Today marks the beginning of my seventh week in Washington, and I must say this is one of the grandest states I have ever visited. Phoenix, Arizona, which is home for me, is pretty brown and dry, however Washington has offered endless greenery and beautiful summer days. Here at Conboy Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Glenwood, I am a Refuge Technician. My fencing compadre, Nate, and I build and repair barbed-wire fences that border the public lands in order to keep the ever-present open range cattle from destroying refuge habitats. We are first assigned a fence to assess its damage, after which we gather equipment to make it whole again. By now, I have learned how to stay clear of our sometimes-dangerous fencing tools, but I wasn’t as lucky in the beginning of my term. I’ll definitely be taking some intimidating scars back to Phoenix, courtesy of the sharp barbs. From time to time, I also work alongside some local high-schoolers. This encourages, as AmeriCorps values state, that the community remain engaged. Also, I’ve officially been on a frog hunt, where we catch invasive bullfrogs that are endangering the Oregon Spotted Frog population.
Fences aren’t the only part of my season here though! When I am not working, I’ve been able to fill my time with lots of fun and recreation. I took a trip to Twin Harbors State Park in June, where I witnessed big sandy beaches, a small fishing community, and families gathering for fireworks at dusk. Nate and I also backpacked 20 miles in the Goat Rocks Wilderness. It was such a peaceful and serene setting there that reminded me of a storybook, each landscape more beautiful than the last. Additionally, I’ve been able to make some friends that I join at the local poetry slam and enjoy a cold drink every so often. Finally, I went rafting down the White Salmon River this past weekend, where we washed over and into the largest commercially rafted waterfall in the lower 48. It’s safe to say I’m really enjoying my time in Washington.
I think the things I value most about being here are the wide-open spaces and disconnect from city life. I have come to realize that we over-stimulate ourselves in urban settings and move at a pace much faster than necessary. I’m really hoping to bring this “take is easy” lesson back to Phoenix with me. I’m positive I have grown personally and gotten to know myself better in the last seven weeks, and am optimistic about the continued self-discovery to come. I have also become more aware of the complexities of our environment as a whole. Humans have barely chipped the iceberg when it comes to understanding Earth’s natural systems, yet I learn something new every day, just about ecology.
From maintaining the refuge, to recreating, to learning, my service in AmeriCorps has been a great opportunity thus far. It not only serves the community I’m surrounded by, but myself as well. I can’t wait to see what adventures this place holds for me in the future.