The words of wilderness ranger Mackenzie Baxter:
Well, these past two weeks have been great and I’m feeling very optimistic about the work I’ll be doing this coming summer.
The first week, all four of us new Mt. Adams Institute employees got a taste of the crosscut saw. We spent Wednesday in the woods and cutting logs with the trail crew from the Mt. Adams Ranger District, and I don’t think I’ve ever been more tired after that day. But I learned such an incredible amount from the hands-on experience and from the insanely knowledgeable Dean Robertson, and applied some of that learning to the next two days where we all got crosscut saw training from Bill Hawley of the Pacific Crest Trail Association. He too was full of so much knowledge- I tried my best to soak it all in. On Friday we spent the day out in the field and came back excited for the week ahead, where we travelled to meet our sponsor agencies. Jimmy and I were heading to Dufur, Oregon to be stationed at the Barlow Ranger District on the Mt. Hood National Forest while Andrew and Ryan were heading north.
On Monday morning, after a weekend of rest and recovery, Jimmy and I arrived in Dufur and met our new Forest Service supervisor, Jim Thornton. Our first couple of days were filled with preparing for and getting ready to head out into the field. On Wednesday we started the task of tackling the many trails that need logs cleared out. We started with the Post Camp trail #467.
We had cleared a couple miles of trail and were hiking out for the evening (uphill… whew!) when I passed some talus slopes and heard the call of one of my favorite animals, a pika. Pika are small mammals with short limbs and small ears and are part of the rabbit/hare family. They are found most often in higher elevations and cooler, rocky mountain climates. They are especially cool to me because they spend their summer collecting vegetation that is dried and then stored in a huge hay pile inside their den for sustenance during the winter. I had never seen a pika in real life before, but had heard them call out their high-pitched “whistle” before, so when I turned back around after hearing their call and saw one of the little guys out on the rocks, I was so excited! I took steps to get closer and closer until he noticed me and skittered off. What a great first day out on the trail!
Although we’re in for a summer of hard work, I really appreciate how, at the end of a day, I can see the tangible progress I’ve made in clearing trails so that the public have access to these immensely beautiful areas. Plus, I get to spend my summer in those same beautiful areas!