My office

My office is different than most people’s. In my office there is the rustle of a breeze blowing through the leaves on the trees. I have the trickle of a stream or roar of a river. The dawn chorus is my soundtrack with foxes and black bears as my visitors.

In my office, I restore trails. I build stone steps and walls. I construct fences and drains. I make the wilderness more accessible to families so that more children can fall in love with the outdoors as I once did.

After a day in my office, I can go home with a smile on my face. I’m tired and sore and dirty, but I can see the work I completed. I can feel the pride of knowing that hundreds of people are going to benefit from what I did, even if they never realize it themselves.

Only six months?

Six months ago, I loaded up the little Blue Traveler and set out to change my life… To learn new things, find a new me, find a new home and a new career.

I left in March, and I can’t believe it’s already been six months… I have one more to go… just four more weeks until the adventure with ACE comes to a close. But that’s not where this path ends.

I didn’t find a new me… but I found my voice, I found my strength, and I found that I don’t have to be afraid that my life is passing before my eyes. My biggest fear upon joining this program was that I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with the other members, who are all 10-15 years younger than myself. The only thing that my age has held me back from however is the ability to extend my term since ACE will no longer receive any additional funding for me.

I have had the opportunity to travel all over the Southeast and even out to California. I knew I wanted to work outside, but it wasn’t until I actually started the work that I realized just how fulfilling it would be. I step back from each project with a sense of accomplishment. Sure, I may have only affected one small section of trail, but it’s tangible and visible. I’m blissfully tired at the end of the days. I sleep better, I eat better, I breathe better and because of all of this feel a thousand times better.

Between the work, hiking, sleep, and limited stress, I’ve gotten in better shape than I’ve been in thirteen years.

Never have I felt such gut wrenching anxiety than the prospect of being trapped back in the hole that is Florida. I can’t go back. Keep your fingers collectively crossed for me that I can secure the job that I just applied for, that I can find a place for my family to move up to, and that all of this wasn’t just a temporary escape from a soul crushing fate.

Looking for a sign

It’s difficult to write when it’s hot. All you can focus on is how stifling you feel. That’s how Caribou is at the moment. Because the weather is kind of temperate, and the place is old, no one messes with the AC. Oh well. I finished submitting my time sheets and I’m heading out for the day.

Last weekend was pretty dismal for me. I was lonely, and depressed. Missing my mom, my family, familiarity in general… I drove up to the top of Mount Pisgah all alone to think about things and ended up sitting there eating my amazing French Onion Soup (go get some) and crying the whole time.

I sat out in the rocking chairs over looking the blue rolling mountains and asked for some sort of sign that I was on the right path. That I’m doing the right thing.

Well flash forward to this week… Dream of dreams came true and I found myself scheduled to work on top of Mount Mitchell. My absolute favorite place ever. It’s partially nostalgic, and partially sheer majesty… I commented to my crew mates that it would be a dream come true to be able to work seasonally at the Mitchell Park.

Our project partner wanted us all to appreciate the work we were doing so he wanted everyone to hike up to the summit for a good view of everything. Because of my pace, I wound up hiking to the top alone, which is fine for me. As I turn one of the corners, there carved into the sand is the word MOM with a heart around it.

I stood there for a moment, staring at the message from the universe with a smile on my face. Thanks for the reassurance… I kind of needed it.

Not quite full yet

I may have had brothers and a sister, but because of our age difference, I grew up as an only child. I didn’t go to college and didn’t really room with other people. 

I  knew that housing here was hostel style, but that didn’t really sink in. For those of you that don’t know, that means cramming as many bunk beds in a room that will fit. 

There are 8 beds in my room. Four people are currently on projects working and four of us just arrived yesterday. I thought it was going to be a big adjustment. But so far none of it is. 

The four girls I’ve met yesterday are extremely nice and easy to get along with.  The shared bathroom IS an adjustment, but will only be a problem if I get up and desperately have to urinate in the morning. 

All in all, being adaptable is a great thing. Stepping outside of your comfort zone… is a good experience. And doing something to better yourself can bee greatly rewarding. 

Coming home

Things I have relearned on this trip.  

My son is super easily amused. He found a rock. It is now his pet rock and he’s teaching it tricks. (Its name is Bob) 

Twinkies are gross. Like the texture is fine, but the cake and filling are so sickeningly sweet I don’t know how people eat them. 

It takes a long time to fill an air mattress. 

I’m thankful for an electric air pump. (But it still takes a long freaking time) 

The wind… is cold. Stand in 20 degree weather in the sun, and you’re fine. Let that wind blow through you and you’ll wish you were still safely tucked away in your mother’s uterus. 

A change of socks can change your whole outlook and give you more energy. 

Sometimes, nostalgia IS as good as you remember it. 

Going down is a LOT easier than going up. 

Be sure to bring yummy snacks for hiking lunches. Picnics are great. 

If you need a helping hand in the Appalachia, the rhodedendron will be there. Respect the plants and they’ll respect you. 

Attaining a long lived dream is amazing, but even better when you can share it with people you love. 

 At the top of Curtis Creek is a waterfall. You can only see this fall from the top of the road. I decided long ago that I wanted a different photo. One of the falls up close. So that’s what we set out to do. 

Save Our Wilds

This last week has felt like a battle. So many things that I love and believe in has come under attack. My future plans and hopes and dreams are hanging in a tenuous balance because some racist, bigoted, business men that would rather make another dollar than listen to people smarter than them.

Maybe that’s the problem. Stupid people don’t like being told they’re wrong. Rich people don’t like to give up their money. And hateful people are happy despising the world.

As many of you know, I’ve been accepted into the American Conservation Experience. Initially I was doing this so I can gain the experience to one day become a Park Ranger. Because of all of these bills and executive orders… it’s looking more and more like that position won’t be available here in the near future and this breaks my heart. This doesn’t just break my heart, it hurts my soul.

I’ve been on the edge of tears all week watching things unfold. Following the brave Rogue Rangers stand up to regime and I can only think perhaps now… now is the best time to follow this dream. And if my job vanishes, then I will join the conservation groups and raise my voice with everyone else to fight back.

It’s all any of us can do. When the government dons their black cloaks and pointy beards… I’m glad to see that I’m not the only one that has a problem with it. Follow these Rogue Rangers on Twitter and Facebook. Look to our scientists and engineers. Listen to voices of reason. It’s not just OUR wilds that are hanging in the balance… but if we run away from the monsters… they’ll take the whole planet down with them. save-our-land