I’m back. Actually, I’ve been back since Monday but was immediately buried in meetings and to-dos. I took photos (nothing fussy, just my iphone), shot video, wrote myself notes on stray pieces of paper, sent postcards and even recorded voice memos to friends back home, but how to process all of this? I'm going to cheat and pretty much copy an email I sent my coworkers when I got back. Given that we're enviro-river people, you'd better believe I started with rivers.
I saw the freaking Snake River (hint…look down)! Maybe this isn’t a big deal to everyone, but as someone who has heard about this river for the past 12 years, it was fairly epic. I may have come close to shedding a tear. Maybe. The photo below was taken outside of Twin Falls, Idaho, and the Snake met us here and there on the drive back through Oregon. There wasn’t a single time I saw it that I wasn’t blown away.
The epic list of rivers I finally got to meet doesn’t end there. I saw (not comprehensive and in no particular order) the Snoqualmie River, Yakima River, Columbia River, Snake River, Rogue River, LA River, South Umpqua River, Umpqua River, Willamette River, Calapooia River, Santiam River, Klamath River, Prairie Creek, Strawberry Creek, Russian River, Eel River, Mad River, and Soquel Creek. For years, I feel like I’ve had a special window into what we do on the west coast because one of the grant programs I manage, reading, scoring and offering advice to places I’d never seen. Each of these rivers represents a place we’ve worked (or considered working) and where what little we’ve been able to do has had an impact. The Eel River (below) was one of my favorites. Its blue-green water wove in and out of our path along the 101 through northern California, and I was lucky enough to get to see one of the removal projects we’ve been working on there for the last several years.
I drove through deserts and mountain ranges, traveling from the most barren climates through peaks where snow was still falling. I saw the following federal lands—Snoqualmie Pass, Snoqualmie National Forest, Umatilla National Forest, Great Basin National Park, Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge, Desert National Wildlife Refuge, Mojave National Preserve, Redwood National Park, and Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest—and traveled the Pony Express, El Camino, and Oregon trails. 3,589 miles…give or take a few.
Also, lest you think it was all nature and work, I can also say that I played arcade games in Portland, had brunch with a guy who will be on the next season of America’s Next Top Model in LA, attended a proposal in Downtown Disney, and visited a neon sign boneyard outside of Vegas, but more on that later.