Hitch 1 - oooooOklahoma…

… where the wind comes sweeping down the plains,
where you can’t compete with humidity and heat,
and there’s never ever shade on open plains!

It’s strange. Having lived here my entire life, I’m more than familiar with everything about Oklahoma, but I had never before had the chance to explore this region like I am now. Growing up, you hear all about the varied ecoregions of the state, the unique cultures, the regional foods and festivals, but experiencing it firsthand is unbeatable. Yeah, it’s hot and humid, but getting to serve with the SCA in this position is absolutely worth every moment.

Team Tulsa has adopted Muskogee, OK as our home for the next 3 to 4 months, and with new people come new experiences. Our home has become popular within the neighborhood; children drop by frequently to play croquet, play Frisbee, or just hang out. Our first two weeks in the field gave us a great opportunity to introduce ourselves to the area, meet some outstanding people, and pepper our survey work with memorable times relaxing together.

6/10/2012 – Float trip:
Today was a chance for the two locals, Christa and Joshua, to take the team out and participate in a long standing tradition of the region, floating down the Illinois River on a summer day. A great way to relax before heading into surveys, renting a raft and drifting down a calm, clear river under bright blue skies is always enjoyable. The water was comfortably cool, and gentle breezes fanned us all day. This 12 mile/8 hour trip down a Class I section of the Illinois River just north of Tahlequah, OK was a fun trip for everyone.

6/1½012 – Meeting with Fort Gibson Lake Rangers:
Our first official day in the field was spent at Fort Gibson Lake meeting with the Rangers there and gaining a better understanding of what a day in the life of an Army Corps Ranger is like. After constructing a few fish shelters for the lake and meeting with the Rangers, we had the rare opportunity to tour the Fort Gibson Dam. Touring this facility is a dream for anyone who loves big gears, big machines, and the mid-century feel that an absence of digital equipment provides. Although retrofit with equipment to improve efficiency and ease management, the original parts to this dam largely remain. That’s quite a statement for old school engineering done with slide-rulers! Our host, Chris, was excellent, and getting to know this bit of American history was awesome.

6/12/2012 to 6/13/2012 – Surveying Begins:
Putting our training to the test, we hit the field for surveying today. We eased into things with a mid-week start, which gave us the chance to modify our setup plans in case unforeseen circumstances arose, but everything went great.

6/14/2012 – Natural Falls State Park:
A nice surprise for everyone was that we all ended up having the same day off once this week. That doesn’t happen regularly, so we took advantage of it and headed for some hiking at Natural Falls State Park. Relatively close, this small state park has a few miles of hiking trails and a nice little waterfall where a native species of fern can be found, very unusual for Oklahoma. It was an easy day for everyone, and the unique setting was a good place to sit back and relax.

6/15/2012 to 6/2½012 – Surveying:
After our mid-week start, we hit the ground running into our first weekend of full on surveying. It was an interesting time and gave us all the chance to meet a lot of locals. The higher visitor use during the weekends meant we were able to gauge how well our site setups were doing. A few minor changes were made to improve safety to traffic in the area. We also noticed a few administrative changes that needed to be completed. Getting these taken care of was easy because Meredith Bridgers, our primary contact with the US ACE, was in town for the weekend. We spent a lot of time during the weekend discussing how the program was starting out, receiving feedback, and clarifying logistical items. The entire crew enjoyed Meredith’s visit, something well timed that helped everyone out.

6/22/2012 – Meeting with Tenkiller Ferry Lake Rangers:
Having met the Fort Gibson Lake Rangers, it was time to meet a new crew, the Rangers at Tenkiller Ferry Lake. At this point, most of the lakes have a staff of Rangers in place for the increased traffic during the summer months. Introducing ourselves to the Rangers at their weekly safety meeting, we met almost the entire Ranger staff. Lots of questions were asked both about the Rangers and the SCA. The summer Rangers at this lake are closer to the average age of SCA interns, helping everyone feel completely comfortable. With so much in common, we discussed college, grad school, degrees, interests, and future opportunities with the US ACE.

6/23/2012 – Onward… :
The heat of summer is building, the 4th of July holiday is just around the corner, and the colorful characters we have met while surveying have added some interesting spice to our survey days. Our beginning here has been flying by quickly. It’s hard to believe we were in Carnation, WA for training only three weeks ago. Heading back out into the field for surveying, we’ll continue on with our primary mission here, helping the US ACE understand their lakes and those who visit them. It’s a pretty sweet gig.