Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Farragut State Park, Athol ID

May – Sep 2018
Lake View PanoramaWe were amazed at what this park had to offer – 4000 acres of forest and meadow, 45 miles of trails, 4 campgrounds with 230 sites, a museum, a beach, a marina, 5 disk golf courses, and a “tree to tree” obstacle course.  On arrival we were welcomed by our volunteer ranger, an incredible lady – energized, funny, helpful….and willing to let experiment!  We were in charge of evening programs on weekends, a Junior Ranger class on Saturday, and the development/posting of the activities schedule. 
Getting ready for the season, we helped clean and organize the museum (the park was a WWII Naval training facility), became familiar with the facilities/trails, and worked on our evening programs.  We also helped prepare a new room in the museum, the “Junior Ranger Station”; a place where children could learn and have fun under the direction of our fellow interpretive host, a retired teacher.  She did an incredible job of turning a bare room into a wonderland of challenging puzzles, games, nature displays, and projects.  At the end of the year, her effort resulted in over 4000 visits from children!
We were very, very happy with our site.  We were on one of six sites RV Site2hidden in the trees away from the campgrounds.  The sites were huge, landscaped, and had a table and fire ring.  We quickly became a little community that came together frequently.
Orientation2The volunteer coordinator had the difficult job of managing over 40 volunteers – camp hosts, interpretive hosts, kiosk hosts, project hosts, cabin hosts….quite a group.  But it all worked and people all got along well.  We enjoyed pot lucks with both volunteers and staff, evening fireside get togethers, and informal restaurant meet-ups. 
We settled into a routine of evening programs that started with the audience participation followed by a video or movie.  Friday became “Bill Nye the Science Guy” night, and Saturday was our family movie night; nature films like “My Life as a Turkey”, “Leave it to Beavers”, and others.  We averaged well over 1000  attendees a month!
The only negative during our stay was the smoke from wildfires in Oregon and Washington.  While we had no fires nearby, the air quality became poor by mid-August, but was not in the unhealthy range.
Another positive aspect of the position was that Coeur d’Alene, with great shopping and dining, was only 30 miles away via 4-lane highway.
Overall, our stay at Farragut SP ranks as one of the best we had, and we plan on returning for the 2019 season.  

Bandon Marsh NWR–US Fish & Wildlife Service

Nov 2017 – Mar 2018
Since we were already in Bandon after being evacuated from Harris Beach SP, we were offered a winter volunteer position at the Bandon Marsh NWR.  The marsh doesn’t have any visitor services, but we were asked to provide interpretation at the Simpson Reef overlook nearBandon Marsh RV Site Charleston.  We were given a full hookup site in the woods at a former cranberry farm.  US Fish & Wildlife has three sites there, two for summer volunteers and one for a permanent maintenance volunteer.  The site is ideal; the tall trees shield the wind, there’s plenty of grass and open area for sunshine, and it’s gated and very private. 
Shell Island Dec 2017Simpson Reef is our all time favorite place on the coast.  The deck overlooks the reef and Shell Island, where anywhere from 1000-5000 seals and sea lions can be seen.  It’s the only place on the coast of North America where you can generally see all four of the “pinnipeds”, the Harbor Seal, California Sea Lion, Steller Sea Lion, and the magnificent Elephant Seal.  Sea Lions abd OystercatchersThe barking of the California Sea Lions, screaming gulls, and roaring waves are magical – and there are Bald Eagles, Peregrine Falcons, and even a Grey Whale or two.  We watched as elephant seal pups were born and quickly grew fat.  They’re around 70 pounds at birth and will grow to 300 pounds by the end of the first month.  Unfortunately, they cannot swim!  Sadly, a winter storm and high tides washed the first pups away.  A few more were born later and appeared to survive.  But at the end of the 30 days, the mothers abandon the pups to figure out how to swim and catch fish!  Very few survive here since the conditions are so harsh.
Wildlife vanWe met so many great people, and enjoyed explaining what they were seeing.  USF&W issued us Swarvoski spotting scopes and the incredible optics gave everyone a close up look at the seals and sea lions.  We also had use of the USF&W van which was always an attention getter.
We worked when the weather permitted, and averaged 24 hours a week between the two of us.  Weather kept us away most of the time, as winter on the coast is often wet and cold.  It wasn’t us that we worried about – it was those high-cost Swarvoski scopes!
We can certainly recommend volunteering for USF&W on the Oregon Coast.  The volunteer coordinator is an amazing lady who goes out of her way to make your stay memorable.