Two weeks ago the staff of Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center gathered in Jawbone Flats to celebrate the end of another successful program season. Seasonal staff were getting ready to depart their tiny cabins and Jawbone Flats, a place they have called home for the past 7 months.This can be an unsettling time for staff, and to add uncertainty America had just elected a new president. Although often Jawbone feels very removed from mainstream society, on this day no place was safe from the election results. Staff were returning back to the “real world” and the rules had changed. Conversations filled with worry, astonishment, and shock were happening throughout camp. What kind of world was it out there? How do we continue to fight for the things we believe in? Are we doing enough? What else can we do?
I have asked myself those same questions in the weeks since the election. This is not a case of Republicans vs. Democrats, but rather one of human rights and dignity, public land and wilderness. I find myself worried for our society and worried for our wild spaces, places near and dear to my heart. As the results settle, and I begin to think about 2017 and what we are going to accomplish at Opal Creek, my heart begins to soar.
Regardless of politics, Opal Creek is a place that impacts all who visit. In the last few years we have seen an increase in hikers in the area. And with this increase came a much larger diversity of folks who are recreating on the forest. That is wonderful. Come one, come all. Find the peace and solace that only wilderness can provide, immerse yourself in a place larger than you, larger than all of us. Just pack your trash back out with you.
Opal Creek Ancient Forest Center remains committed to ensuring that the ancient forest will continue to inspire students of all ages and that Opal Creek will teach all of our guests, from all walks of life, the value of wilderness. Opal Creek will continue to be a safe place for all to visit.
I know that the programs we operate are vital to a well-rounded and informed citizenry. I am inspired by the stories my staff tell me after a week backpacking with youth, by the quotes that they hear from the kids, by the confidence I see our backpackers hike through Jawbone with at the end of their trip. I have been involved in the environmental education field for over 15 years. Some of my students from my instructor days are out of college, working for non-profits and natural resource management agencies, working to create more public land, standing up for our environment. Many of them state that it was immersive experiences in wilderness that led to their career paths.
The work we do is even more important now, and we must continue to educate the next generation on the importance of wild places and healthy ecosystems. I am so proud of the incredible programs our team run at Opal Creek, and this giving season I am asking you to join me in supporting this work. We are a small organization, and every gift really does make a difference in our ability to continue to provide life changing programs deep in the ancient forest. We need your support to keep stewarding our special forest, and educating the thousands of visitors we see every year.