First Impressions: Alturas, CA

I was headed South on 395. I had just left Bend, Oregon where I spent the winter working near Mt. Bachelor. After enjoying a cold and crisp winter I began to be more intimidated by the thought of driving further and further into warm Sagebrush country. About 100 miles from my destination of Alturas, California the clear sunny day unexpectedly became a blizzard. Soon at least 2 inches of snow covered the desert-like landscape. The snow continued to fall as a drove on when about 5 miles from where I would be living I saw a very large cat nimbly crossing the road… not even my first field day and I had already seen a local mountain lion! This summer was looking to be a interesting one.

I have now been working in Alturas for the BLM and living in Likely, CA for about two weeks. It is only May and the heat is already intimidating to someone who grew up in Western Washington. Not to worry though, I am collecting an entire arsenal of sun protection. The time is already passing very quickly. The town of Alturas is small, remote and seems quite friendly. Many of the storefronts have CLOSED signs hanging in them. The ones that remain open seem all the more charming and welcoming because of their empty neighbors. And thankfully yes, there is actually a Thai restraunt in town. (:

The people working at the Alturas Field Station are even more welcoming. I am working as a Botany tech this summer, however, I have already had offers from the archeology, wildlife, fire and range departments to come along with them for some training and new adventures in Modoc country. Everyday has been different, radio training, inventorying with the weed-crew, GIS work, rare plant surveys, exploring different range allotments. I quickly realized I do not know much about the flora and fauna of this region, but I soon will. A couple field days have entirely been spent looking for several rare plants, driving down back-country gravel roads,┬áhiking up and down ridges, around dried up creek beds and vernal pools … it is like a botanical treasure hunt!

One of my favorite days so far was spent driving West towards Mt. Shasta to Falls River Mill, here the landscape not only includes Sage and Rabbit brush but Juniper, White Oak and Grey Pine trees as well. This diverse canvas of trees and shrubs is enhanced by numerous wildflowers sprinkling the landscape with brilliant pinks, bright purples and florescent yellows and oranges. (I am still learning their names) On this particular day my partner Joe drove us to a place for lunch near where we were taking some herbarium vouchers. We sat on lava rocks looking out over a valley, in the distance was Mt. Lassen and Mt. Shasta, I could not imagine a better lunch hour. I couldn’t help thinking- there is so much knowledge to be gained, experiences to be had and people to learn from here… I definitely need to make the most of all these opportunities and I can’t wait!

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