Christy and I both began our job related travels during summers while attending college. Christy was working on a degree in horticultural therapy. Accordingly she spent a summer working with veterans in a greenhouse setting in Topeka, KS and teaching at-risk youth gardening skills at Boys and Girls Town of Omaha, Nebraska. During the school year she also worked with afterschool gardening clubs at local elementary schools. I was working on a wildlife biology degree and so spent a summer as a Park Ranger for the Army Corps of Engineers at Hillsdale Lake, KS, and a summer in Alaska working for the Bureau of Land Management. In March of 2002 we were married and our adventures together began in earnest.

The Pacific Crest Trail kicked off those adventures with a bang and left us aching for more. We headed back to Kansas at trails end and helped my parents build their retirement home while recovering and waiting out the winter. After nearly a hundred applications, a job opportunity arose early in the spring and we headed to White Salmon, Washington. By coincidence, the USGS lab I was working out of was just miles up the Columbia River from the PCT. We arrived mid March to what felt like paradise. Bright orange poppy's covered the gorge hillsides as winter retreated up the Cascade Mountains. After one night in a hotel we located an apartment and I started working on a project studying juvenile salmon passage though hydroelectric dams. Christy continued her job search for a few weeks before finding a position at a Mary Hill State Park. The park was short a Ranger so they offered us the Rangers' residence at a very reasonable rate. We apologized to our landlords in White Salmon and moved out after being there only a month. The Northwest is beautiful and we felt like we had the best of everything. The Gorge sits at the intersection of the wet, rainforest covered western side of the cascades, and the dry, hot eastern portions of Washington and Oregon. The weather is the best of both. The job began my initiation into natural resources technician work though: lots of remedial tasks and oddly scheduled shifts. It was a necessary humbling. Christy enjoyed aspects of her job, such as giving interpretative tours of Native American Rock Art, but wasn't sad to stop cleaning restrooms at summers end. I was offered a winter position in the lab, but after two weeks of unnecessary office busy work I decided I was too young to sit inside all winter. What to do though? This move had definitely been motivated by my job only, and we wanted something next that would work better for both of us. We talked about being counselors at a wilderness therapy program but Christy wasn’t sure she wanted to jump back into at-risk youth programs. Not knowing what would happen after the summer was over, we had saved diligently so there wasn’t immediate financial pressure. That fact allowed us to look at volunteer openings. While Christy was at work one day I sent our applications to an environmental education program in Minnesota. Within days, we were offered internships.

The Audubon Center of the North Woods is a residential environmental learning center. School groups come and spend three days and two nights living on site and take three hour classes on topics related to natural history, natural science, cultural heritage, and adventure education. Specifically, Christy and I taught classes on animal tracks and signs, predator-prey relationships, Native American crafts, rock climbing, ropes courses, orienteering, and the like. As a wildlife intern, I also was responsible for the care of seven raptors (a bald eagle, two red-tailed hawks, a barred owl, a screech owl, and a great horned owl), a rodent colony (raptor food), and several reptiles and amphibians. We shared a house with five other interns doing the same things we were. Over all, it was a blast. We loved the community lifestyle and exposing kids, mostly city kids, to things we enjoyed so much. Despite the Minnesota cold, often sub-zero, we were outside all the time enjoying the North Woods. While there we took a few graduate level courses in environmental education, Christy receiving a Masters Certificate in environmental ed. No place is perfect however and as spring approached I began to think the $300 a month we were making there just wasn’t going to cut it much longer. But we were obviously there for the experience, not the money. We began the job hunt again and before long were offered teaching jobs for the following school year in Colorado. The USGS in Washington was also asking me to come back as a supervisor for the summer field season. They offered Christy a job as well, and promised to be much more accommodating with the schedule. I was sold.

Back to Washington I went with all our stuff, Christy to fly out a few weeks later after finishing some of her classes. Again I descended into the gorge as spring also arrived. Picking up a newspaper, I located an apartment and was moving in by afternoon. This time we were to be living at the Lama Ranch B&B in Trout Lake, Washington, just north of the Gorge. Stunning mountain views in a wide, pastoral valley. I loved every minute of the field season. Both of us having good jobs also allowed us to replenish our savings. We made the most of our short summer and explored the northwest on our days off, canoeing on the Klickitat River, kayaking in Puget Sound, and gazing into the Pacific from beautiful beaches. The little salmon stopped their journey to the sea for the year and that meant we needed to be moving on. We bought a 5x8 enclosed trailer to make moving our pile of life’s trappings a little easier and headed east.

The Keystone Science School is also a residential environmental learning center, like in Minnesota, but rather than taking short classes on a broad range of topics, students are immersed in an in-depth experiential study of a single topic. Also, as teachers, we worked with a single group of 10 or so kids for their entire stay. The approach was much more effective and a lot more conducive to the way I wanted to work with kids. Every day, we took our kids up trails in Summit County and explored geology, ecology, snow science, or a similar topic by playing games, doing experiments, and having fun. Who knew learning could be such a blast? We were given an 1880’s log cabin to live in while we were there and had free access to a stocked kitchen. Mountain biking trails were out our back door, literally, and a free shuttle bus would pick us up at our front door for a ride to the ski lifts, to which we also had complimentary passes. To top it all off they even gave us a paycheck and health insurance. Does it get any better? Not at the time, but we knew it wasn’t the life we wanted to lead forever. Again, applications went out and after a while I accepted a position in Missouri.

At school years end, we said our goodbyes to teaching, at least for a while, and headed to Sumner, Missouri. The Missouri Department of Conservation had hired me to study river otters in and around Swan Lake National Wildlife Refuge. This involved tracking radio tagged otters, collecting information on their locations, group sizes, number of offspring, and so on. Later in the fall we also live trapped new otters to radio tag and add to our study group. Otters are very charismatic critters and watching them always seemed magical. Monthly, my boss and I located all the otters we had lost track of by helicopter which kept life exciting. We first moved into a small rental house that the department provided but after about a month, the Refuge Staff offered us a nice house on the refuge which was unoccupied. The area was quite distant from work opportunities for Christy so she decided to enjoy the role of house wife for a while, knitting and sewing up a storm as well as refining her cooking abilities. During the fall she also filled in as my trapping assistant and enjoyed roaming the wetlands and creeks with me as the leaves changed color. The appointment was only supposed to last 6 months, but we were able to stay on a little longer. Christy’s folks, who lived only a few hours away in Kansas City, were having health issues so she began to spend more of her time with them. We enjoyed being close to home but as I began to search for yet another, hopefully longer term, position, local options proved slim. After another round of applications, Idaho seemed like the right choice.

It is interesting how we are sometimes guided on our paths, and this time was no exception. The job I was offered with the Idaho Department of Fish and Game was located very close to the hometown of an ex-girlfriend of my brothers. Her parents still had a house there, but spend their winters doing mission work in the Philippines. We were welcomed to stay at their place awhile and it seemed like to much of a coincidence to ignore. Loading up once more, we hit the road and made our way to Northern Idaho. Beautiful, rugged, mountain country awaited us. My position was on the wild and scenic Lochsa River, in the Bitterroot Mountains, where I counted and collected DNA from the ever-fewer salmon and ocean-going trout who spawn that far inland. Christy made several friends in the town of Kamiah but again decided the commuting distance to work in a neighboring town was not worth the paycheck. After hunting for about a month, we found a perfect little cabin for rent in the almost paradise village of Syringa, on the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River, not far downstream from my work site. The air stayed warm in the bottom of the canyon and our landlords had a wonderful garden and orchard which they were happy to share. The stream below our cabin window serenaded us with a constant love song, and as summer gained full force we came to the knowledge that there would soon be three of us nomads. Despite all of its possible virtues, we knew that this transient lefestyle was not what we wanted for our son. We both had the privilege of stability growing up and wanted the same for our kids. Where though? Every place we had been had its merits and we seriously considered returning to each. The biggest pull though was to be near family. We had savings so we figured we could try and jump straight into homesteading in a less expensive part of the mid-west, but there wasn’t peace about that idea, at least not yet. I was offered other jobs in Missouri and South Dakota but there was no peace there either. One morning we woke up and knew we were moving back to Manhattan, KS. We had previously considered the idea, and rejected it, but our new conviction was so strong it surprised us. The rivers began to ice up and we headed east once more with no job waiting.

Back in Kansas our resolve was tested. Christy’s due date approached and the right job hadn’t shown it self yet. We stayed with family, who were thrilled to have us, and lived on savings. I did a few odd jobs here and there, but they only made me more eager for work in my field. I was willing to give up on natural resources but that voice inside calmly said “No…, that is what I’ve called you to.” Our journey thus far had proven to us time and time again that we were not in control and our needs would be met. This seemed like just another test of faith, and many times we laughed as we saw the humor in our own temporary frustrations. A series of job offers did come but they required a long commute or a move to Nebraska. Turning down good work was hard, but there was no peace at the thought of accepting such compromises. Isaac came into the world and brought new challenges, but also a great joy. A few months later, the right job did open up, and I began a great job at Kansas State University that allows me to study the tallgrass prairie at one of the most beautiful tallgrass sites left.

For three years we lived in Manhattan, and filled our backyard with flowers, veggies, chickens, and rabbits. After our second son Samuel was born we began to ache for a wilder place to let the boys grow up, and more space for all of our farm dreams. We investigated every farm for sale we could find with in 45 minutes of my job but nothing felt right. By word of mouth we found out about an oportunity at a place I had driven by almost every day but never dreamed was a remote posibility. After a nervious month of waiting, we got word, sold our house in town in less than two weeks, and moved across our Jordan, the Kansas River, to the place prepared for us.