From Soaring Mountain Heights to Desert Solitude

This past week I finished up my internship with the U.S. Forest Service in Dillon, Colorado. It was a busy time, wrapping up with an end of term backpacking trip and several patrols. It all went by extremely quickly and before I knew it I was packing up for Moab, Utah to head to my new internship with the National Park Service. The change was a drastic one in many ways, not just geographically but work-wise too. As you may know from my previous blogs, I spent the summer as a Wilderness Ranger intern in Colorado. Here in Utah, I will learn how to be a Park Guide. My summer in Colorado was spent hiking an average of 10 miles per day in the Rockies, clearing trails and talking to visitors. This new internship will focus more on helping visitors to understand the significance of what they are viewing here in the Canyonlands.<p>During this past week in Colorado we finished up a 4-day backpacking trip to Upper Slate Lake. This was my favorite lake of the season, which made it a really memorable way to end the summer. It is huge and a luminescent blue-green color, with a waterfall in the distance and spectacular views. This trip was particularly epic because a mountain goat followed us closely down the trail for a good bit of time. This was probably the most interesting encounter I have had in the Wilderness to date, as we would walk down the trail a bit thinking that we had finally lost the goat, and then “Baaaah” it would appear again. It was kind of a spooky experience but very exciting to see wildlife so close-up.

You again?! BAAAAH!

After the backpacking trip, one of our last patrols was to Mayflower Gulch outside of Leadville, Colorado. This was an easy hike where we got to see some abandoned mines and mining cabins, and I got to feel like a bit like a tourist for once. The backdrop of the mountain scenery alongside these cabins really gave an impression of stepping back in time. After that patrol, we headed back to the office to wrap-up my internship and fill out paperwork. Colorado has really grown on me throughout the summer and in three short months, White River National Forest has begun to feel very much like home. In fact, I’m hoping to return to Summit County in the near future as I just don’t know that I’ve had my fill yet.

Abandoned mining cabins in the distance at Mayflower Gulch in Colorado

I am now in the Canyonlands National Park outside of Moab, Utah. This is very exciting for me as I’ve been dreaming of getting to Moab and working for the National Park Service for a couple of years. This area is full of dramatic red rock canyons and sandstone arches, which are features I’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing prior to this summer. This area is also known for its adventurous outdoor activities such as mountain biking and rock climbing (two of my favorite things)! I feel quite blessed to have the opportunity to explore such a wild desert landscape, and it is truly wild. Our very first night here, one of our supervisors took us outside to show us some Black Widows. During orientation, they informed us that Black Widow bites (as well as scorpion and rattlesnake bites) are not usually fatal, which surprised me but was definitely comforting to know, as all three creatures are found in the area. So far the other two interns and I have seen some spectacular sunsets, rocks that change shades in different light, and curtains of misty grey rain hanging over the desert in the distance. Tomorrow we are waking up early to see the sunrise at Mesa Arch. The great part about this SCA experience is that I will be able to take the beauty that I am experiencing here, and share that with visitors to the park in a way that will be meaningful to them. I can’t wait for many more desert sunrises to come and to update you all about my adventures in this amazing landscape. Until next time—thanks for reading!

View of the desert in Canyonlands National Park, Utah