The drive up from Alabama to Montana was very long. My sister came along to help me make the drive. We left from Southeast Alabama and drove to Northwest Montana. The drive took us 4 days to complete and we drove 9-12 hours each day. We did get to stop at some really cool places along the way though. We saw the art park in Des Moines, Illinois, the St. Louis Arch, and Mount Rushmore. We were also going to go to Glacier National Park, but we were too tired by the time we got to Lost Train NWR.
I am very blessed to have my dog, Izzy, with me for the summer. By the time we got here, she was antsy from being in the car for days but thankfully, the bunkhouse we are staying in has a fenced in yard. She loves being in the yard all day and I love it too because that means she’s tired enough to go to sleep when I do. She is not going to like moving back into an apartment at the end of the summer.
The bunkhouse that I’m staying in has no service or internet and there are a few quirks with usual everyday things that I have to change. 1) I have to drive about 3.5 miles up the road to get service and to be able to use data. I have a landline that just got long distance calling added onto it so I usually don’t drive out to send a text, I will usually just call now. 2) I signed up for summer classes while I’m interning and I’m starting to regret it. If I need to get some work done, I have to use my weekends. If I can’t wait until the weekends to do the work, I have to sit in this one specific spot on a hill between two mountains so that I can get enough service to put on a hotspot to use my laptop. 3) TV. I can’t just get on Netflix and scroll through and watch what I feel like at the time. If I want to watch a movie, I will usually sit down in a coffee shop in town (1 hour 15 minutes away) once a week and download movies on Netflix that I can watch during the week. I also had to put all of my Hulu shows on hold for the summer. And 4) Music. I usually use Pandora to listen to music but can’t out here because I don’t get service. I can listen to one of the 3 radio stations they have on the refuge or I can download music when I do have service so that I have something on my phone for when I need the background noise.
Even though I feel like I have stepped back in time a little, I like it out here. I have more time to myself and I get to do things that I have been wanting to do for myself but never have time for.
The refuge is all about habitat restoration. Mrs. Beverly, the wildlife biologist, and only employee on the refuge, has planted some quaking aspen in three different exclosures to see which one is more effective to keep deer and elk from eating the terminal buds. There are 54 metal fencing exclosures, 1 tree fence, and 3 fallen trees exclosures. We had a Montana Conservation Corps crew here that cut down trees for us and we helped restore the fence made of trees surrounding the aspen. There was a lot of growth inside, but we had to restore the fence as the trees settle and go into the earth so that it is hard for deer and elk to jump into the exclosure. With the fallen trees exclosure, the MCC crew just cut down trees and made it too messy for deer and elk to walk through and discouraging them from eating the aspen. She is using 4 acoustic monitors in 4 different habitat types to listen for the types of birds they have on the refuge and every 10 days we have to move them to their new location and download the data of collected sounds. She also has scratch pads across the refuge that she gets hair samples from to see what mammals they have on the refuge. We have to go re-scent those periodically and the animals will rub themselves on the smell. We then take the hairs off and they will get sent to a geneticist so we can learn what types of animals we have on the refuge. We are also planning a new project to help restore water to the creeks that includes artificial beaver dams.