We really didn’t have a clear idea of what we would be doing for our month of volunteering at the Klamath Falls wildlife area and it could have turned out badly, but once again it seems we had some good luck and great Karma working for us. The terrain is certainly very different from further up North in Oregon where we had just left because it’s dry without those big beautiful trees, but we are parked in our own little area away from the office on Miller island. Miller Island doesn’t seem like an island because I only see the Klamath river on one side and marshlands and grass fields around us, but it’s great. We have trees around us that might provide a bit of shade to keep us a little cool in the high 80 and 90 degree temperatures. They say the rainy season is over for a few months and it is so dry you can smell it in the grass and dusty dirt.
Friday when we arrived we briefly met with the people we will be working for, Jason and Josh, and they showed us around a little an gave us a quick rundown of some things we will be doing. It could be some hard work, but are ready and excited to learn about the birds, wildlife and plants that they are here to protect and help thrive. Some things we will be doing are building bird and bat houses and putting them up around the area, painting picnic tables, hanging signs in some of the kiosks, handing out visitor surveys, landscaping- which includes learning to use a couple of big tractors for mowing. We may also get to go out and help band birds! We are really excited with all the things we can learn and are both very willing to do more than the 20 hours required.
We love the site that we are staying in for the month. We have a washer and dryer in the building next door to use and we plan to put that to good use. We have full hookups, so keeping the AC running is easy and we can take long showers and stuff too. The water has a lot of manganese in it which dries out your skin and give a bit of roughness to your clothes, but we will just get some fabric softener and use lots of lotion. They provided a water dispenser and we have access to as many big water bottles as we need. We are on a dead end road that goes down to a boat ramp on the Klamath river and a dog training area ( we think that may be to train them how to retrieve ducks), so there is not a lot of traffic on the road. We hear no trucks on the highway and no planes going overhead. There is a little background noise from a power plant off in the distance and the trains going past farther up the road but mostly is either quiet or birds singing and cows mooing. I’ve got a really good feeling about this.
I can’t believe we have been here two weeks already. When we wake up in the morning we ask “what should we do today?” That question is normal for us, but instead of the answers being things like, let’s go hiking, go explore the area or let’s do nothing, we first have to decide how much energy we have and how sore we are before we make a plan for the day to prune trees, weedwack, plant and fence trees or just build bird houses. It’s way hotter than we expected so we don’t do much from 1-5 pm. In the evening we are trying to get some weeding done or sand and paint the picnic tables, but it’s hard to get motivated when it’s still hot and we are still tired. We still love it and are happy to be here though. The scenery is awesome and we can see Mount Shasta off in the distance. We remind ourselves that we are getting good exercise, building muscle and of course helping out the Rangers by doing these jobs.
Jason, the head ranger is super laid back and helpful. He explained that their main goal here is to manage the vegetation so the birds have plenty of food. That means they regulate the water flows so plants can grow and they plant trees and bushes that have berries for the birds to eat. Their busy season is hunting season they have to make sure people are hunting in the right areas and have correct permits, etc. The first day we started he gave us a more in depth tour of the area he manages and it was like a super bird watching tour. I don’t know that we will be able to identify even 10% of the birds, ducks and geese he showed us, but we will try! We see a few when we are out working or taking a walk but it’s not a season for any birds to be migrating. We did see a California quail family – there were like 15 little babies! And we saw a pair of Sandhills cranes with their baby too. We also see lots of tree swallows and red winged black birds. As for land animals we see lots of jackrabbits, rabbits, squirrels and rock chucks. Rock chucks are like ground hogs- little fat guys that rumble along.
There is a lot to do and we wish we had cooler weather to do more, but he seems pretty happy with what we have done so far. We fenced in all the fruit trees they are growing and planted a few new ones (that was really hard at first, but either we built up those post pounding muscles quick or we got the hang of how to do it with less effort). We can see a difference with our weedwacking and pruning in the public parking areas and our camping area, so that keeps us going even though after 3 hours of weedwacking our hands vibrate for a little while. It is pretty hard work some days. I am having flashbacks of my college basketball days when we had three a day workouts. The minute you stop moving you get stiff and sore.
Other than working we have only gotten out of town once when we went to Medford to pick up some things at bigger stores like Trader Joes. We coordinated it with my friend Kelli from Reno who was there visiting her sister. That was great to be able to meet up so unexpectedly! We went to the movies on a Saturday just to keep cool and relax. We have visited all four of the grocery stores and of course Walmart is a regular weekly stop for something or other. We also took a first time trip to the Oregon Redemption center. Oregon is one of those states that requires a payment on the bottles or cans that you buy and if you take it back to the redemption center you get your money back. We made $3.20 back and it was pretty quick even though you feed the bottles in one at a time. We have had some fun other than work fun, we went out one night downtown with one of the guys working here temporarily, Mike, to play pool and shuffleboard. We have a plan to go bowling in the next week or so too. When we do take a day off we try to get some things done for ourselves like changing the fuel filter for Fat Henry and organizing storage space in the camper.
We only have a few weeks left and I doubt we will get anywhere near to being done with a lot of these jobs, but we will just keep plugging along. We really want to take a little time and get out to explore the area too. We don’t feel any pressure really, we just like to check things off the list. We will get started on the fun stuff next week when Tracy and Lee will be here for a couple nights. We plan to go to Crater Lake to check it out since it is only about an hour away. We are all looking forward to that a lot! We actually look forward to every day. The satisfaction of a hard days work can’t be beat. We have liked the volunteer work we have done in the past, but having more time to really contribute in one place has been nice and I think we both would be willing to do it again. For now, we will just keep plugging away at our list of things to do and enjoy the experience. I’ve got to go finish painting my picnic table now, so until next time…