Gray Grandy: 2014 Public Lands Steward on the Okanogan Wenatchee Forest shares his thoughts on “Settling In” to his new home in the North Cascades
Driving day is always filled with mixed emotions, but consistently dominated by the excitement to be moving on to a new adventure. My car is packed until my blind spots border on hazardous, while my skis and bike handlebars encroach on my cockpit. A few snacks and a water bottle join the atlas in the pile on the passenger seat, my sunglasses in the center council ready to meet the first peek at the morning sun. My mind runs through the people and places I am leaving, but the new ones I am soon to find are a strong counter-argument.
This time, I am leaving the bustling west side, with its coffee, I-5 and moisture loving Western Red Cedar (Thuja plicata) that I have come to know in the last four years. I am making the move to the dry side, with its sprinklers, tractors and Ponderosa Pines (Pinus ponderosa). While the drive always brings new sites, pulling into the new home town brings the only ones that matter. In Entiat I found my firefighter roommates leaving to play frisbee, climbing magazines in the living room and a bustling river taking away the winter’s work. Somehow, I don’t think the drive to get internet and phone service are really going to bother me this summer.
We finally sat through the last talk on time sheets, signed our final form, and were handed our radios. It is time to get out into the wilderness areas that we will call home for the summer. Following the river, skirting through a patchwork of spruce forest and burned tracts where the sun beats down and our eager feet stir up dust. Every glimpse of the ridges and peaks towering above us brings a pause and whispers of awe.
The first two trips were about getting our bearings- What plants are around here? What prominent peaks can we see? Are there any trout in these lakes? Our four day trips were just scratching the surface: a scouting mission for adventures to come. As we set our sites on the rest of the summer, we’ve created a mental laundry list of peaks to get on top of, trails to find and plants to identify before we can call this our backyard.