When the last official day of my contract with the Navy fluttered on by almost unnoticed, I never thought I would eventually find myself doing something so closely tied to the natural world. Two years’ worth of long hours of military training and practicing led to three years of dark and tiresome days onboard a submarine for even more training, practicing, and qualifying. Those days were well-served and helped to build strong character, but I was glad that they were behind me. I knew I was ready to unplug from a career that was so detached from nature.
The Navy moved me to the Seattle area for the last three years. I had always been fond of the outdoors, but never had I ever felt so connected with the mountains, the streams, the forests, and wildlife until I transplanted and became immersed in the Pacific Northwest. After settling in, I quickly joined the Mountaineers and found myself falling in love with hiking and climbing. I loved the new found challenge of navigating old-growth forests and scaling peaks with crumbly volcanic rock. But what grew true passion was the calling of the mountains, the dampness of the dense evergreen forests, and the sting of morning mist outside of the tent at a high alpine campsite. The fundamental human connection to nature was being forged inside me, and I knew I’d have to make time with nature a huge portion of my life.
After considering the possibilities of continuing as an engineer or going to school to become a mountain guide, I finally found the perfect balance of office and field work. I am now working with the King Conservation District (KCD) in Renton, WA on numerous conservation training projects and several new initiatives in forest health management. Such a quick transition into a career path in natural resources would not have been possible if not for Mt. Adam’s Institute’s VetsWork AmeriCorps program.
Over the first few weeks, I have been engaged in volunteer and service projects that have had a heavy influence on the improvement of the natural ecosystems in King County. One project that I am particularly proud to publicize is the KCD Bare Root Plant Sale that was held on March 5 after weeks and weeks of planning and coordination on many different levels. All in all we prepared for and eventually sold over 700 orders that totaled over 50,000 bare root plants that will go on to provide positive reinforcement of the functions and values of our local ecosystems just outside of Seattle.
I have also begun my training in forestry, going on site visits in the field to assess, survey, and practice and implement inventory techniques. The District is poised to launch its brand new Forest Health Management programs in both the urban and rural settings throughout the county; all of which is fortified by lots of research and education in forest stewardship. I am beyond excited to be a part of the discovery and development process and truly blessed to be working alongside such knowledgeable and supportive mentors. Most importantly, I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to finally tie my career path in with my ever-expanding passion for the outdoors.