Traveling 4,500 miles from industrious Pittsburgh to the forest paradise that is Mt. Hood National Forest was well worth it. The journey itself was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I awed at America’s largest hand cut stone building, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.
I camped in the bayous of Mississippi with alligators rustling in the bushes just several meters away.
I made a pilgrimage to the Museum of Rosa Parks in the quiet town of Montgomery, AL and learned amazing things about the Civil Rights Movement.
I witnessed protestors attempting to stop natural gas drilling in the deserts of Texas.
I investigated the mystery of The Thing in Arizona. What is it? You have to go yourself! I paid a whole two dollars to find out.
I admired the amazing green that has sprouted in the central valleys of California after so many years of terrible drought.
And I finally made it to Oregon after an amazing two-week journey across the country.
The time here at Mt. Hood has not come without its own excitements. I tried cross country skiing and snowshoeing for the first time. Snowshoeing was so much fun that I got my own pair and have been out doing extreme snowshoeing, a new sport I am inventing, and doing backflip 720 McTwist grabs.
The job has been a cool learning experience. I am learning about special uses and in case you don’t know what that is, well here is the definition according to the 215th edition of the Oxford Dictionary: Special Uses are authorizations that do not involve timber, mining, or grazing that allow occupancy, use, rights, or privileges of National Forest Service land. Some very cool examples include cell phone towers, powerlines, ski resorts, and summer cabins.
Special uses requires you to use the Special Uses Database System, better known as SUDS. With SUDS, you can manage Special Use Authorizations and do billing. Oh yeah, billing! There is plenty of billing action with special uses. Special use permit holders have to pay the Forest Service for all these special uses, it’s not just free. And one of my jobs has been to find the people who owe the U.S. Forest Service money and get them to pay. So, I’ve been making the Forest Service money. Your welcome! But enough of all that boring stuff.
So far my favorite part of the job has been learning how to inspect the summer home cabins. Mt. Hood National Forest has more summer homes than any other national forest in the nation– over 500. These homes are used as vacation homes, mostly from people who live in and around Portland. Inspecting the homes to make sure they meet U.S. Forest Service standards is more than just work, it is a time of tranquility among trees 225 feet tall and flowing streams. The experience is utterly gorgeous.
I’ve also had some really cool experiences. For example, I was able to participate in the annual cross country skiing Washington State School for the Blind event. It was an amazing opportunity to meet some real cool kids and help out with anything that I could help out with. The event was located at Tea Cup, one of the special uses commercial ski permit holders.
I also went to Hood River Valley High School for a community service fair and shared information with high school students about opportunities to volunteer for the U.S. Forest Service.
I am currently working on a few side projects as well to help out the Forest Service. One, I am helping out to fix the Mt. Hood National Forest website to make it easier for interested parties to find information about the commercial ski areas in Mt. Hood. Two, I am researching and looking through old files to provide needed information for a timber restoration project. And three, I am putting permit authorizations on the O drive so they can be accessed from anywhere. The O drive is like the U.S. Forest Service’s answer to The Cloud. So all pretty cool stuff.
Since I work at three different district offices at Mt. Hood, I get to do a lot of driving. The amount of driving I have done this year is certainly at another level.
Spring is upon us and the once four feet of snow has been replaced by the constant sounds of rain and migrating birds.
While I live so close to the forest, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the sight of giant power lines carving great barren landscapes through the forest, of which I can see from the government bunkhouse that I now call home.
The entire Mt. Hood National Forest breathes beauty and is a green paradise surrounded by a modern world of giant infrastructure projects. It all reminds me of why I am here in the first place; I want to protect the beautiful places of America so future generations can enjoy them as well.