New and Old

Two weeks into my second summer with the Casper BLM, I am struck by the simultaneous newness and familiarity of it all. Driving for hours over highly-eroded dirt roads or hiking through public lands that haven’t been inventoried since I was four years old, I am reminded of the thrill of living and working in a place with so much uninhabited land.

A year and three weeks ago, I left behind 22 years of big city life and arrived in Casper, Wyoming — where for the first time, I could walk into a coffee shop and be the only one there.

One of the things I’ve learned about working somewhere like Casper is that the abundance of open land makes the work diverse. As a hydrology technician, I do so much more than look at water. The first two weeks of this summer have consisted of a lot of planning, some map making, exploring new areas, 15+ hours of driving, a lot of mud, a Proper Functioning Condition (PFC) workshop, processing water samples, and a family of mice found in a cardboard box of sample bottles.

When every day is an adventure, the unexpected becomes the norm.

Everything isn’t always clearcut. It’s important to be flexible because plans will change. A rancher will call with a leaky pipe that needs to be fixed immediately. A 50-year rain event will render bentonite roads untravelable for days. What appears to be a 40-minute drive on a map will take an hour and a half on sketchy dirt roads. Occasionally, an afternoon hail storm will leave you fishtailing back to the office. Planning and organization can only get you so far.

It’s interesting knowing what I know from last summer and seeing new interns experience Wyoming country and all of its challenges for the first time. It’s easy to forget that I was once that person who gawked at every pronghorn and had never navigated using ownership layers. Two hours seemed like a long drive to me. I hadn’t experienced wet bentonite and barely even recognized the rocky dirt on the side of the mountain as a road my first week in the field.

These Wyoming country quirks seem so second nature to me now. Township, cattle guard, and allotment are everyday words in my vocabulary. And yet, there’s still a particular wonder about exploring new parts of Wyoming, watching baby pronghorn frolic through the fields, driving for hours without seeing another vehicle. I’ve learned a lot in the past year, but I still have a lot to learn. I look forward to all the new adventures this summer brings and all the old memories it reawakens.

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