BLM Housing in Pinedale, WY

Places you must go in Pinedale:

1). The PAC (Pinedale Aquatic Center). This place is huge, with brand new equipment, pools and courts. I loved working out here and wish I had purchased a membership sooner.

2). Pinedale Community Food Basket. From clothes and shoes to kitchenware and appliances, this is a thrift store that a seasonal worker like yourself will learn to love and appreciate.

3). The Great Outdoor Shop. Need I say more?

4). The Wind River Brewery. Excellent food; a little on the pricey side compared to your Applebees or T.G.I Fridays, but it is well worth it.

4). Boondocks Pizza.

Nearby trailheads you should research/visit/hike out of: Big Sandy, Boulder, New Fork Lakes, Green River Lakes, Elkhart Park.


These are the BLM modular homes offered to seasonal workers. Next door is the BLM ware-yard, where supplies such as trucks, snowmobiles, UTVs and miscellaneous gear are stored. Your trash is also just inside the gates of the ware-yard — the disposal service is included in your rental fee.



This park is practically in your back yard.

You will not see a lot of raccoons, but mule deer and moose that have become very accustomed to humans will appear outside your house every once in a while, and roam through the parks often.

Inside of the housing unit:


all utilities and WiFi included in the rental fee


There are some real classic movies on VHS. The house does not have a VHS player. though. It may be worth to buy one from a thrift store to enjoy these fantastic films.


Located just off of Pine St (the main road), you will be walking distance from just about anything and everything that downtown Pinedale has to offer, including the BLM office.


Ridley’s Family Market. This is the only “superstore” in Pinedale. It is, therefore, very likely that you will buy the majority of your groceries and other household items here.



The Wind River Brewery has the best burgers and sweet potato fries in town — I recommend this restaurant to anyone who comes into Pinedale. This gem is just two blocks from the BLM housing unit.

Inside the BLM office:

It's dark and cold and never sees the sunlight.

It’s dark and cold and never sees the sunlight. It’s where they store the interns.

Elkhart Park Trailhead: Cook Lakes Loop and Titcomb Basin

My 40 degree bag was not cutting it up in the Winds. Most recommend bringing a 20 – 0 degree rated bag at least. Without making a bank-breaking investment in a mountaineering sleeping bag, I purchased this Thermolite Fleece Liner for a fraction of the cost. I was so impressed that I felt compelled to add this to the blog. Not only was I not shivering at night, but I was WARM — very warm. Finally I felt the revitalizing impact of a good nights sleep before another day of hiking. I would recommend this liner to anyone –lightweight, and easy to pack.


Photographer’s Point


there is one stream crossing among others of note–across Pole Creek


Cook Lake


north of Cook Lake



top of Lester Pass



Island Lake




A JetBoil is another piece of gear that I feel is well worth the cost if you plan to backpack frequently. This is the “Flash” system. I loved the luxury of warm oatmeal in the morning and delicious backpacker meals in the evening. P.S. When cooking oatmeal, boil the water first, and THEN add the oatmeal and let sit. I made the mistake of throwing it all in at once. Trust me, just do not do that.


Island Lake was my favorite destination of the trip, and of all that I have seen here in Wyoming thus far. White, sandy beaches on the edges of sheer rock faces and alpine lakes. Peaceful and relaxed, we spent a few hours at this beach soaking up the rays, napping, snacking and fishing.




Titcomb Basin

Titcomb Basin

Explore More.

Happy Trails 🙂

Val Stacey
Pinedale, WY

Lynx/Snowshoe Hare Habitat Surveys

Our last and final day monitoring amphibian habitat was a success. The last allotment was located in an area that was surrounded by a private landowner who did not permit us access on their roads. To get around this obstacle, our only option was to drive on a National Forest road and hike in through the woods a few miles to get to the point. I know, so unfortunate, right?




Enveloped with willows, the slow moving streams and creeks were jumping with Boreal Toads: a relieving and hopeful site to see this sensitive species doing well and as hoppy as ever.


juvenile Borel Toad


adult Boreal Toad


Fun Fact: Each toad has a unique spotting pattern, like a fingerprint. Researchers can photograph the underside to identify individuals (without cutting their toes off)!

Check out this site to learn more! :


It’s a good thing they stand out so well in the foliage …

All of our data is collected and inputed into the database. For now, we will leave it be until it is time to write the report once the weather turns on us in October. We are moving on to our next project — Lynx and Snowshoe Hare Habitat Assessments.

Across BLM land are a number of aspen (Populus tremuloides) stands that have been burned or “treated.” Aspen stands often get choked out by spruce and fir trees. Ecologically, is this a bad thing? I cannot say. But I do know that underneath a dense, mature spruce stand lies a whole ‘lotta nothing. A combination of blankets of acidic needles and almost complete, constant shade results in a barren and unproductive understory. When the focus is to support large herbivores, mainly elk, these kinds of stands serve little purpose. A rich understory of young aspen saplings, shrubs, forbs and grasses is like one, huge salad-bar for herbivores. Additionally, no understory means no refuge for Snowshoe Hare, and no Snowshoe Hare means no Lynx.


A stand burned 3 years ago

As Lynx rely heavily on Snowshoe Hare for food, our habitat assessments are mostly catered to their desires and needs for a good home. A number of sites were identified in a grid-like pattern, using rebar and flagging, throughout both burned stands (treatment) and unburned stands (control).


Within a 22 inch radius, Snowshoe Hare pellets are searched for and counted.


Snowshoe Hare pellets

At each of the four cardinal directions, we estimate the “horizontal cover,” which is a way for us to quantify how dense the understory is (how much refuge and forage for hares).


horizontal cover board

We also calculate the density of seedlings(<1cm DBH)/saplings(1-4cm)/mature(>4cm DBH) trees. Consequently, it is imperative that we are able to identify the different species of common trees at all life stages.

Lynx also feed on squirrels, so we look for and take note of any sign (visual or audio). Where a squirrel has used a tree stump or log to tear open the cone, they call this a “plucking post.” It looks like this :


plucking post

Where they have cached tons of cones, large mats are formed by the sheds. There are often visible holes where they have stored the cones :




a closer look

I am really enjoying this new project as I learn and see new things every day. The woods feels like home to me; I am so grateful to be in this field of study and work.


moose track





Val Stacey

Pinedale, WY

Hailey Pass – Washakie Pass Loop: Big Sandy Trailhead

  • A special note to future CLMers in Pinedale: go to the Great Outdoors Shop and ask about this loop — they can tell you all about it and supply you with any maps or accessories you need. You have to do this hike while you’re here!

“This was the best I have seen of the Winds,” claimed Lara (she does a lot of hiking around WY area). I feel so very fortunate to have her as a friend/partner in crime/hiking guru. I learned so much from her this past weekend, and look forward to the continuation of our adventures.

This is a “lollipop” loop trail, about 34 miles in total. Unless you are like Lara and I, who just can’t help but hike off course to see some of the other pristine lakes in the area (recommended), or get kind of lost every now and then, you should plan for 40.

Passing up and over two mountain saddles, crossing a number of streams, scrambling across a boulder field, along bountiful alpine lakes and forests, meadows and basins, this hike holds the absolute beauty of the Wind River Range for the adventurous spirits.

If I were to do this hike again, I would love to spend at least 4 or 5 days in order to smell all of the flowers and spend more time fishing the lakes. However, we only had one weekend, and Lara is a bit crazy, so she convinced me that we could do this in 2.5 days.


The first 6-7 miles gently roles uphill in a dense, shaded pine/spruce/fir forest, then through a meadow sprinkled with boulders and trees with a backdrop of the mountains that faithfully await you.


Dad’s lake is the first major landmark you will reach, about 6 miles in. Follow signs toward Marm’s Lake and Pyramid Lake.


This is Trigger. He technically belongs to Lara but I wish he lived with me.



You will see Pyramid Peak and Mount Hooker ahead. Before the lake is a junction that takes you up to Hailey’s Pass, marked with a wooden sign on the ground. Dumbfounded with the views ahead and unaware of our pace, we cruised right by the sign. Staying straight will take you up to Pyramid Lake, around 3 miles there and back to the junction. This lake was absolutely gorgeous, a must see for this hike in my opinion. So, I was glad we missed the turn off point. I would even suggest camping here if you have time. If you don’t’ have time, you should create some and stay.


The ascent to Hailey’s Pass is steep, but the views surrounding you will keep your feet moving.



top of Hailey’s Pass

Also very steep is the decent, with a loose-gravel trail that winds down the east side of the pass. With the weight of your pack and heavy winds, your adrenaline is sure to kick-in high gear. Bring your trekking poles for this one! Or grab a walking stick before the climb.



Lacking trekking poles, this really was the best way to crawl down without injury, for us. I tried to stay on my two feet and was humbled to the ground twice. Continuously I was being teased by the views and tempted to look up and out over the pass. Each time I would lose my footing and slip.  My pants became gluteless-chaps in this process. Literally, the backside of my pants was ripped off. This was the only pair I brought, so I decided to follow and not lead the rest of the trip out of curtesy.

Slowly but steadily, you will make it.


IMG_6693 IMG_6696 IMG_6700

Our goal was to make it to Grave Lake to camp, but again got a bit side-tracked. We ended up on the wrong side of the stream about a half mile from where we should have crossed to continue on. The sun was about to set and we felt exhausted, so we pitched camp along a creek with Grave Lake as our first destination in the morning.

Shortly after you cross the creek is a sign for Baptiste Lake just 1.6 miles away. Lara gave me this puppy-eyed look and asked what I thought. In her head I know she was thinking please say yes, please say yes! We stood there for a while just staring at the junction, and finally decided to go for it.



Baptiste Lake



Grave Lake


Grave Lake

Who told you that there were no beaches in Wyoming?


We were surprised by a boulder field around the side of Grave Lake. It was a challenge, but we were more concerned for Trigger than anything. After watching him bounce from boulder to boulder with ease, we realized he was much better off than we were.

Washakie Pass

Washakie Pass



view from the top of Washakie

After Washakie Pass and back to the junction at Skull Lake, you will have completed the “lollipop” of the loop and will finish out the way you came in.


Happy Trails

Val Stacey

Pinedale, WY

3 Months In

I am falling more in love with this part of the country each day, and believe that anyone who enjoys the outdoors would. My appreciation for BLM/public lands continues to evolve as I discover the hidden gems of the vast landscapes. I felt this gratitude especially on our trip to Canyonlands National Park, UT (see other post). Just outside of a state park lies a chunk of BLM land. The views were breathtaking, we were the only two people within miles, and it was free. I hope that those kinds of places will continue to be untouched by development for posterity to enjoy.

We are just about finished with our amphibian habitat project and will soon be assigned to a new one — Pygmy Rabbit and Lynx Surveys are in our imminent future. I also have had the chance to work with the rangeland management team, completing utilization forms and meeting with the ranchers that are permitted cattle grazing on BLM land. These utilization forms are a way for the range specialists to see whether or not an area is being overgrazed or, over utilized. This process is coordinated with the ranchers or their contractors, and is a cooperative effort to manage the grazed land in a more sustainable way. Our rangeland technician was calling out a dozen species of grasses with ease, and I felt fortunate to have learned a few of them. Slowly but surely, the flora of the West is becoming familiar.

We have also had the opportunity to join a project that is working to identify and eradicate cheatgrass populations, an abundant invasive grass.

I am currently reading Edward Wilson’s Consilience, and want to share a few of my favorite quotes thus far, as I found them to be both insightful and relevant to the work that we do.

“The economics of sustainable yield is still a primitive art, and the psychological benefits of natural ecosystems are almost wholly unexplored”


“We must understand nature, both around us and within ourselves, in order to set humanity on the course of self-improvement.”


“A balanced perspective cannot be acquired by studying disciplines in pieces but through pursuit of the consilience among them.”


“Every college student should be able to answer the following question: What is the relation between science and the humanities, and how is it important for human welfare?”


E.O. Wilson



Val Stacey

Pinedale, WY

Pinedale, WY to Grand Junction, CO and Canyonlands National Park, UT: A Photo Journey


I caught this little chipmunk in my Frito’s chip bag, cheeks full


Congratulations to my co-worker and friend, Lara, for finishing her SECOND UltraMarathon, 33.3 miles, placing 3rd and beating her previous time by nearly an hour! You Rock, Lara.


This hike in Canyonlands was stunning and you should definitely do it if in the area. Make sure to bring at least a gallon of water for yourself, especially if you go in the summer!



rock scrambles into the canyon





an epic camping spot on BLM land near Dead Horse Point State Park


Screen Shot 2016-08-08 at 11.35.06 AM

Life is Good



Val Stacey

Pinedale, WY

4th of July in Lander, WY

CLM interns came from Buffalo, WY and Pinedale to celebrate the 4th of July with those in Lander. Jack came all the way from Taos, New Mexico! Lander is a unique small town in Wyoming. With the presence of the National Outdoor Leadership School, Lander attracts a younger crowd of folks from all across the nation. There is a great Thai food restaurant (among many others) and a lively night life.


If you like Thai food — this place was fantastic!

Rock climbing and bouldering is a popular recreation activity, one that I had yet to try before my visit. I only made it up a couple of the easier routes we climbed, but the mental and physical exercise was fulfilling, and the feeling at the top was remarkably gratifying. I look forward to practicing this sport more often.


Saturday night led our crew of seasonal workers into the WInds.


One guitar and many good friends in the wilderness of the mountains created a night full of story-telling and laughter. Kumbaya was never on our playlist, but some of the group’s favorite songs echoed through our camp site as we sat around the fire. Yes, “Wagon Wheel” was the first one that came to mind for us, too. We roasted marshmallows and feasted on smores. We learned things about each other that were not allowed to leave the fire circle that night. We fell asleep to the sounds of the rushing river below us, and woke up to a peaceful sunrise over the lake.


The morning of the 4th started off with the parade / water fight. As the floats, trucks, people and animals walk by with proud advertisement, water balloons flew from every direction. Many people even had super-soaker water guns. By no surprise, the Lander Fire Department won by a landslide. Every once in a while, some of us would bravely run out in the street, scrambling to grab Tootsie-Rolls and Fruities (no children were harmed).

After the parade, a few of us walked to the grocery store, where we filled a shopping cart with all of the necessities for a summer weekend cook-out. We all gathered outside of the apartment in the courtyard where the festivities began and lasted all afternoon. So many good people and good vibes; I could not have asked for a better way to celebrate.


The grill-master and MVP of the weekend, Ryan

IMG_1847Many left in the afternoon to head back home; a bitter-sweet departure. With a few hours of daylight left, Rachael, Jack and I decided to go for a bouldering/hiking adventure back into Sinks Canyon. We hiked up to Sinks Falls, where there is a 15-foot natural slide into a pool of ice-cold water. I remember sitting at the top, thinking to myself, “why are we doing this!?” After one slight movement, gravity and loss-of-friction takes over, and there is no going back. Soon the cold water induces a scream as we came up for air, swimming a bit faster than usual to get back on shore. That submerge felt so incredibly refreshing and revitalizing, I remember thinking, “yes, this is why we do this.” 


Though our fireworks could not compete with our neighbors, it was great fun to run around the streets with sparklers, snappers and fountains. One of the “flying” rockets we lit off was suppose to go into the air and spin rapidly. Instead, it fell to its side and shot off in the direction we were all standing. We all ran away frantically, a mix of fear and gut-wrenching laughter. I was overcome and filled with child-like joy.

After our shenanigans in the streets, we grabbed a bag of chips, our sweatshirts and blankets and headed up to the roof of the apartment to watch the rest of the show.


Fireworks light up the sky around the entire city of Lander on the 4th of July. It was by far the most entertaining and extraordinary firework show I have ever seen. From the neighborhood streets to the fairgrounds, friends and family set up their stations for hours of colorful fire and explosions. Words truly cannot do this 4th of July celebration justice — a must see if you are ever in this part of the country for the holiday.

To future interns — if you are worried or concerned about being “in the middle of nowhere,” know that so many are in the same place as you. With a little planning and out-reach, you can create an incredible weekend of adventure and make good friends along the way. I cannot wait to go back to Lander and visit. However, this weekend is Rendezvous Weekend in Pinedale! Activities all day and all night long outside from Thursday – Friday.


A quest for toads is a revelation of forbs

We are still working on our amphibian habitat assessment project for our mentor, recently surveying excellent wetland habitat : natural streams, rivers and marshes. We have yet to find another toad since the first one spotted, but we have found many other forms of life — uncovering what hides underneath the willow thickets one site at a time.



There is an extraordinary abundance of wildflowers in sagebrush country — you will be able to identify many new families and species by the time your internship is over. I never appreciated botany in the way that I do now.



When I first arrived, one of the administrative staff members told me that there were moose everywhere, and that I was sure to see one soon.

Well, two months later, today I finally saw my first moose …


For the record, many of my co-workers have spotted moose (alive and well). I think I am just not doing something right.

Elkhart Park Trailhead to Poles Creek Lakes

Elkhart Park Trailhead is easily accessed off the top of Skyline Drive, a completely paved road leading to a multitude of hikes into the Wind River Range.

This one is an out – and – back hike — about 10 miles roundtrip. On the way there is a steady yet relaxed incline, making the way back feel like a nice stroll through the woods.

If you’re in the mood for a good dose of wilderness and solitude that is more than doable in one day, with fantastic views and unique flora and fauna, then I would highly recommend this hike.

I came to the trailhead a bit later than usual, around 1 PM, with no expectations other than to find a nice place to camp out for the night. I was pleasantly surprised.

Park at the Elkhart Park Trailhead lot. There will be a sign directing you to the “Poles Creek Trail” — take that one.


The first few miles is heavily trafficked; be prepared to come across other humans, dogs and horses for the first 2-3 miles.


You will pass through a series of mature spruce-pine forests and open meadows, blanketed with lush green vegetation and beautiful wildflowers. Keep an ear out for American Three-toed Woodpeckers and warblers in the forests.


Follow signs for Pole’s Creek Lakes, Photographer’s Point and/or Eklund Lake.


4.5 miles in, you will reach what is called “Photographer’s Point” (for good reason). You can’t miss it — there will be a steeper incline up to the rock outcrops where you will approach expansive views of the Wind River Range. I recommend staying here for a while, a great place to enjoy that apple or granola bar you brought along for a snack.


From here, the trail will continue on down a bit through a mix of forested swampy areas. I think it is only fair to mention that the mosquitos could be bothersome depending on when you go — I recommend wearing long pants and a breathable long-sleeve shirt.


About a quarter of a mile past Photographer’s Point, you will come to a large open field with two small lakes on either side of the trail. Continue straight. (There is also another lake further to your right that you can overlook just a few hundred steps away).


Shortly after you head back into the woods, another sign will point you to Pole’s Creek Lakes and you will veer to the right toward the lake. I decided to stop at this point as it gave me plenty of time to set up camp, collect wood for the night, and explore the surrounding area. You could make this a turn-around point, or, if you wanted to continue on, this trail will lead you to the popular destination, Seneca Lake.


There are many small campsites off the trail (between 200-500 feet) that already have stone pits set up for a warming campfire.


If you are planning on camping/hiking out here often, make sure to have a sleeping bag rated at 20 degrees, or a sleeping system that will keep you warm and toasty when it often drops to freezing (or slightly above) at night. For this outing, I brought my 40-degree sleeping bag, a sleeping pad and one-person bivy, as well as warm base layers. Next to a fire, I was not shivering, and plenty warm to make it through the chill of the night. However, I was quite restless most of the night and wished I had a warmer sleeping bag or an extra liner.


This was my first time using this bivy, and I have to say that I really enjoyed it. My favorite quality is the plastic window and screened ventilation. With just the screen over my head, I stayed up for hours watching the night sky — I have never seen so many stars in my entire life. Looking up, I forgot that I was cold at all (or paranoid of bears). It is a moment that empties you of any thoughts or worries and fills you with simple, beautiful awe.


I was fortunate to not encounter any rain or storms during my stay. Once the sun fell,  I was a bit stunned by the near complete silence that surrounded me. You could hear a bundle of pine needles float to the forest floor. No chorus of insects or frogs, no wind — only the still of absence of sound.


Wake up with the birds, and head back over to Photographer’s Point for the sunrise. Enjoy the rest of your hike down in the tranquility of the morning.

Happy Trails!