Wow, where do I even begin?! I have seen and done so many things in the past two weeks it’s difficult to pick and choose which ones to tell you all about. Today I’ll write a little blurb about my road trip to my work site, and a little bit more about my first few days on the job.

Before leaving, the thought of driving from Wisconsin to Washington solo was quite daunting.  However, after it’s all said and done, I’m really glad I did it. Being on the road for five days alone was extremely liberating; I got to stop whenever I wanted, see everything I wanted to see, and do anything I wanted to do, without fear or apprehension thinking of whomever may have been accompanying me. Since I’m a disc golfer, I used my favorite hobby as a springboard for my adventures. One of the many great aspects of disc golf is that you get to explore a park or natural area in particular city (and usually for free!), while at the same time get to meet the local people and chat with and ask them recommendations for other things to see and do in the area. I ended up disc golfing in four different cities and meeting some nice locals along the way!

 

Left: Spearfish Canyon Disc Golf Course – Spearfish, SD; Right: Blue Mountain Disc Golf Course – Missoula, MT

 

During my road trip I also made it a point to go off-course slightly when I could to see and experience some of our country’s great national parks. My favorite driving stretch of the entire 2,500 mile trip was when I drove through Bighorn National Forest in Wyoming. The ride up the mountains was filled with switchbacks and turnoffs with beautiful views of forests as far as one could see. When I was just about at the top, I saw a sign for a fishing and recreation area called Sibley Lake, so I decided to pull off and eat lunch there. That was one of the best decisions of my trip. Being an avid fisherman, I had to at least take a few casts and attempt to catch some trout that were advertised as residing in the lake. I asked a really sweet local couple for some tips, and after a few casts I caught a nice rainbow trout. Even though there wasn’t much size to him, the locals called my catch “A beautiful fish!” I completely agreed. I ended up catching a few more trout (all catch and release!) before hitting the road again. This is just one of the many highlights of my road trip that I will never forget. I am so grateful to have had this opportunity and I would recommend it to anyone. In fact, I feel like it should be a rite of passage as an American citizen, to get two weeks on the road to explore the country by oneself. After all, this land is your land and this land is my land.

 

 

Left: Sibley Lake, Bighorn National Forest; Right: Big Horn Basin, Bighorn National Forest – Wyoming

I arrived to my site this week in Marblemount, Washington. My first official day with the National Park Service as the North Cascade’s Butterfly Biologist was Monday June 26, 2017. It was great to finally meet my supervisor, Regina Rochefort, and other park employees who I will be working closely with this summer. I am anxious and excited to learn how day-to-day operations are conducted within the National Park Service (NPS). After first day business (meeting people, getting my credentials verified, setting up an NPS email, getting a tour of the facility, etc.) I moved into my housing unit for the summer. I was pleasantly surprised at how nice the facilities were, and I don’t think I’ll have any trouble adjusting. My housemates were all nice and welcoming and my roommate is, oddly enough, from Wisconsin too!

After going over the background information of our project on Tuesday, and learning the protocol and methodology for surveying butterfly populations, Wednesday was my first actual day in the field. The main agenda for our Wednesday day-trip was to review the butterfly survey protocol and to learn to identify some of the plants and butterflies we will be surveying this summer. After an hour drive up a wooded hillside, we arrived at Sauk Mountain trail for our first real butterfly survey of the season. From the trailhead parking lot, the mountain we were about to hike and survey butterflies on looked quite magnificent; the hillside was covered in wildflowers, and it was very steep with several switchbacks to walk to get to the top. It’s hard to describe how beautiful and sublime this place was; the pictures don’t even do it justice. And this is just one of several sites that we will be surveying every week during the summer. So, just to recap, I got to hike up a majestic cliff side, look at beautiful wildflowers flowers, and run around with a net catching and identifying butterflies…and I get to do this almost every day for two months! As we descended the mountain and returned back to our vehicles on that first field day, I couldn’t stop smiling and thinking to myself “Wow, I can’t believe I’m getting paid for this.”

 

The views from Sauk Mountain – Washington

 

 

 

Left: Alpine wildflowers (Phlox and Indian Paintbrush); Center: A Lesser Fritillary species on Sauk Mountain; Right: a park volunteer receives butterfly kisses

 

 

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