With only weeks to go in this internship I feel it is important to reflect on my experiences and what I am grateful for. For the past ten months or so I have been all over the Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest conducting invasive species treatments, inventories, and rock pit surveys from highway 542 to Mt. Rainer National park. In July the temperature reached 100 degrees and most of my time was spent hauling an herbicide backpack sprayer around in an attempt to slowly eradicate noxious weeds. In all, I treated over 100 different infestations. At times, weeks were blocked out on my calendar with somewhere to be and usually something to kill. For this I am thankful. I got to see many places here that I had never been. I stood at the top of Artist Point and basked in the absolute majesty of the Shuksan-Baker area, rafted the Sauk River looking for knotweed, and stood near the base of Mt. Rainier and watched the White River as it slowly deposited mass amounts of glacial till. You might recall from my last blog that I had hoped to get a picture of a black bear and a cougar. While I didn’t manage to get my camera out, I did come across both species.
None of this could have happened if it wasn’t for a lot of people. First I would like to thank my girlfriend Tasha. Without her help and understanding I would not have even taken this internship. She moved 350 miles from where we lived, where she grew up, to allow me this opportunity. This year she took care of our daughter Kadence, had to make do yet another year with very little income, and lived at my mother’s house in Snohomish while I was away most of the time working. I also owe my mother thanks for letting them live with her for the year.
The staff at the Mt. Adams Institute are really the people who put these internships into motion. All of them, Aaron, Laura, Katie, and Brendan put forth a lot of effort to see that we as interns had all the support needed to accomplish our missions. In the army there are core values that are hammered into you at basic training. One of those values is selfless service. These people have this value in spades.
Finally, everyone I have met here in the Forest Service, particularly the Botany team, has been more than friendly and helpful. Shauna, my supervisor and north zone botanist, has been particularly helpful. While I suspect that she knows virtually everything about botany and the Forest Service in general, she won’t always answer my questions outright. Instead, she would sometimes give me just enough of a push in the right direction for me to figure out the problem myself. I find that knowledge gained in this fashion sticks with you longer than more conventional methods. And of course I can’t forget Carrie, the south zone botanist, and Kevin, the ecology and botany program manager, for all their help and guidance in both the office and field settings.
For those that are reading this blog from somewhere other than the Mt. Adams Institute website you should know that this internship is made possible in part by AmeriCorps. I mentioned in a previous blog that even after nearly 8 years of military service and two bachelor’s degrees, I searched for any environmental government position, from the municipal to federal level, for a year and a half and wasn’t even offered an interview for a single job. Then I came across the Mt. Adams Institutes’ Vetswork program and everything fell into place.This program is designed to give veterans experience working in conservation, natural resources, and ecological fields. I now feel that I have the experience and connections to officially start the career that I have been slowly making progress on since I graduated high school. It seems that the hardest part is just getting your foot in the door.
If you are a veteran and are reading this with interest thinking, “I want to do that!” I say to you, “You can!” The Mt. Adams institute recently posted next year’s internships on their website, www.mtadamsinstitute.com. They are now taking applications for positions across Washington and Oregon in Forests such as, the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie, Wallowa-Whitman, Umatilla, Deschutes, and Mt. Hood as well as Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument, Leavenworth National Fish Hatchery, and King County Conservation. There will also be opportunities for internships in Missouri, Virginia, and North Carolina coming soon.