At 6:30 am on the morning of February 9th I got in my truck and headed out to my new job site at the Darrington Ranger Station. Darrington, a small logging town nestled on the Mountain Loop Highway in the thick of Washington State’s Cascade Mountains, doesn’t have much in the way of amenities. What it does offer are beautiful views of Whitehorse Mountain, access to the Sauk, Skagit, Suiattle, and Stillaguamish rivers, and tons of hiking trails and campgrounds. This area is an anglers dream and I am instantly frustrated when I arrive knowing that the fishing season doesn’t even open for another four months. Until then I will scout along these frothing tangles of rivers for the best fishing holes and mark them with my GPS as I go.
At the ranger station I meet with my new colleagues and am delighted to discover that everyone I am introduced to seems genuinely happy to meet me and I am inundated with offers of help with anything I may need. My supervisor has given me every opportunity to succeed here and at the same time, the space I need to get things done. She flat out said that she will treat me as if I am a fully integrated member of the Forest Service. I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor.
As the first month passed I began to feel more and more comfortable with my role here, which expanded almost as soon as I arrived. Within a couple weeks I went from being just the Invasive Species Specialist Intern to the Invasive Species Specialist Intern and Pesticide Use Coordinator. It is really hard to say and I have to concentrate whenever it comes out of my mouth. Let’s just call it the ISSIPUC, after all, the Forest Service is a federal agency and we all know how much the government loves using acronyms.
North Fork of the Stillaguamish River
Another great thing about this internship is that I am allowed, encouraged even, to attend virtually any training I want for personal or career development. Free of charge, to me at least. In the first month I have taken ArcGIS courses, got licensed to apply restricted use pesticides, and received my government driver’s license. Oh yeah, gadgets and equipment are another perk. I hadn’t been here long enough to learn everyone’s names and I was handed a Garmin GPS, a Canon Powershot D20, a Trimble PDA thingy, a SPOT satellite GPS messenger, a laptop, a radio, keys to a nice pickup truck, and a microscope. Ok, I’ll admit, the microscope was probably already at the desk and used by someone much more scientifically savvy than myself, but I still think it is cool.
Old Sauk Trail
So now I am sitting at my desk, staring at one of my two computer screens, listening to the Mariners spring training broadcast, and typing this blog. Soon the field season will begin and I will finally have the opportunity to see much more of the forest and build some additional marketable skills that will continue to contribute to my ability to obtain a full-time permanent job. This is something that may not be possible without the Mt. Adams Institute VetsWork program, AmeriCorps, and my wonderful colleagues and supervisor at the Forest Service. For that, I am grateful.
View from trail at the confluence of the White Chuck and Sauk Rivers