What a week!

This week has really been the best week that I have had so far in Southern Oregon. The weather has been somewhat cooperating and has made it awesome for weekend activities.

Last weekend I went to Crater Lake National Park. I went with the intent to do two short hikes and enjoy lunch on the rim over looking the lake. I however was not aware that there was going to be over 20 feet of snow covering most of the roads in the park.

Well the best thing you can do in a situation like that is to adapt and to overcome. So naturally in the spirit of fun and adventure, when the park ranger offered up snow shoes to rent, I did a 5 mile snow shoe trek around the rim of Crater Lake. And let me tell you the views were incredible, the sun burn afterwards not so fun.

The next day was Earth Day and there was an event in Ashland, OR that the BLM had a booth and their salmon tent set up at. So I volunteered to help out with it. Having kids come up and play for hours in the costumes, and wait in line to go into the salmon tent to have a story read to them is such a great way to spend the day. It was a super rewarding way to have fun and interact with the local community.

Then this week allowed me to have a pretty incredible random experience………….. I got to meet elephants. That’s right. Elephants. I got to feed elephants. I got to pet elephants. I got to shake trunks with elephants. It was the most incredible chance encounter ever.

I had to cross private land in order to reach a rare plant survey plot that I needed to get done that day. So I called up the resident and he was more than happy to let me come and park my car and walk across his land to get there. When I arrive at his property, he tells me he runs an exotic animal farm so not to be alarmed if I heard any elephants. And naturally I was very confused and I’m pretty sure my mouth dropped to the floor. He laughed and invited me to meet his two elephants. Honestly what amazing creatures to have in your backyard.

And that has easily been the best week so far.

Sierra Sampson

Medford, Oregon BLM

Medford, Oregon

In my first about week and a half, I have seen some of the beauty that lies in southern Oregon. 

A hike into the lower table rock shows vast landscapes, with beautiful views of the rogue river, farmland, and mountains in the clouds.

The table rocks are some geologically interesting formations that are left over lava flows that have been eroded away into horseshoe shapes, leaving about a mile on top of flat fertile land that is covered in vernal pools.

A Calypso orchid (Calypso bulbosa), found on a hillside in the Applegate.

We saw several around the area in bud, this was the only one in full flower. Absolutely beautiful.

A recent wildfire in the Applegate, that is helping to rebirth this forest.

In this area the western pine beetle, is extremely prevalent. Fires like these help to encourage the bug to attack these fire dead trees rather than healthy ones.

We passed some serious Morel mushroom hunters, that really take their off road vehicles seriously.

Insect tube, most likely from the western pine beetle.

This week has been filled with  training, and adjusting to the work schedule. I have found that the Medford area is quite a hip and trendy place. There is tons for me to do in my off time. I have also begun studying for my Oregon pesticide certification. This promises to be an eventful summer


Sierra Sampson

Medford, OR BLM



Final Thoughts

You don’t know what you don’t know- has pretty much been the motto of the summer. The amount of knowledge, both botanical and general, this summer has just been incredible. To illustrate this I have a pretty funny story from the beginning of the summer…..

It was during the second week of our internship, and it was me and my partner’s first day out in the field alone. We were doing some rare plant monitoring and we were working off of directions from a map, well neither of us had done any work like this before and working in the west was a completely new experience for us both.

Well we were coming up to one of the populations and we were driving up a dirt road, and all of a sudden right in the middle of the road was a fence. We had no idea what to do. We got out of the truck and looked at the fence and we were just shocked. How could someone just fence right across the road? It was crazy.

So we got back in the truck and drove back to the office ready to tell our mentor about this ridiculous fence that prevented us from getting to the rare plants.

When we retold this to our mentor she began to laugh and laugh, and we were so confused because how was a fence funny? I mean it was right in the middle of the road, blocking us from where we needed to go! When she finally calmed down, she told us it was a gate and all we had to do was open.

Needless to say we spent the next day going out with our mentor opening and closing different types of gates. But you simply don’t know what you don’t know! Looking back on this memory is easily one of the funniest memories from the summer, and really shows how much we learn.

Cheers to the rest of the interns still left out there!

Sierra Sampson

Salmon ID BLM

The Weather Has Turned

Fall is upon us here in Idaho, and by fall I mean winter has come in full force. It seems like we had just one day of beautiful leaves changing color and then all of a sudden the frost hit hard.


The winter this week has given us snow up in our hills, the line being at about 6,500ft. And hitting us in the valley with no fun snow, but rather the less than stellar freezing temps of 30-40 degrees.


The weather turning has changed the way that we are starting to view the last little bit of our season. With these cool temps and precipitation the need to be properly prepared in the field is something that we are struggling with. So used to the hot summer temps that we are forgetting to add that extra layer, to pack those gloves, to trade our baseball hats for stocking caps



But with the cold weather and snow brings some absolutely breathtaking views of the mountains. It seems like a fair trade off for the cold.


-Sierra Sampson

Salmon, Idaho BLM


Taking a part in the community

Over the weekend, here in Salmon, Idaho -where if you didn’t know is the birth place of Sacajawea- there was a Heritage Days festival celebrating her life history and impact on the local Native American population.

The BLM here like to takes an active role in their community, and thus we had a booth set up to work at the festival. I volunteered to help work at it because we were going to be a tent that read stories to children, and I love to work with children.

Fish tent 2

Me as a blue jay

We set up this really extravagant tent that was shaped just like a fish. It was about 30ft in length and stood about 15ft tall. It was ginormous. There was a zipper on the tail and on the mouth. We would walk into the fish through the tail and we would bring in all the children and I would tell them a story about the salmon life cycle and then when it was finished we would leave out of the mouth of the fish.

fish tent

Me as a turtle

But the funnest part was that we had all of these animal costumes that someone had made for the tent that were amazingly fun. Everything from a mushroom, to a thunder bird and the kids (and myself) absolutely loved them. They were a blast to play in.

Not only that but we also had a fish painting station for the kids and a sand station where they could make animal tracks. Needless to say we were one of the most popular set ups at the festival.

Fish tent 3

Me as a mushroom


Over all it was an amazing day interacting with the local community, and it was a blast playing with the children and teaching them about the salmon.


Sierra Sampson

Salmon, Idaho BLM

Trading the Sagebrush for the Forest

Hey all!

This has been a great week in the Salmon, Idaho BLM office because we got to trade our normal work for the forestry tech work.


The biggest tree we found- a DBH of 67.1″


It was quite a nice break to try doing another job. The forestry work was a lot of data measurements, and it involved hiking up so massive hills with some radically steep inclines. It was tough work but we got it done.IMG_7395

And as a trade off we got to take the forestry techs out on one of our collection days. That way they could see what our job entails as well. We collected bluebunch wheat grass and we were very thankful for the set of extra hands on the site to help us with a difficult collection. They in the end, decided that they much more preferred the sanctity of the cooler temperature that the forest canopy provides, and didn’t want to be out in the open sage heat as often as we were.


It was a nice week of shared learning experiences, and a gain of new job perspective within the field office.

Hope you guys finish out the summer strong!

-Sierra Sampson


SOS!…….Help, with the SOS Collections

Hoping that everyone is having a wonderful summer so far!

Being stationed at the BLM in Salmon, ID as the first CLM interns in the office means that everyone is just as lost in the protocol for SOS as we are. While the workshop at the gardens helped to ease some of the confusion, going out for our first time to collect with no one but ourselves seemed like a daunting task.

Luckily the week before the workshop we went on a tour of our field office with the Idaho State Botanist, Ann DeBolt and we mentioned to her that part of our internship was to do SOS collections. She thought it was great that we were able to help out with the program. We told her that we were a little weary of starting the collections, and she had the brilliant idea to send us help.

Dick and Sandy are retirees that have been working with the SOS program in Boise, for 6 years and counting. Both have had a lifelong affair with nature. Dick worked for his whole career in the Forest Service, and Sandy’s career has been as a Botanist. Needless to say, they really know their plants. Thankfully they were able to drive up to Salmon, and stay for a few days to help us do collections.


With their knowledge we were able to do four collections in just 2 days, and on top of that they scouted out several other sites with in our field office that would make prime collection sites. They filled the day with tips on pressing plants, soil testing, and specimen collections, they entertained us with delightful stories about their time in Idaho and their time working in the government. And their trusty side kick Casey the golden retriever gave us some much needed dog snuggles.

With their help we are now much more confident with our SOS skills, and I fully believe that this summer would not go as smoothly if it wasn’t for their initial guidance and help. Thanks again guys!

Happy collecting everyone!


Sierra Sampson

BLM- Salmon, ID