Sayonara, Susanville!

At the beginning of June I was fresh out of college with a fully packed car, ready to drive west across the country for the first time, eager to see places that had only been flat names on a map come to life, and unsure of how living in the wild west would feel. Sure enough, there were some frightening parts including rattlesnakes, marijuana gardens, forest fires, bears, and large boulders hiding behind sagebrush on barely drivable roads. Along my journey to Susanville, CA I gained a deeper appreciation for the vast expanse of our beautiful, diverse country. My first day at the office I eagerly walked in wearing a t-shirt and trail running shoes. I soon learned that the basalt rocks in Lassen county will absolutely rip your tread to shreds, and that the sun is so strong that wearing a t-shirt means you’ll be getting some irreversible tan lines. It is not possible to imagine how big the sky feels out west. Before becoming a CLM intern I’d never seen cheat grass or medusa head. The concept of a dry lake had never been illustrated to me in person. I had never gone more than three months, let alone three weeks without rain in the summer. I had also never hiked through snow pack in July, or seen flakes fall and accumulate on the first weekend in October. I have measured more JUOC trees than I ever imagined I would. I have gained a better understanding of how our land use practices have left us with the landscape we see today. I have seen how “natural” beef and wild horses can truly wreck the landscape and demolish natural springs. I have puzzled over a fair number of water rights, and wondered, how was this huge earthen dam constructed out here (and why)? I have had the pleasure of watching sage grouse flush out of the shrubs, coming across elegant Calochortus sp. blooming, witnessing pronghorn racing across the sage flats, and seeing some very cute Astragalus sp. growing in the dry sand. I have seen beautiful springs in the middle of the desert, and also helped clean up special designated shooting ranges with more shot gun shells and pieces of target clay than sage brush. I learned that unlike in the east, fences in the west are used to keep things out. I have a better understanding of range, and how trees are marked for timber cuts. My 22 weekends were spent on various trips adventuring to some of the country’s most well known outdoor recreation areas and some of the most beautiful places I have ever been. The past month I have had the chance to help with education outreach and visit with 4th grade classes at Lassen county elementary schools for the Every Kid in a Park initiative from the Obama administration, which gives every 4th grader a free annual pass to visit national parks. Visiting children, telling them about what the BLM does, and getting them excited to hopefully use their park pass has been a great part of my last month here, and gives me hope that we can help encourage the next generation to cherish and care for our public lands.

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