VetsWork: “A Mix of Work and Play. It is All Adventure.”

David Blair

The middle section of my service term has been a nice little ride. Getting out in the field more to do trails and recreation projects has been a lot of fun. As the snow melted I got to see and help work on some of the higher elevation sites like getting the Cascade Peaks Info Station ready for opening.

One of the great opportunities has been getting my hands dirty with the trail crew. I’ve gotten to see some beautiful areas on Mt. St. Helens and then also had the chance to take volunteers out on several projects to do trail work.

The latest recreation project I had a hand in was helping to mix and pour concrete along with setting posts for the installation of boot brush stations at Ape Cave. They will play an important role in helping to keep White Nose Syndrome out of the cave by decontaminating visitor footwear before they enter and after they exit the cave. Hopefully this action will prevent White Nose Syndrome from contaminating Ape Cave and will keep any bats in the cave healthy.

Some other highlights include:

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Artwork: In July I helped lead 12 elementary students for an overnight Volcano Camp. It was a really great experience. I got to lead the kids on hikes, a GPS scavenger hunt and assist with many other great activities. As part of the camp the kids had Arts and Crafts time. In the first project each child was given a piece of a picture relating to Mt. St. Helens and asked to paint it. The painted fragments from each child’s artwork will now be pieced together like a puzzle and displayed for all to see. The second project had the kids painting picture frames to display their group picture from camp. These they got to take home for the memories.

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Trashcano: As a parting experience from the Volcano Camp our campers got to experience Trashcano. I simulated a volcanic explosion using a trashcan, liquid nitrogen and water balloons. This was the highlight of the weekend and all the kids enjoyed throwing around any water balloons that didn’t break.

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Mountain Goat: Saw this mountain goat on a hike up the Sleeping Beauty trail. A great example of the wildlife that exists in our forests. Mountain Goats returned to Mt. St. Helens seven years after the eruption. Since then they have grown to a sizeable number as the regrowth on Mt. St. Helens continues.

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Rafting: One of the highlights of mine was whitewater rafting during our July Quarterly Training. Never having rafted before I was really excited. With such a big raft it was a team effort to paddle in the right direction and navigate the rapids. I plan to do more rafting in the future and maybe even purchase a kayak.

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VetsWork: Practical Application – Making an Impact at Mount St. Helens

David Blair

Before this VetsWork internship, I was working towards a career with nonprofits, but still had a craving for that outdoor experience. The Mt. St. Helens National Volcanic Monument is a place where I can apply my skills and knowledge to practical uses. Having the opportunity to use my skills with the United States Forest Service has provided me with the ability to expand my horizons into areas of work and play that I have always loved. I am learning very quickly the unique pieces of the natural resources discipline. The Forest Service compliments my knowledge and is honing me into a fine piece of the puzzle.

I am so grateful to have a whole building of staff willing to guide me along as I step out to take on projects, learn new things, and take charge of my own projects. My supervisor, Amy Wilson, has been extremely helpful with introducing me to all the staff and helping me to develop my own niche with many training opportunities to speed me on my way.

At the Mt. St. Helens Science and Learning Center at Coldwater, I helped prime and paint the entryway along with a bunk-room which will be used for overnight guests. We turned the entry way from a dull dungeon gray into a vibrant white. It looks so much more welcoming now.

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Final touches on painting the entryway and bathroom area of the Science and Learning Center at Coldwater.

As a Volunteer Engagement Specialist, I’ve had the chance to meet many people in the area who coordinate volunteers for various projects on the Monument. So far my work has been in the planning and preparation phases of getting trails and recreation projects lined up. I’m looking forward to getting some volunteer groups out in the field and making serious impacts that create a more enjoyable experience for all users of these recreation sites and trails.

Through the month of March I was part of Team Teach with Smokey Bear. While traveling to schools in Clark and Cowlitz County I helped educate 745 elementary students on fire safety and wildlife preservation. Some days I would dress-up as Smokey the Bear, while other days I would give the presentation. It was a wonderful experience and I got my feet wet with the education/interpretive side of things. All the kids now know that “Smokey’s friends never play with matches or lighters”, so I am helping to make an impact.

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Smokey Letters Caption: Some Thank you drawings and letters received from the wonderful kids who got a visit from Smokey Bear.

With this wonderful opportunity, I plan to enrich my skill sets and also give back by showing people just how glorious the heritage they have received is. My dream is that people will be inspired by the wonders around Mount St. Helens and recognize the need for doing their part to help manage and care for public lands. This will lead to a true appreciation of the good fortune bestowed.

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After a long day of painting at the Science and Learning Center at Coldwater, we stopped at a viewpoint to take in how great Mt. St. Helens was looking that day.

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