Previously, my only experience of western Massachusetts was through a car window as my mother drove to drop me off into the Amherst College “bubble” for quarantine. After two semesters confined to the relatively small campus, the prospect of field work and getting to explore the greater area this summer was thrilling to me. I felt like a weight was lifted from my shoulders the first time the field vehicle took me past the college boundary.

Hiking off trail for hours a day was exhausting, but my newfound freedom and the lush spring growth all around kept me excited to continue adventuring. It’s incredible how wild the landscape can feel only a few feet off of a busy highway! We ducked under thorny brambles, waded through mud, and hopped from stone to stone over creeks. Huge boulders rose up in the middle of the forest, reminding me of the valley’s glaciated past. For a little fun, we worked to learn the name of each kind of fern we found: lady fern, cinnamon fern, Christmas fern, sensitive fern. I believe I’m a certified fern expert now!

I even enjoyed dousing a rag in fish oil, though it made my clothes reek in a way I’ll never forget. I’m a firm believer that getting dirty is a sign of a day well spent! Still, I’m holding out hope that the cooking oil we’re using for lure this week will be a little more pleasant. Blech!

Here’s to more adventures out in the field soon!

-Annika Baldwin