VetsWork: New Friends, New Adventures, Same Place

I am currently working on my second term with AmeriCorps as an editor/writer intern. Within the past two months I have already made new friends, started a regular habit of power lifting with my AmeriCorps counterpart and roommate, and began learning about the wild world of environmental coordinators and planners. It’s a tough position assembling the odds and ends of different reports from different specialists and putting together the finished product. The work involves plenty of detail orientation and data management. You must be able to apply a holistic approach to the work that comes in and the interactions with the public because you work together with wildlife biologists, foresters, conservation groups, tribes, private land owners, botanists, archaeologists, etc. People are involved with the planning process with a wide range of focus, beliefs, ideas, and responses.

My fellow VetsWork members and I at Multnomah Falls.


I have been spending a huge part of this internship working with my supervisor – mostly desk work – indexing folders into a database for easier access as we push forward on with a project. I met my supervisor last year while working as the archaeological technician intern. The transition was smooth and the work load was planned out. One of the best aspects about the position aside from the information highway I have access to, are the opportunities to work in the field. I helped our range technician intern attempt to find some water troughs. We were able to get an awesome first hike in early in the season. We also helped out our archaeologist with a small project in Hells Canyon, it was exciting to see the Snake River once more.

Looking downhill to Dunn Creek.


It comes with a heavy heart that this blog will be my first this term and possibly my last. As of a few days ago, I was approached by another National Forest for a temporary position this summer as an archaeological technician. I’m going to miss Wallowa County and the friends I’ve made during the past year, but I’m definitely excited to continue on my career path. This is all thanks to the folks at Mt. Adams Institute, you guys rock and I appreciate everyone’s support and guidance!

Winter view of the North end of Wallowa Lake.

VetsWork: 1000 Hours In and a Month to Go. Finishing Strong.

Verna Gonzales

Over 1000 hours in and we are a little more than one month away from the end of the internship. The summer has been somewhat of a blur, but I am happy to announce that the job search has commenced and a few of those positions have been referred to the hiring manager. Just waiting on the phone call (s)… In the meantime, Tony has in store TONS of back country overnight trips which will test my physical strength, endurance, and definitely the knees.

img_20160707_113647Hells Canyon in early summer with a thunderstorm rolling in.

The views have been amazing and the people I’ve connected with are becoming bittersweet because I know I’ll have to leave soon to pursue my career and education. Let the good times roll, as the song says. I’m working hard, but hardly feel its effects as it is work that I am genuinely enjoying. The training experiences have been phenomenal. One included learning how to restore and repair historic windows.

img_20160624_064709Historic Window Training

The number one most treasured thing about the internship is being able to get a first-hand glimpse at the work involved in this Archeology position with the Forest Service. I can pick and choose the sides I like and the sides I do not like, and am able to make a clearer decision on the next steps I’ll be taking. Today I will be taking steps to help my strength and stamina for next week’s back-country trip (I’m just going on a 2 hour hike after work). Next month I will be taking tons of GIS classes to help grow my knowledge base in the technology needed for this position. Next year I hope to enroll at Adams State University for their Master’s program in Cultural Resource Management.

img_20160824_170505Mormon Flat Cabin Circa estimated early 1900s

My supervisor, Tony, has been an awesome mentor and I cannot thank him enough for putting up with all my questions. Which reminds me, for those future interns: Ask as many questions as you can possibly think of! I’m getting quite comfortable with mapping, the pace and compass method, using GPS technology, and my overall map reading skills have definitely seen some improvement. On the personal side, I was able to receive guests this summer which helped boost my mood ten-fold. Seeing familiar faces and introducing them to a little slice of heaven was definitely needed!


Partner Logo Banner

VetsWork: More than Gold – A Wealth of History in the Wallowas

Verna Gonzales

En Route to Menucha Driving on Clouds

En Route to Orientation Driving on Clouds

Taking that step in drastically changing my career path felt risky. I’ve done archaeological field work in the past, but it mostly involved curation. I haphazardly stumbled on the AmeriCorps VetsWork opportunity online and delved into work with the U.S. Forest Service. I am currently assigned to Joseph, OR at the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest. I am in the middle of nowhere and it is beautiful; a little piece of the U.S. untouched by traffic lights, major crime, and major retail stores.

Wallowa Lake

Wallowa Lake

Week one was amazing. Our initiation into the program consisted of housing all the VetsWork Interns into one bunk house filled with awkward-laughter-filled introductions, motivational talks, necessary paperwork, and outdoor activities. Best of all the first week allowed us to grow a network that will probably last a lifetime. I got to meet men and women with similar backgrounds and the greatest motivational and supporting team ever (no coaxing for me to tell you that, it’s the big hardy truth).


The Dug Bar Recreation Area

First day on the job was nerve wracking. I had not felt homesick just yet, but some anxiety definitely set in. After a few more days of learning new names, shown around the facilities, and sitting down with my sponsor to review the work plan — the anxiety was gone. The realization that you just embarked on some kind of adventure settled in and I had to get on the ball to start reading and learning as much as I possibly could. My sponsor has a wealth of knowledge and having that one-on-one interaction with someone in the field is a luxury. I get first-hand experience in the dynamics of working within the U.S. Forest Service.

Chinese Massacre Site

Site of the 1887 Chinese massacre in Wallowa County

Two and half months into the program and the homesickness kicked in. I started to experience what my sponsor called “Dog Withdrawals” (due to the fact I had to leave my dogs back home with a loved one in Colorado). Working miles away from home and temporarily departing from those you love has made me realize something I wish to pass on to future interns: Do not foist yourself into feeling that you abandoned those you love. Think of this as an opportunity for advancement. An advancement that is going to put you and those you love in a better position in life whether it be financially or just simply having the satisfaction that you are doing something you can make a difference in. I am blessed to have friends, family, and loved ones back me up on this decision 100%.

I’ve made several new friends, including the previous Archaeology Intern Cynthia Armentrout. I have gone hiking on the Wallowa Lake moraines and various other trails in the vicinity. With my sponsor, I have had the opportunity to network with numerous groups of people, getting advanced training on the Section 106 process, and how to document surveys and monitoring. I’ve learned the prehistory, proto-history, and modern history of the Nez Perce and of the region. Thanks to Ms. Bishop at Wallowology, I understand the area’s geology and I know now how to differentiate some of the trees in the area. I partook in an Introduction to NEPA course. I have gotten to camp out (in the cold and in the rain) and have even taken a ride through the Snake River on a boat a couple times. The best part is being able to get out in the open and visit all the archaeological and historic sites.


Kirkwood Ranch

In the future, I hope to utilize the training that my sponsor, coworkers, and mentors have bestowed on me and push forward in a career in Cultural Resource Management (CRM) or Archaeology. The potential of doing what I love, learning and getting out in the field is turning out to be a dream career possibility.

Morraine Hike

Partner Logo Banner