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A Day in the Owyhee

Updated: Jul 23, 2022

Three Forks, 2021. Photo by Katalin Plummer.

I’m learning that, in this industry, sometimes the work is well-timed and easily planned out. Other times, it’s a mad rush to the deadline and it feels like we make it by the skin of our teeth. And when that happens and you finally get everything submitted, you can’t imagine staring at your computer for another minute. Last week, that’s how Tim and I were feeling. We had just finished a project that we revised and edited probably 30 times, and after having spent the previous three days fully immersed in it, Tim told me that it was time for us to both get out of the office and out on the landscape. I’m not about to turn down a chance to get outside, so I agreed, and it was set that on Thursday, we’d get out to Three Forks.

We had originally planned to meet up with a fellow Owyhee lover to talk collaboration possibilities, but unfortunately, it fell through (car troubles are never fun for anyone). We decided to make a day of it anyway and headed south.

I should say here that I really love my job overall. Creating content and researching are two of my most prized professional skills. But the days out in the field are by far the best days at work, and this one has to be up there in my favorites.

Three Forks, 2021. Photo by Katalin Plummer.

We headed south from Ontario, barreling along US Route 95. After waving hello to our Adopt-A-Highway signs on the Oregon-Idaho border and a boulder friend that Sammy has had his eye on for ages, we finally made it to Jordan Valley. Naturally, our first stop was Skinners Rockhouse for some coffee and memorabilia (for me, at least… I love a good postcard), and we were back on the road, making our way to Three Forks.

In my past experience, a day in the field isn’t just a field day (excuse the obnoxious use of that phrase). It has an agenda and a list of tasks to complete, usually having to do with data collection. Since I’m an intertidal marine biologist, I worked with the tides, so there was a timeline as well—you had to get your work finished quickly before the sea came up to snag you.

This day in the field was not that. Even though Tim drives pretty fast (hey, he knows these roads like the back of his hand), it still felt like we were moseying along, simply enjoying what the landscape had to offer. The Jeep scaled a steep and very rocky road down to the campsite—me with my eyes shut and Tim laughing at me—and suddenly, we were just outside, enjoying the warm, fresh air and the rushing water of the river. Tim cast his line while I snapped photos. He taught me about the history of the area, which included some wild battle sites and even a rocky trail that people once tried to navigate with covered wagons. While Tim was busy pulling up bass and trout, I was hunkered down, capturing this beautiful damselfly that flitted in front of my face. See its portrait below. I’m a fledgling photographer, so go easy on my (lack of) skills.

Damselfly at Three Forks, 2021. Photo by Katalin Plummer.
Three Forks, 2021. Photo by Katalin Plummer.

There is a freedom in this work that I did not anticipate upon applying for this position. While there are many hours of poring over legislation and developing programs and content, we are so fortunate to be able to complement that with exploring, experiencing, and getting to know the very landscape that we seek to protect. It helps add perspective—we remind ourselves why we do this in the first place and why this beautiful ecoregion deserves our hard work. And hey, I’ll take time away from a screen any day.

Three Forks, 2021. Photo by Katalin Plummer.

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