This path I have chosen has been both a professional and personal undertaking. When it comes to committing yourself to a new agency, new surroundings and a new way of life, there are many unknowns that come with it. Taking that leap of faith was the very first step I had to take in order to begin this journey with Mt. Adams Institute (MAI) and the U.S. Forest Service.
I stumbled upon MAI’s webpage one cold afternoon in western Maryland by chance. The job listing was for a one year internship with the Deschutes National Forest in Sisters and Crescent, Oregon. Without hesitation, I applied for the position right away.
I was greeted with a phone call from Katie Schmidt, MAI’s recruitment coordinator, within several hours after applying for VetsWork AmeriCorps. She showed interest in my application and we eventually arranged an interview with the Deschutes National Forest. My interview for the Special Uses position was facilitated by Meria Page, Sommer Moyer and Bill Munro. I was greeted with professionalism, character and kindness as I spoke to the three on the phone. After the phone interview, I had a better understanding of what they were seeking and what the expectations were.
I waited several days to hear word on the results. I still recall the moment when I finally heard back from Katie. I was rejoiced to hear I was offered the position with the Deschutes National Forest. After the phone call, I began to map out how I was going to get from Maryland to Oregon within a two week time period.
Within days, I had sold my old Jeep Wrangler; a cherished possession I held which served no practical purpose whatsoever outside of Bel Air, MD. I decided to pathways with it; opting for a more suitable four wheeled friend, a Subaru Outback. I gave away furniture, sold items that had some trace of monetary value, and began to store away personal possessions in brown storage boxes.
I was slated to begin my cross-country expedition on Monday, February 1st. I packed up the car the day prior. Once I was finished, I sat down and contemplated what was going to happen next. It had been several years since I first read a Jack Kerouac book. Would my journey west be as exhilarating and picturesque as I thought it would have been when I was seventeen? Would the car I bought, which sat in the driveway for barely just one week, even make it a quarter of the way there? What type of unforeseen events could arise along a strip of road 3,000 miles long? I was jumping off a cliff.
On the first night of the journey, I had reached the state of Iowa. It occurred to me, that late night, what significance February 1st held. It was on that very day, in 1905 when the management of the once called Forest Reserves were transferred from the Department of the Interior to the Department of Agriculture. This new agency was to be called the Forest Service, and the Forest Reserves scattered across this land were eventually renamed National Forests. It was nice slice of fate that my departure coincided with such a momentous date.
I successfully completed the drive to Oregon that week on time, with no delays. After driving for a week, I was finally rewarded with the Mt. Adams team as well as the fellow interns who chose the same path as I did. After a successful week orientation, I was finally on my way to Sisters, Oregon. On my first day, I was greeted with firm handshakes and warm welcomes. My supervisor, Sommer Moyer, made it her mission to provide me with the materials and resources needed in order to tackle the challenging, but rewarding work of Special Uses. As the days went by, her kindness and passion for her work shined through. I am proud to call her a mentor and friend now.
My favorite aspect of Special Uses is having the opportunity to meet interesting entrepreneurs who want to hold events on Forest Service Lands. I love seeing the interaction and connection that the Forest has with the local communities and people it serves. I am currently tackling a project to re-issue expired land and recreation permits. By accomplishing this large task, I am able to see the entire process of issuing a permit from start to finish.
Another exceptional aspect of this internship is that it provides me with opportunities to broaden my overall experience by allowing me to work with other specialists outside of the Special Uses office. I had the opportunity to suit up in waders for three days with our fish biologists Nate Dachtler and Mike Riehle; participating in the annual Chinook Salmon Fry releases.
So far, it’s been quite the experience; to say the least. It’s been a fascinating, challenging and rewarding process. The knowledge and skills I will gain this year will stay with me for a lifetime. My time that will be spent in Sisters, and Crescent later in the year, will always be with me and cherished forever. I am blessed to be working with a team of exceptional and passionate experts, in a place that defines beauty.