I moved to Baker City, OR at the end of April to begin my tenure as the Recreation Intern for the Bureau of Land Management’s Baker City field office. As I made the final drive into Baker, passing through lush green canyons along the I-84 corridor before dropping down into the Baker Valley with the snowcapped Elkhorn Mountains serving as a backdrop, I couldn’t help but immediately fall in love with the place. After spending the previous couple of months walking dogs on the gray, drizzly sidewalks of Chicago, the new job and new setting were a much needed tonic. I was ready for anything this place would throw at me.
Or so I thought. From driving on winding one-lane dirt roads cut into steep canyon sides, to spending days trying to perfect (or just accomplish) backing up a trailer, to the arid climate, difficulties steadily stacked on top of each other. By the middle of July, I felt like I didn’t even have the energy to lift a dust-caked hand to wipe the sweat from my forehead. Seeing as I spent most of my time driving and updating signboards, I was surprised by my creeping lethargy. Most of my previous jobs had involved much more physical exertion, so why was all this driving wearing me out? (Upon reflection, it was probably some combination of sleeping on a couch for the first couple of months and spending almost every weekend camping/road tripping).
As the season progressed, and as we passed the insanity that was the lead up to the Solar Eclipse, the season became easier. I settled into a more consistent routine and got my much needed rest, allowing me to better appreciate my surroundings. I began to study the landscape as I drove (since I drove over 10,000 miles this summer, I did a lot of studying), which turned that monotonous task into one of my favorite parts of my day. Early morning mists rose from the agricultural fields, the dried grasses around them dyed a pale gray-pink by the rising sun; the Grande Ronde River snaking through the countryside, creating a winding oasis; the sagebrush adding subtle greens to the rolling brown hills. Surrounded by so much beauty on a daily basis, it was hard not to love those solo drives.
Now those drives come to an end. The season is over, and it is time for me to move on to my next job, this time in Colorado. I’ll make one last long drive to get there, and I’ll be sure to pay attention to the landscape as I go by.
Bureau of Land Management – Baker City Field Office