VetsWork: “Winter Came Quick – As Did the End of this Internship.”

The transformation from summer to fall was perfect, winter came quick – as did the end of this internship.  I’ve appreciated the moments of solitude in my work and in my travels to/from work as well.  The extremes of big projects, planning, team work, collaborating and finishing vs. quietly working in the carpenter shop, walking through the forest looking for signs and clues to add up, on a trail, a house or in the dark in a crawl space with fiberglass and 6-legged wood-hungry friends is actually quite nice; its the variety that this internship has given me.  Thematically, MAI asks about and prods us to reflect upon ourselves and integrate this into our experience.  I’ve used this many times, to help center and strategically place myself along this sort of fairy tale experience I’ve been having.

  Through all of our POD meetings/trainings and discussions with the VetsWork group it is apparent that you get what you put into it.  I came into this program as apprehensive as the rest of you blank faces at Menucha, scratching our heads playing Laura’s F.A.I.s, Forced Awkward Interaction exercises.  My experiences have all been backed by total enthusiasm and meaningful intention on MAI’s part, positive support from my cohorts and supervisors and family.  MAI has had my back the entire way and I’m quite grateful for their support, the program and the good work they’re accomplishing.
For all of you future VetsWork members: do not let the job description fool you!  This is not a job, it is an experience and it is what you make it!  Fortunately the program was long enough for me to get my legs about me and make the most of what it is after a few months in.  I had my doubts and hesitations about continuing on. I’m sure glad I did when you get to do things like…

 checking in on the weather station at Mt. Hood Ski Bowl upper bowl past our historic warming hut. Had to make sure the carbs were working ok on the sleds (they were).

up the hill

 Up the mountain we go, hmm hmm

sled shed
ZZ Carp shop, fixing snow mobiles

99′ Yamaha 2-Stroke
warming shelter
Destination: weather station (air quality monitoring)
monitor station

Inside we have a series of 4 filtration systems monitoring/measuring and storing the data for different particulates and levels.  This is one of 110 aerosol visibility monitoring stations selected to provide regionally-representative coverage and data for 155 different Class I federally protected areas (Wilderness). This is part of an EPA program, stemming from the clean air act, called IMPROVE – Interagency Monitoring of Protected Visual Environments.

Fire Bldg Roof 2015
One of our roof jobs on the Fire Whs in Parkdale

tree on truck

One of the many casualties in the November wind storms

LaDee Flats Project

Running one of the many machines we’d rented for some OHV trail work up at Ladee Flats on the Clackamas River RD. This particular one is a CanyCom, essentially a tracked ride-on hydraulically tilted wheel barrow.

This trail and the entirety of the OHV area here is a great example of project follow through – this is/was a long time coming.  This project has exchanged “owners” a few times, been through many revisions, delays and various hold ups.  Tons of collaboration go into these types of projects: the public, NEPA, private contractors, FS employees and volunteers, local resources, grants/funding from multiple agencies, training opportunities…etc

The scope of simply “building a trail” is not so near-sighted and thanks to the good work and follow through from the USFS, these sorts of projects get done for the sole purpose of the public having a good time out there.

As a father and husband leaving a full time job to try this on for size was a pretty big leap; the back of my mind always occupied with the words “but what about a job”.  This, for me, was a great way to learn about how a forest is managed and how that is brought upon the districts themselves – and where in that picture I’d like to focus my own efforts on a career path.  On top of that, I can say that as a direct result of this program and what you put into it, myself (and many of the other VetsWork Interns) have some great job opportunities.  To any of you Vets out there considering getting involved with the USFS and/or another federal lands agency, you owe it to yourself to check out this program.  There are many benefits to a sanctioned program like this, personally as well as professionally and the good folks at the Mt. Adams Institute are as sincere and good natured as they come.  These sorts of partnerships are so beneficial to everyone involved I’d expect to see them grow quite a bit in the future; especially with a vested alumni base and the word continuing to get out there from the good work all of VetsWork is doing.  Oh and no one even offered me so much as a stick of gum to write this.

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VetsWork: Berries, Hunters & Bees, Oh my!

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Almost 7 full weeks of production from my blackberries! We usually get pretty creative by the time things wrap up – freezing, tarts, yogurt n’ berries, pies, jams and of course the pick n’ go anytime you want. One of the great things about these lovely little guys is that most folks around the metro area seem to be sick of them – they grow everywhere.

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Why pay $3 per pint when you get walk around and grab yourself free berries by the pound!

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The survey tech’s checklist: map, compass, GPS, radio, sunflower seeds, sunglasses, field notebook, camera and a vest so as not to get an arrow stuck in your back by the anxious camouflaged hunters sitting in trees. I put in another round of survey’s for our East zone Archaeologist for the Rocky project.

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These have nothing at all to do with my internship other than the fact I thought a few of you may appreciate yet another PNW rarity: the cobra lily. Darlingtonia Californica as its known lives only in a few isolated pockets in Oregon – this particular bog and preserve along the coast just north of Florence (Chelsea probably knows these!) being one of them. My oldest son stared at them for about 30 minutes just waiting for one to grow a mouth, reach up and snatch one of the unsuspecting insects in the area. 🙂

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Still plugging away at the facilities side of things. What we thought was a quarter-sized hole to add a little spackling to turned out to be a sizeable bee/wasp nest of yesteryear.

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Had the opportunity to chaperone one of the many Cascade Mountain School (CMS) camps in August. This particular camp was called Farm to Table Bike camp: it was 4 days of Trout Lake Valley biking, farm visits, full circle food discussions, games and good eats with the middle schoolers from the French American school in Portland.   Broadfork hosted us and I can say without a doubt that everyone had a spectacular time.

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Hard to take selfies of yourself swimming but this place was one of the special ones I visited more than once. Punchbowl falls just outside of Dee, Oregon. Great place to cool off (or chill yourself to the bone) in the west fork of Hood river . I’m not going to post up all the pictures that we took during our last POD meeting, as I don’t want to steal any future thunder some may have in store for us all. I will say that Jimmy totally killed it as host of the last west-side POD a few weeks ago –Thanks Jonathan for frying up those kings, so tasty!

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VetsWork: Mt. Hood’s Beautiful East-side

With our incredibly sunny/warm Spring season it seemed impossible not to notice all the awesome flowering going on everywhere!  For the months of May and June (some of July) I’ve been and will be spending my time out on the Hood River and Barlow Districts of Mt. Hood.



Much of the initial work I was doing out here consisted of capturing all the campgrounds (condition surveys) which entailed traveling, essentially, the entire east side of Mt. Hood.  The meadows out here are intense. I’m very much in love with the east side!


The folks out here are warm/welcoming and have afforded me opportunities for which I’m very grateful.  I’ve worked a little bit with the east-side archaeologist and have some more survey work coming in July. This has been a special treat for me as it connects another avenue from my past to present that I’ve long since visited.


Enjoy Vetswork!  Nature is good!


VetsWork: Building a Yurt in the Mt. Hood National Forest


Things are going well here at Mt. Hood.  Most of the work has been pretty similar in nature and facilities focused.  We did go through some INFRA/NRM software training to learn the ropes of surveying campgrounds and updating the results from those surveys.  Spring fever is rampant and wonderful, the forest is a delightful place to spend time – here are some pictures from the last few weeks.  It’s been a treat to get outside on my days off – and an important part of tying in the big picture of what all Forest Service work(ers) bring to the table.

Built a yurt up at Trillium Lake, that was lots of fun.


Replaced some toilets


Did some surveying with T-Bone



Luigi takincareobidnazz out back 1141 – cutting out concrete for a little foundation drain diversion/swell around the house.


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