By Rhyan Schicker
When I first applied for the intern position with the Amargosa Conservancy I spent a lot of time researching the mission of the AC as well as the location.
It seemed to be a very small town, and I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the census report stating a population of 31 people. (In time I came to find out that the actual population in town was closer to 13!) No one at home-back east had ever heard of this area, and the most info I could offer inquiring friends and family was that I would be working right underneath Death Valley National Park.
After four months out west it is safe to say that no matter where I am, everyone knows Shoshone! Just this past weekend my coworkers and I took a trip to Zion National Park in Utah. We stopped in a cafe on our way to the park to grab some coffee and a spunky old man at the bar was joking with us about where we were visiting from. “California?!! Oh jeez- we’re gonna have to charge ya $15 each for a coffee” he started throwing out ideas of where we ventured from-Beverly hills, Los Angeles etc. When we told him Shoshone he face lit up. I know exactly where that is! He started rattling off facts- “an old mining town, not too far from 29 Palms, small but very friendly, lots of history there” He asked us about certain places we had visited around the local area. His demeanor became friendlier as we had this small town in common. “I guess we don’t have to overcharge them after all” he laughed with the man behind the counter serving us the coffee.
Shoshone has a quaint, homey feel to it, sure to leave a mark on anyone who spends time here. The saloon, museum, general store, post office, inn and campground and historical background draw in a lot of tourists. As the weekend approaches the population seems to grow infinitely. By Monday it is quiet again. Now as the busier season has begun, the campground and the inn full up to almost full capacity on any given night.
Through our field work with the AC, hikes around the Shoshone wetland trail system and our weekend adventures we have met very nice folks who are very interested in the work we do through our ‘SCA/AC/Americorp hybrid’ internship. As the term winds down to its last few weeks I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on everything we’ve accomplished this season. This unique desert riparian ecosystem is truly one of a kind in need of continued conservation and appreciation.
The relationship between the AC and the interns is priceless.
The value of this internship for us interns is even more valuable. Through the main projects we have worked; habitat restoration, desert restoration, trail maintenance, environmental education-the list goes on and on, we have learned new technical skills, enhanced our leadership abilities and intensified both our professional and personal development. Each of us is very passionate about the environment, honing in on different niches, plants, wildlife, ecosystem functioning. Between hosting and participating in different events this season; Broad Works with the Great old Broads for Wilderness, Bioblitz, Desert Symposium, Afton Canyon Campout, Earth Day celebration, we have been able to network and team up with professionals from a variety organizations.
From these meetings we have formed professional relationships and personal bonds. We have spent hours discussing important environmental concerns with people who share this deep appreciation for nature, and who have spent their lives in the field, and who are eager to spread their stories and knowledge to us. In depth, often very moving discussions and presentations have provided much insight to help us consider future career paths -be it graduate school or field work opportunities spread around the US.
These people- spanning multiple generations-have provided inspiration and passion for the environmental conservation field. From the older generations of Sierra-Clubbers handing out “Keep Public Lands in Public Hands” stickers and heartfelt lectures, the Great Old Broads pouring passion and sweat in 90 degree weather alongside us in the field, all the way down to the newer generations of kids at the Afton campout running around the land looking for scorpions, spewing out facts about lizards and litter, it has been a very inspiring season.
The internship here at the Conservancy has personally provided many opportunities for me to grow as a professional.
The unique landscape and hydrology of the area has given me ample opportunity to practice my bird and plant identification- especially with wildflower season! I have enjoyed learning the flora and fauna of this very special area as it’s unlike anything I have ever experienced before. The location of the town of Shoshone itself has also provided ample opportunity for my coworkers and I to explore all the amazing sights nearby. In four months we have visited Red Rock Canyon, NV, Death Valley NP, CA (many, many times),Joshua Tree NP, CA, Zion NP, UT, Flagstaff and Sedona AZ, Sequoia National Forest, CA ! The views and memories we became engulfed in these past months will last a lifetime!
While the work we did here specifically fits the needs of these landscapes, the sustainable practices we implored and the skills we learned can be carried on with us to our future endeavors, able to be adapted to varying landscape types.
I know that anytime I head out this way I will have contacts-friends all around Southern California. I’m very thankful for the friends I have made through my coworkers, leaders and all the passionate and fun environmental stewards I have met along the way.