As I hike the trails, I meet all types of people (maybe you’re one of them). Everyone is out there hiking for different reasons. We all approach the outdoors from a unique perspective, developed from past experiences and current interests. Maybe you love getting out because it reminds you of fishing with Grandpa when you were a kid. Or maybe you love taking pictures of wildflowers. Or you’re a diehard peak bagger (see glossary) who wants to check another one off the list. It doesn’t matter why you’re out there. The point is . . we’re probably all reaping similar benefits – you hike to recharge your batteries; to relieve the pressures of life.
When you’re out hiking, EVERYONE is a friend, who’s willing to stop and tell you what they’ve seen (from their perspective). I’ve outlined my outdoor experience below, to help you understand my perspective. Sorry about the length, but it had to be said.
Growing up, my family was really into camping. It seemed we camped a lot every summer, in different parts of eastern Idaho. Sometimes, just the immediate family would go to Island Park, and sometimes grandparents, cousins and other strangers would all meet at Mike Harris Campground near Victor. It was all a blast – the fishing, the hiking, the sitting around the campfire watching Granddad make whistles out of willow while he told stories of the old days.
As I grew older, I really got into scouting. I camped and hiked as much as they would let me; and got my Eagle and 36 merit badges along the way. When it was time to retire from being a boy scout (age 14), I started working at scout camps during the summers. I worked at Treasure Mountain near Driggs, Idaho my first year. They had a great hiking program. Here’s the view from the scout camp:
That’s Table Rock, with THE Grand Teton peering over its shoulder! As a staff member, I got to take troops on a hike around the Tetons every Wednesday – and they paid me to do it! Wow!! I worked at Thunder Ridge near Cedar City, Utah for the next 2 seasons. Thunder Ridge was a fairly new camp when I worked there. They asked me to be the trail master, and to find trails to take the scouts on. So I got to spend a few days during staff week just traipsing around Cedar Mountain – and they paid me for that!! Secretly, I thought I was pulling off the biggest scam of all time. I knew I had to find a way to make a career of this. 🙂 I taught Forestry, Nature and Environmental Science type classes all 3 seasons.
I then grew up. As a young adult, I thought I had to get a career that involved sitting at a desk and doing complicated calculations all day, so I started studying Electronic Engineering Technology. A year and a half into it, I met and married my soul mate. From the start, she has always encouraged me to do what I enjoy. I had a hard time enjoying EET, so I went to the university career center and took a skills and interests assessment. One of the top suggested careers for me was Forester. Huh! They pay people to do that? Sign me up! So we packed our bag, hopped on the bike and moved to Logan, Utah, where I enrolled in USU’s Forestry program. I was in heaven, and it wasn’t just because I was a newlywed. EVERY class was my favorite. I learned about growing trees, managing wildlife, identifying soils and rock types, fighting wildland fires, surveying and silviculture. Suddenly, even calculus and statistics were fun again. Just a note; when I tell people I have a B.S. in Forestry (minor in wildlife management), they think I trained to be a park ranger. Not true – I trained to use scientific knowledge and experience to manage forested lands for multiple uses. I had to learn first aid and chasing Yogi Bear on my own.
During the summers I interned with the Forest Service – 3 summers on the Targhee near Ashton, Idaho, 1 summer on the Caribou near Soda Springs, Idaho and 1 season on the Wasatch-Cache in Heber City, Utah. When I arrived on the Targhee, they told me I would be on a timber crew – I got to walk around the woods, surveying potential units, measuring trees and doing wildlife surveys. “And you’re paying me to do that? You got to be kidding me!” I couldn’t figure out why everyone wasn’t doing this. I did the same job all 5 summers. Occasionally, they would pull me off the forest to work on ad hoc (type II) wildland fire crews. There’s a rush. If I ever meet up with you on the trail, I have a few good stories – firefighters always do. At fire camps, there’s usually a fierce competition on who has the best story. I loved hanging around the veterans.
In the mid 90’s, it turns out lots of people wanted to get into outdoor careers. With the government layoffs, there weren’t many fulltime jobs for new college graduates like me. I could always find a seasonal job, but couldn’t find anything fulltime. Our first child was on his way, and we decided maybe it was time to quit playing around and go out and get a real job. That’s where my computer background picks up. I learned enough about computers in college to get hired on at a high tech company. I’ve been through thick and thin with them for nearly 14 years now.
So, as I tell everyone, my hobby became my career and my career became my hobby. I have maps and packs all over my den wall, and I get out for a hike every chance I get. I hike solo, and also with friends and family. I talk to everyone I meet on the trails. I go places where I won’t see another human all day, and other places where the trail is a regular highway – it’s all good. My bonus outdoor hobbies are GPS, maps, photography, map & photography software, weather, spending time with the family (of course!) and now blogging.
There you have it – my outdoor experience, my perspective.
P.S. writing this was kind of fun. I really enjoyed it. I would like to hear about your perspective. If you’re willing to share, write and tell us about your outdoor experience and perspective. We’ll make this a regular blog topic.