The Impact of Wilderness

Living and working in Jawbone Flats this summer has been such a privilege. The longer I’m here, the more I’ve come to appreciate the unique aspects of working in such a special place. Leaving in less than a week will be really tough.

As someone who loves adventure and exploration, it’s practically magic to walk out the door into the wilderness. Working in town hosting, I get to see and meet so many people who travel far to experience an environment like the one of Opal Creek. It’s a great reminder of how incredible living in Jawbone is. It’s some extra motivation to get out and explore as much as I can.

Another major component of my time here has been sharing experiences in the wilderness with kids. Prior to beginning work at Opal Creek, I was unsure how I would relate to the kids on my trips. I quickly discovered how much fun it is to hang out with them both on trail and in camp. Telling jokes and riddles while hiking, and working together in camp helped us learn to know each other so quickly. Watching them interact and live in the wilderness is a treat. Their enthusiasm for adventure is so contagious, I just want to run and swim all over with them.

Last week, I co-led my final expedition of the summer in the Jefferson Wilderness, backpacking around Three-Fingered Jack. Despite the epic scenery, it was a tough route, and a challenging week. However, watching the group respond to the obstacles we faced was one of the most inspiring parts of my summer. With such a broad range of individual abilities, it would be easy for the group to turn on itself. Instead, especially during some of the more challenging days where everyone was tired, hungry, and thirsty, everyone showed remarkable patience and maturity. On our long, dry stretches when water was so precious, we all shared, taking care of the people who had none left. Seeing the shift over the week from twelve individuals to a unit was far more rewarding than the mileage we covered. It’s certainly given me a broader perspective of these summer expeditions. As fun and important as it is to learn and practice backcountry techniques, the wilderness is such a powerful way to teach more general life skills.

I could not have predicted how sudden and profound an impact living and working in Jawbone Flats would have on me. Living in community so far removed from everything else has been an incredible experience. Being here continues to teach and amaze me.