Winter Wonderland

The winter has hit full throttle up here in Wenatchee, WA. My fellow intern and I both took about 6 weeks off to return to our respective homes for the holidays, filling up on good food and good company. We returned to work last week reenergized and ready to work in the field. Mother Nature thought differently. Since our return we’ve been hit with winter storm after winter storm. Just yesterday afternoon/evening it snowed 8 inches, the office even closed early due to adverse driving conditions! So..we’ve been stuck in the office more or less working on various tasks to get ready for the busy field season ahead instead.

Sitting at a chair in the office all day can get old, so every once in a while it’s good to find an activity to get a little movement in. Such as cleaning the snow off some of the field trucks.

Work vehicles covered in snow..brrrr..

View from the front door of the office

One day last week I was even able to get out into the field to assist a fellow co-worker. The BLM has several large geodatabases (GDB) that store geographic datasets and attributes using ArcGIS. There a many different GDBs that store sets of similar kinds of data, such as a GDB for noxious weeds and another for wildlife species of interest. There’s also a GDB that stores data on BLM structures such as fences, buildings, troughs, etc. This was the GDB of interest on this particular field day. Not all fences located on BLM land have been recorded and put into the structures GDB since many were built way before GDB’s were a thing so in order to get them in there someone has to go out to these BLM pieces and find the fences to mark in a GPS. Additional details such as the direction of the fence, the condition it’s in, what it’s made of, and if it contains reflectors (to make it visible to birds, specifically greater sage grouse) are also added in. Alright, now that that’s explained, back to the field day. So our mission was to set out in this particular area, known as North Douglas, to look for fences and mark them in our Trimble units. There was a good foot and a half of snow out there in the sagebrush steppe and the plan was to snowshoe, however, the top of the snow had melted and turned stiff with ice so we didn’t fall through while walking on it, except for the occasional step. Snowshoes were no longer needed and we could easily walk on the nearly two feet of snow! We spent 4 hours hiking around the hills and flats looking for fences. It was a gorgeous day despite the low temp. (maybe 15°F).

North Douglas

What made the day even cooler was that we saw two sage grouse. We used some nearby tracks and a dropping to confirm that’s what they were.

grouse or possibly dinosaur tracks


suspected grouse dropping

By the time we returned to the truck, the sun was already beginning to set and we were all completely exhausted. But not too exhausted to try out some cross country skiing real quick.

Overall, it was a great first day in the field of this new season. It’s supposed to be warming up after this weekend, so hopefully we’ll get back out there again soon.

And while walking on the snow was pretty fun, I was a little bummed about not getting to use my snowshoes, so, I went out over the weekend with a buddy and made up for it.

Snowshoed to a ridge overlooking the Wenatchee Valley.

Until next time.