Leaving the Black Hills, we headed west, then south to connect with I-80. As we headed south on I-25, the snow-covered Bighorn Mountains graced the western horizon. Although it was cold, the sunny skies and beautiful scenery made for a nice drive in spite of the usual headwind. We spent the night in Casper, where we were one of only three RVs in the KOA, then continued on to join I-80. We spent the night (by ourselves) in a nice park in Fort Bridger, where the owner advised us to watch where we walked to avoid the moose droppings. If you’ve followed our travels, you know that the sight of anything moose-like energized Brenda, and she was at the windows with the binoculars throughout our stay. The next morning, after a mooseless night, I used Windex to clean her nose-prints from the windshield, and we headed off again.
The rest of our westbound trip was fairly uneventful, with stops at Wells and Sparks, Nevada, and Corning, California. While at Corning, the weather threatened to delay us again, as early in the morning I-5 was closed near the Oregon border due to heavy snow. The road was eventually opened, although heavy snow and a wet road made travel a bit sporty. It was beautiful, though, with pancake-sized flakes softly floating down onto the trees…..and windshield.
We finally arrived at our home for the summer at Bullards Beach State Park. One of the perks of volunteering is a free site with hookups, and we were given a prime place to park with lots of room. It’s good to be somewhere for a while, although we didn’t have much time to sit around since our delay took resulted in our arrival just prior to training for the wildlife interpreters. Our position here is a bit unusual; we actually work for the Shoreline Education for Awareness (SEA) organization, which is the “friends” group for the local US Fish & Wildlife refuge. We’ll be primarily spending our time on USF&W duties, but since we reside in the state park, we’ll also have projects to earn our site, primarily acting as Snowy Plover interpreters. In any case, our commitment is for 24 hours each per week, which leaves us a lot of time to explore the area…….and restaurants.
We’ve been busy with SEA activities on an overlook called Coquille Point, a magical place that overlooks the rugged rocks and coastline. It’s where we’ll spend time helping visitors see and understand the shorebirds and mammals that make the rocks home. The season kicked off with a “Puffin Party” to welcome back an amazing little bird, the Tufted Puffin. We helped set up spotting scopes and assist visitors hunting for a puffin, but we were “puffinless” as we watched gulls, murres, and even oystercatchers on the rocks. We did have a visit from some very large and happy birds – a giant puffin, oystercatcher, and murre (note the egg on the foot of the murre; like penguins, the males carry it around), and celebrated their arrival with brownies, cupcakes, and coffee. Suddenly a shout went up – a puffin! We quickly hit the scopes, and sure enough, there on the rocks was a lone Tufted Puffin, magnificent in breeding plumage and putting on a show for the crowd. He stayed long enough for everyone to get a look, then flew off to amaze others on the coast. They’re very rare here, and we feel fortunate to have seen one of these fascinating little birds.
After a while, we took down the scopes, packed up, and adjourned to a local restaurant for lunch and a much needed opportunity to sit and relax. We had a great time meeting our fellow out of state volunteers and the local volunteers who give so much time and effort to this program. For the next week we’ll be involved in seminars, field trips, and on-the-job training to prepare us for the summer. We’re having a ball – great people, interesting training, beautiful location; it doesn’t get much better than this! C’mon back and see how we’re doing.