Tommy, one of America’s National Treasures and a member of the Cle Elum trail crew, sums up the entirety of this program in three words… “Let’s get puggin’…” Public service takes many forms throughout the whole world, so to quantify my experience with this type of public service took a lot more thought and time than I anticipated. I never want to write a fluffy blog post… So I’m gonna be honest! Working at this federal level bequeathed much more perspective and wisdom than I originally hoped for at the beginning of the program.
I came in a dewy eyed cucumber, with aspirations of the beauty of nature, and finding a career worth devoting my life to. Adulthood, on the other hand, is this violently changing beast that constantly tries to shatter your worldview, especially if you are watching closely to the events unfolding all over the world. I’m certainly not gonna delve too far into that, but I wanna share how it’s changed me. I seek freedom, and above even that, to help people who truly need it. In order to do that, I need friends. Not the jaded word we’ve used since grade school… I mean true friends that support your every dream, and are beside you in the worst of circumstances. Those few people who you share life with, never laughing at one another’s dreams because of our own fears, but bolstering you to new heights so that you never give up on this short life we’ve inherited. Some reading this will know that they are those few important to me, and some will have doubts. Those in doubt, I love you no matter what, but please seek change and perspective and a dream, because I will support you. However odd this may sound, I am no longer a cucumber. I am a pickle… Salty, and ready for a fight to help save this world!
Now back to Tommy’s universal advice, that maybe he didn’t even know he was introducing to me… “Pugging” means to keep moving swiftly and with purpose. Through these past 4 months of campground cleanup, training, tool rehabilitation, and trail maintenance, I’ve had the pleasure to work with so many unique individuals! Each person brings something completely different to my work life. Whether that’s a good or a bad thing is irrelevant, because life is about both of those things. I treasure every wholesome second with each person, because I have learned so much already, and I still have two months left! It’s been hard not to get distracted, and look towards the future, so I’m glad that I have this chance to remind myself of all the amazing, monotonous, knowledge-filled experiences yet to come.
I feel like I always end up focusing on the people around me in these blogs, so let me talk about the actual work for once! Trail work is truly never ending. Nature will always find a way to revert to it’s original form, and we have been tasked with fighting that battle. But it’s so worth it! Even if the people aren’t happy to see us out on the trails, we are still giving people pathways into nature! Not only to protect them, but to protect every form of life throughout the dense acreage of Washington’s public lands! By maintaining those trails, we work to reduce the impact humans have on the lands they walk. So the best way for us to protect these sanctuaries is to form the least amount of pathways possible. It’s still hard to stay motivated though… However difficult it gets for me, I still have one idea that keeps me going underneath it all.
To be a part of a chain of people that have been working every year since the protection of these lands began is a small glimpse of humanity itself! We are the culmination of every generation before us! All the good and all the bad have led to us… have led to me! So to see all the logs that were cut, or all the shrubs that were brushed back off the trail, and then for me to build upon that work that maybe took place a year previous, while me and that person have never met is something incredible to be a part of. I gain a connection with the past and the future! They don’t even need to know my name, because humanity is connected without such trivial knowledge. We are one! All those in the past were puggin’ hard, so I better live up to that! “Puglife” is a motto I’m gonna carry for the rest of my life, because it can apply to every situation no matter how big or small!
This program, with both Mt. Adams Institute and the Forest Service, have opened my eyes to what kind of a human I want to be. It’s made me a dreamer! However unrealistic my aspirations are, and however many times I fail throughout my life, I will look back upon this time of my life as the beginning of my adventure to help people. I will tackle life like I tackle every log we’ve found on our trails… with a healthy balance of mental prowess and physical domination! It may sound ridiculous to a lot of people reading this oddity of a blog post, but this is the only way I know how to be free. Even as I finish up this blog post, I see it as highly symbolic of the point in my life when I stop talking the talk, and start sprinting towards all the people who need my help. So that’s where I leave all of you readers… Me and my friends are gonna go build a community full of ridiculous dreams! Let’s get puggin’!