Since finishing up our MAIM plots, myself and the other interns in the Shoshone Field Office have been bouncing around a few different projects. Sagebrush mapping, livestock utilization surveys, and plant clearances have taken us all over the map- I’ve gotten to see the diversity in landscapes that this field office contains.
I’ve learned to be careful what I wish for- a few days of livestock utilization surveys in the southern part of our field office had me wishing for beautiful landscapes, diverse plants and water- then my wish came true and this type of landscape presented me with its own unique challenges…
Today I went out to conduct plant clearances- this involves going to predetermined plots to check for sensitive plant species. These plots are located where a proposed recreation trail will go near Hailey, ID so our job is to make sure the trail doesn’t go through any critical habitat for the sensitive plants. Luckily for us (and future hikers) the proposed trail goes through some beautiful country!
But, like I said earlier, this turned out to be quite the task. Fun things we encountered included-
- Swarms of thousands of grasshoppers flying into our face while tramping through sagebrush.
- Freshly rained on vegetation soaking through our shoes and pants.
- Streams hidden under vegetation (Note: Waterproof boots only stay waterproof for so long).
- Repeatedly being startled and freaking out due to snakes underfoot, birds flying out from shrubs, and giant insects landing on our arms/neck/head.
- A mini rainforest (well, it was raining at the time) in Idaho! We’re so used to being surrounded by sage that stumbling into a dense stand of trees was quite the surprise. We were loving it until we got ourselves surrounded on all sides by stinging nettle and thistle. At this point, you kind of have to pick your poison- do I walk through thistle which pokes through pants or nettle which may or may not sting through clothing?
- More hiking up steep hills literally through and over sagebrush, a feat that is easier said than done.
- Scotch thistles taller than us.
We definitely had some type 2 fun today. If you’re not familiar with the fun scale I’ll give you a quick rundown. Type 1 fun is pure, easy fun- think walking along an easy path and discovering a mountain meadow filled with a thousand beautiful wildflowers. Fun at the time and fun in retrospect. 10/10 would do again. Type 2 fun is the kind of fun that sometimes sucks at the time, think steep hiking with grass poking through your wet socks and treacherous plants at your heels. Type 2 fun has its challenging moments but is fun in retrospect and makes a good story, and you’d probably do it again.
In reality, even harder days become fun when you have another person to share it with and you can find the beauty in the little moments in the day. Our views at the top of hills were gorgeous, and we heard an elk calf bugling to its mother across the ridge. We saw a diverse array of plants as well as wildlife signs such as skeletons and tracks. Also, taking off my wet socks and boots at the end of the day was one of the more magical things I’ve experienced.
Shoshone Field Office-BLM