Week 1 at the Manti-La Sal National Forest

I made the 14-hour journey from the lush green of Oregon to the vibrant reds of the Moab, Utah desert. Such strikingly different landscapes but both equally enthralling. After about 48 hours, of which I spent unpacking, familiarizing myself with the town, and hiking to streams to beat the heat, I began work. 

A creek I swam in with a view of the national forest I would soon be working in.

Over the next 5 months I will be working in the Manti-La Sal National Forest collecting seeds. I started a few weeks later than my co-intern because of my college graduation (woohoo!) so it felt as though I was a little behind. My first day consisted of completing the required trainings and after we got into the fun stuff.

Since I was coming into things a little late, my co-intern and supervisor had already scouted for our first seed we were going to collect. We were looking for the Utah Sweetvetch (Hedysarum boreale). The Utah Sweetvetch was easy to distinguish between other similar plant species due to its constricted pods, broken into separate sections. After about an hour in the field we were able to identify a massive population, much of which was ready to collect. We spent about 2 more hours collecting seeds and were able to collect about 24,000 seeds my first day. The following day we were able to collect 20,000 more. 

After two days collecting seed at lower elevation on an exposed landscape, we were recruited up to higher elevation. The recreation crew for the Manti-La Sal needed bodies to help with a large fence project around a lake in the La Sal’s. Much of the La Sal’s have free range cattle which have a tendency to get into everything, a problem I am familiar with from rural Oregon but did not expect to run into here. We were tasked with taking down the existing barbed wire fence that surrounded a small lake and its campground. The fence was in disrepair due to the winter months at high elevation as well as the nosy cattle. A portion of the fence ran through boggy areas surrounding the lake as well as patches of stinging nettle that managed to make contact with my wrists despite my long sleeve shirt and gloves. Both the wet boots and itching wrists were a welcome tradeoff for the cooler temperatures. We spent nearly two days taking apart this fence and were all hugely satisfied to unwrap the last piece of barbed wire from the final t-post. The fence will now be rebuilt with t-post 3 feet closer together for more support and we will all cross our fingers and hope that this year’s snowpack and cattle don’t destroy it again.

My first week of work, although I am exhausted and welcomed the weekend with open arms, has me stoked for the rest of the season. I can’t wait to explore more of the Manti-La Sal NF and my new desert home!