy Hadow

Lakeview, Oregon