“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately”

by | Field Notes, Land Stewards

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” (Thoreau, 1854)

It didn’t play out so eloquently in my head, but the ethos of this quote by Henry David Thoreau was the starting point of my journey from Minnesota to Oregon. Before I accepted a position as a Wilderness Recreation Land Steward, I had plenty of life experiences. But was I really living?

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” (Thoreau, 1851)

For me, teaming up with Mt. Adams Institute and moving westward was an opportunity to “live” in a way that provides me with life experiences worth writing about and sharing with others. I decided transitioning from a corporate engineering job to one clearing trails in the wilderness was a solid first step. Life is best lived outdoors. A career in land stewardship could provide a way to make my love of the outdoors more than just a hobby. I’ve been lucky enough to learn the ropes of trail management in the grand North Fork John Day Wilderness of Umatilla National Forest. Besides getting certified as a crosscut sawyer, I’ve learned a great deal about our country’s Wildernesses and how they’re managed. Whether I’m bucking fallen old-growth trees on the scenic North Fork John Day river trail or rehabilitating the fire-scarred Tower Mountain trail loop, I look forward to that tired-but-satisfied feeling at the end of the day.

“Every morning was a cheerful invitation to make my life of equal simplicity, and I may say innocence, with Nature herself.” (Thoreau, 1854)

Through my internship so far I’ve learned that a simple but honest day spent working in the woods can be endlessly more fulfilling than a day in any office. Spending that day in the woods improving the access to the Wilderness for others makes it an even more fulfilling experience.

2021 PLS Dakota Johnson Field Notes 1