It’s hard to describe exactly what Opal Creek is without experiencing it for yourself. For me it has been eye opening in beauty and character, and has become like a second home in the short amount of time that I have been here. And that time has in fact been short. I moved to Jawbone Flats blindly in early June, in the hope that a new experience would satisfy my taste for adventure, and so far I have not been let down. Every day I hear someone talk about going on a new trail, creek walk, to some mountain, or to a secret pool, and it seems endless to me. This space is an entirely different world to me; I had never been to Oregon, or any of the Pacific Northwest for that matter, and coming from the Midwest you can only imagine the difference in landscape.
As a major part of my job here at Opal Creek I am tasked with the exploration of this vast wilderness area. I am here to help instruct and guide backpacking expeditions for various age groups; however this internship is much more than just that. I take these experiences and opportunities to teach younger generations about environmental stewardship and conservation. I use my time with these groups to reflect on how I would like to improve myself and the way in which I want to live my life. And I use the wilderness that I live in as a form of therapy to remind myself and our program participants that life doesn’t need to be stressful. This position has become more like a way of life than just an outdoor internship.
I am surrounded by a group of like-minded people that also feel that being here is more a way of life than a position on their resumés. That makes living in the backcountry more like home. It is truly remote out here, and our ability to communicate with the outside world is quite limited. The only way in or out is by hiking a three mile road and driving thirty minutes to the nearest intersection. I believe that these buffers between our community and the rest of the world create solace for the people who visit, people who wish to forget their troubles and who wish to experience something original.
Opal Creek is all of this; it is an ancient forest and protected wilderness, it is an education center and a community, and it is the historic gem of Oregon. But all of this means nothing unless you experience it for yourself, so that you can understand its importance and find a new way of life for yourself.