I really didn’t expect so many new things to come with 2016. When I was still in 2015 browsing the Boise Craigslist for a new job I had rather conservative hopes for the coming months. I had no way of knowing how much change I was going to experience with the coming of 2016. Thanks to the Mt. Adams Institute I am now in scenic Joseph, Oregon working in the great outdoors. The fact that I get to work outside so much is already great, but that I get to work in areas like Hells Canyon and the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest is just icing on the cake. Oh, did I mention that the bunkhouse I get to live in is within walking distance of Wallowa Lake? It’s still a little cold to take full advantage of the outdoor opportunities in the area, but that’ll change in due time.
One of the less pleasant aspects of the area is the rather unpredictable weather. It can quickly go from warm and sunny to snowing in the same day. When out hiking for work or for pleasure I have to be ready for anything, which means a backpack at least half full of winter clothing. Another reason to have a wide selection of clothing on hand is the variety of elevations that I work in. I can be up on a mountain helping with timber or way down in the bottom of Hells Canyon inventorying allotment fences and water developments.
The weather tends to put limits on how much fieldwork can be done in the early months. A lot of the higher elevations are closed off due to snow still making the areas impassible. When there is a good day we try to take full advantage of it and spend a full day out in the field. I’ve been devoting most of my field time to the Blackmore Allotment in the Upper Imnaha area. It’s pretty steep going in a lot of areas. The elevation is typically about 2,600 feet near the river, but rises as high as 4,000 feet for some of the areas that I’ve inventoried. A lot of the terrain is inaccessible by vehicle so I tend to put in a lot of legwork on a good field day. I even get to play hide and seek with many water developments whose locations are only roughly marked on old maps. When I find them I fix their exact locations with GPS so that they can later be entered into the GIS system for easy review later.
It’s only the start of my internship here in Joseph, but I’m already enjoying myself. I’m getting to know the local people and the area itself. I’ve already seen some nice country, but once the weather warms up I’ll be able to go to some really remote areas that no one has been to in decades.