Before arriving to Camp Frazier, OR outside of the town Ukiah, OR for the new adventure 9 other people and I would set out on, I was expecting a huge military deployment type of experience; gone for months with no cell service, no Wi-Fi, very little free time, and arduous work. However, four weeks into this program, I feel like I prepared for the worst, but got the best! We start our day at 0600, which is perfect for someone who is as much of a morning person as I am. We finish our days at 1630 and only work Monday through Thursday. The work is almost always outdoors in the beautiful Umatilla National Forest. You couldn’t ask for a better day than a hot cup of coffee, the smell of fresh air and gas from the chainsaw, the great views that come along with long hikes up steep terrain, and the awesome wildlife that lives out here!
One of the activities that we have participated in is helping out the local food bank, which consisted of unloading the trucks and setting some things up. Other activities included getting certified in CPR/First Aid, a drivers test to operate government vehicles, and chainsaw certification. The CPR/First Aid class is something I am very familiar with due to my brief medical history as a Hospital Corpsman in the Navy; but it’s always nice to go through refreshers and keep things fresh in the mind. The driver’s test for the government vehicles was more stress on the written portion than the actual drive. Chainsaw certification was easily the most fun that I have had since arriving! That consisted of locating trees with diameters around 10-15 inches, identifying what defect the tree has, figuring out which direction the tree will fall, walking the line in which you plan to lay the tree, and setting out a target to try to hit with the top. My first tree was possibly the epitome of a perfect tree; it grew straight up, no snags, no widow makers, and clear of infection. The only thing wrong with the lodgepole pine was that it was in the wrong place at the wrong time.
We are only 4 weeks into our 12-week long program, but I am certain that the rest of the time will be just as smooth. I have loved waking up every morning enjoying what I do. I have enjoyed everyone that I work with, whether it’s someone else who is on the same page as me learning something new almost every day, or someone who has been doing this for many years and teaches me new tricks I haven’t learned yet. After these 12 weeks, I would love to continue down this path and go out on fires any and everywhere I can.