Ever wonder what barrier assessment training is like?
Written by Dannon Engquist
19 July 2022
Traveling to Darrington for Barrier Assessment Training was a journey that ended up being full of unexpected meaning for me. Memories of a land I had forgotten from childhood trips to Oso rose up around me in the form of mountains and general stores, rivers and bridges that we had floated under in tubes or rafts. Even the scent of the woods reminded me of warm summer days spent along the riverside, turning over rocks to see “periwinkles”, which I now know are caddisflies, and picking blackberries for my grandpa’s famous pies. It was just as striking to see how much had changed in my absence, too; the Oso slide, visible from the highway, was a stark and foreboding reminder of how very alive and dynamic this landscape was.
At Moe’s, a delightful cafe with friendly staff and great places to spend time with family and friends, the newest set of trainees and experienced assessors met under sunny skies, eager to learn. After introductions and with a game plan in mind, we traveled to our first culvert. Though eager, I was a little nervous— my background was primarily in human-facing, customer service-type roles and technology rather than field work, but this turned out to be no problem at all! Willingness to learn and to do a little forest exploration with integrity are all that are needed to help this cause.
At our first stop, we learned about the equipment we would be using, the process of assessing a culvert, and things to look out for during assessments. All the while, we were surrounded by nearly silent forest, with only the occasional passing car to remind us we were in a public space. Dividing into groups, some of us navigated down to the culvert, while others wrangled the data, and collectively bonded over the beauty of the place we found ourselves in.
Our next two stops were equally stunning, and through our work and our conversations, it was clear what we were doing was vitally important. Although many of us were interested in helping and protecting fish, learning the history of undersized culverts causing flooding, breaking down roadways, and destroying surrounding habitats, made it clear that this service is crucial not only for conservation and restoration, but the safety of our fellow adventurers and recreationalists.
To make the trip as fun as possible, I highly recommend bringing along plenty of water, clothes that are comfortable for climbing, crouching, and reaching and appropriate for the day’s weather, knee-high boots, waders, or shoes you are comfortable getting wet, sunscreen, and plenty of snacks or lunch to eat!