First day on the job, and right out of the gate we are hiking a trail in preparation for trail maintenance. It’s so surreal for me to think just a few months ago I was active duty in the Navy stationed in Norfolk, VA. I have been given the amazing opportunity transitioning from serving our country to serving our land, and it truly is a dream come true. It’s an honor to be considered a representative of national service for our environment and the public that we protect our lands for.
All my life I have always been in love with the outdoors, and I feel that I have found my calling. While navigating through my 20’s I have been working towards a career that I can wake up and jump out of bed for, and this is seriously an amazing stepping-stone to that career. I am the volunteer coordinator at Sumter National Forest, but it’s so much more than that. I get to reach out to people who enjoy the National Forest as much as I do, and want to take care of it just as badly. I am learning so much in the short time that I have worked with the Forest Service. To list just a few of the many skills I am learning: proper trail maintenance, maintaining our recreation areas, patrolling our district, greeting guests that are enjoying the forest, and much more. Not everything I do is amazingly adventurous, but absolutely necessary to keep our forests pristine. The not so glamorous side is picking up trash, maintaining to bathrooms, and mowing the campsites and recreation areas along the Chattooga Wild and Scenic River.
One of my most recent experiences working with volunteers was a tree clearing event with the Pendleton Area Saddle Club (PASC). They are a horseback riding club that enjoy our horse trails and also volunteer their time maintaining the trails on our district. We don’t have access to horses so the volunteers of the PASC were kind enough to bring their own horses for us to ride and help do some bucking on the trails that were hazardous areas for the horseback riders. It was one of the most enjoyable and painful trail clearing experiences I have ever had. Now let me explain the painful part; if you are not a frequent flyer of horseback riding, then muscles you have never used before, or even knew existed, definitely make their presence known in a painful way after a while of riding. We were able to clear three large trees from the trails, build our relationship with the PASC volunteers, and have a good and safe time while we were at it. I have had the opportunity to meet a few of the many people helping to maintain our forests, and so far I am impressed in the dedication of our volunteers.
It doesn’t matter how big or small your impact is on the forest, the most important thing is that you get out and do something. Pick up a piece of trash left behind, clear some down limbs on a trail, or be a spokesperson for the forest. A small act can make a big difference.