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.
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.
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.
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.