I built my 6×12 trailer tiny home (named the Carol Cottage) last year in New Hampshire, and made way down the Appalachians at the end of January bound for warmer weather in Florida. Avoiding the major highways at all costs, I put my little 1995 4runner through steep, winding mountain passes, muddy swamps, deep rutted logging roads, and everything between. While stopping to experience Grayson-Highlands state park in southern Virginia, I struggled to find a spot with cell reception where I could phone-interview with the CLM. Everything worked out well because I was offered my current position as a wildlife intern for the BLM in Casper, WY! While Wyoming isn’t exactly near Florida, I still had a couple of months to experience life on the road before setting up in WY for the summer.
In that time, I was able to briefly experience Dixie life in South Carolina, Alabama, and Florida before heading west to southwest Texas, and north through New Mexico, Colorado, and finally – Wyoming!
With zero local knowledge other than what I acquired on satellite images, and no personal contacts in WY other than my mentor with the BLM, the adventure of finding a home base to park my tiny home began. My first night in Wyoming was spent on top of Casper mountain, where I could see on a map I’d be able to set up on some public land temporarily. It was 10 degrees and snowing outside that night… but with the help of my little propane heater, Rome and I stayed comfortable in the Carol Cottage.
The universe continued to help us out the following morning when we met a land owner who offered to let us stay on his 5 – acre property 15 miles outside of town – for free!
The following day was day 1 at the BLM Casper field office, and my nerves were at an all time high – I’ve never worked in an office setting before, never mind a federal office.. for all I knew it could’ve been a scene from Men in Black. My nerves were put to rest immediately upon entering. I was given a warm welcome from the front desk, and introduced to my mentor – who was super down to earth, and helpful in getting me settled, and introducing me to most of the staff who I’d be working with for the rest of summer.
As i toured the office I was relieved to see that although it was a cubicle city, it was outfitted with taxidermy, wildlife posters, typical “office humor” comic print-outs, and tons of deer, elk, antelope, and bighorn antler/horn sheds acquired in the field. The place was already starting to feel comfortable. Vibes in the office were positive, and the unmuffled conversations between cubicle walls consisted largely of hunting, 4x4ing, and light-hearted joking.
I’ve been able to go out for sage grouse lek monitoring twice last week – and I can already tell there are going to be some stories to come from the field. Working out in the field with a single other person is a pretty intimate experience, and I’ve gotten to learn a lot from conversations about the history of the Casper area, the high-plains ecosystem, the local culture, and opportunities for recreation – to name only a few.
The scenery at these lek sites first thing in the morning is breath-taking. We arrive 15-30 minutes before first light, and literally watch the ecosystem come to life as the sun rises and we start glassing for sage grouse activity. In my first two field days I came into close contact with at least 4 raptor species, tons of mule deer, herds of antelope (the fastest land animal in North America!), and of course, sage grouse.
A lot is happening all at once, and I’m grinding hard to get up to speed – but everyone is being super patient and helpful. This week I’ll be getting out on another few lek surveys, and I get the opportunity to do an aerial survey for undocumented leks in a HELICOPTER! More updates and photos to come!