Settling into Methow Valley Life

Greetings from a tiny town in the northern cascades! In case you missed my introduction post this is Mack (she/they) your local botanist extraordinaire writing in from Winthrop, Washington. The month of February has been a slow adjustment to life in the Methow Valley. After packing up my life and driving to Washington in January and being slightly (okay very) overwhelmed with all of the moving anxiety, a month later has me feeling much more settled. A quick bit of Mack-lore: I have a tendency to blindly move to places I’ve never even visited and just hope for the best. This year’s relocation was no different. Thankfully even after only a month it really feels like I made the right choice. I’m very grateful for the wonderful communities I’ve begun to cultivate both at and outside of work. If you want a little peek into what I’ve been up to this past month, read on!

In the Office

At this point in the year, most botanists are confined to their desks while most of the plants slumber in the cold months. Alas, I am no exception. Winter work so far has primarily been onboardings, training, webinars, etc. It has been fun to learn more about forest management projects and hear from other departments about what they’re working on. I’m diving into the legal side of endangered and invasive species management for the first time which is a bit overwhelming but necessary. While my eyes are getting strained from all the computer time, there have definitely been some highlights of working at the office. For starters, we have a wonderful office lab named Emma! Whenever she wanders by for some pets makes for a wonderful little break from computer work. Thankfully, I have a standing desk and was able to decorate my space with many botany (and herpetology) related forest service posters as well as some of my own art. The wildlife department currently has a northern spotted owl (Strix occidentalism) protection program which inspired one of the critter’s doodles I made and added to my little art wall for the company. Everyone around the office has been very welcoming and kind (even if I forget someone’s name) which I am beyond grateful for.

Around the Office

Like most of the country, the winter here has been an odd one with more rain than snow. There are certainly more clouds than sun here in the valley so everyone is very appreciative of the few nice days we’ve had. I’m grateful for a corner of the office with a view to longingly admire the mountains in the distance. A few weeks ago when there was enough snow, I was able to tag along with the timber reforestation crew on a Nordic ski excursion into a burn site. There they taught me about their process of planning and executing tree replanting notably in high-use recreation areas. We saw some huge animal tracks (see photo below for reference with my women’s size 10 ski booties for scale). After a bit of investigation, we deduced they had come from a very large doggo that was also enjoying being off-trail a bit. After work, I’ve been trying to explore the area on foot or ski. It’s been a bit of a challenge with limited daylight, but the sunsets have been absolutely beautiful! I’m very excited to start learning more about the area through work and expand my range of routes this summer when more trails open up.

Out of the Office

While Methow Valley claims the largest network of Nordic ski trails in the USA, unfortunately, the weather has not been in our favor. Fortunately, there’s a huge arts community in the valley which I was not expecting. I’ve been pleasantly surprised with how many events have been happening just in town. To name a few, I’ve had the opportunity to go line dancing, join a trivia team, and compete in several random events including a jigsaw puzzle competition (the puzzling loons placed 4th thank you very much). For the long weekend over George Washington’s birthday holiday, I was able to take a trip to Seattle. In the city, I managed to meet up with some fellow RAP interns in Seattle, a pal from college, and a new friend from the valley. We explored the arboretum (to geek out about plants), visited the aquarium (to geek out over the animals), shopped at the famous Pike Place Market, and explored some lesser-known spots in the city. It was lovely to chat with Alex (Olympia, WA) and Hannah (Skykomish, WA) more. Be sure to read their posts next if you haven’t already! For me, the trip highlights were definitely the French-style pastries at Pikes Place, the mosshead warbonnet (Chriolophis nugator) and giant pacific octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini)  at the aquarium, and the variety of witch hazels (Hamamelis spp.) at the arboretum. 

Next month will hopefully include a few more field days (snow please!!) to sites learning more from timber, wildlife, and range folks from the district. Of course, computer work is not done yet as I’ll be continuing to work through manyyyyyyy webinars and trainings. That’s all from me for now, tune in next month for more updates!

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