Public Lands Stewards: Where Did the Summer Go?

by | Land Stewards

My one person tent and the Alpine Lakes Wilderness have become my home and I am not ready to let either of them go. These past few months have been a whirlwind of adventures. There are only a dozen or so lakes that I have yet to visit and only a few trails that I have not hiked and worked on. I am going to miss talking with PCT hikers who’s cups are almost always full of positive energy and gratitude towards my cohorts and me. I will miss getting stuck in rain storms and even digging the occasional pit toilet. I’ve been blessed this summer and am thankful for our forests and the opportunities I’m having while working as a wilderness ranger. I am going to miss having the forest as my office and pray that I can make it my office again someday.

Instead of watching the blue angels fly overhead and hydroplanes race across Lake Washington on Seafair weekend I got to summit Mount St. Helens in search of native mountain goats for the annual Mount St. Helens Institute training and survey. Ten groups of surveyors spread out across the Mount St Helens monument with binoculars and telescopes. Each group was given three plots where they’d search far and near for goats. All the groups searched for goats at the same time for an hour at each plot to avoid double counting goats. Plot one was at 7 am, plot two at 9am and plot 3 at 11am. Unfortunately, my group and I had no luck in finding goats but we were able to summit the volcano and peer down into the crater. Crazy to think that Mount St. Helens was the most destructive volcano in US history and is still an active volcano.  I might not have found any goats but the people in my group were awesome, goofy and full of fun facts about Helens and many other things, like goats. Did you know that mountain goats are not actually goats? They are in the goat-antelope subfamily. Their hooves are cloven with soft pads in the middle and sharp outer edges that allow them to stand on tiny ledges. If you haven’t seen what they can climb I’d recommend you look up a video of them scrambling up rock faces as gracefully as Spiderman can climb buildings. Mountain goats have white wooly double coats that allow them to withstand -50 degree Fahrenheit weather and 100 mph winds and also camouflage in with the snow. Sadly their wooly coats were unable to protect them from the eruption in 1980 that ended up being the most destructive volcano in US history, wiping out the entire mountain goat population in the area taking the lives of 57 people. Luckily the mountain goats have been making a comeback after being reintroduced to Mount St. Helens and there are now over 250 goats roaming around the monument.