Heather Rolph, this year’s Fred E. Ellis Summer Intern, submitted the following as she wound up the six-week term that she spent working with us. We wish her well as she finishes up her summer break before heading back to Colorado College for her junior year.

On May 20, I rode into Friday Harbor on the last ferry of the morning and pushed my bike up the ramp into the first spatters of rain. By the time I reached the San Juan Preservation Trust office to start my first day of work, I was soaked through. It continued to pour later that day as I rode the ferry to Lopez Island, accepted a ride into the village in an old island truck, and moved into my home for the summer.

Starflower (Trientalis borealis) is a common springtime wildflower in the Pacific Northwest. Find it on mossy forest floors.

In a letter that night, I wrote, “This may be the most perfect place I’ve ever been.”

I grew up in Anacortes before moving away to Colorado for college. All my life I’d hiked and played on San Juan Preservation Trust preserves on Fidalgo, Guemes, Orcas, Vendovi, Decatur. As a kid I’d always taken them for granted, never considering the years of fundraising, planning, and stewardship that went into making them the lands I knew.

Crab spiders live inside flowers and ambush their prey.

As this year’s summer intern for the San Juan Preservation Trust I’ve learned better. I’ve filed hundreds of easement monitoring reports, attended fundraising events, fed bluebirds, tended butterfly plots, updated databases, created social media posts, and hacked up countless tangles of blackberry roots. A lot of work goes into protecting and managing land, and we in the islands are lucky that there are people who care enough to do it.

But why does land matter? Why are the islands my favorite place in the world, and why should anyone care enough to protect them? I’ve spent a lot of time wandering around Lopez in the six weeks since May 20th trying to figure that out, and below are just a few of the answers I’ve found. 

So as summer speeds up, hordes descend, and fields dry up, here’s to the little things–low tide at the beach, paper wasps building nests, mossy trails and roses blooming along fence lines–that make life in the islands so special. Here’s to a thousand small moments and new discoveries. Here’s to summer in the San Juans.

(Click on the images below to see a few natural history notes that Heather has compiled during her internship. All photos by Heather Rolph.)