Winters days are numbered in Jawbone Flats. In sync the melting snow, extended sunlight, and the patiently waiting buds and seedlings, I’ve been diligently planning, organizing and developing our programs for the coming season. While I am perhaps not as patient as the seeds underfoot, I am none the less looking forward to the offerings of spring; the opportunity for growth, new experiences and, at Opal Creek, the immersive environmental education that occurs once the snow melts away.
My excitement and eagerness for our coming season branches in many directions: I imagine dozens of students hiking in from the gate amongst awe inspiring old-growth Douglas fir, cedar, and hemlock trees. Some wide-eyed and speechless as they become mesmerized by their first experience in true wilderness. I picture children and their parents searching for amphibians in Opal Creek and learning, with amazement, about the functions and knowledge provided us by the lichens that cling to trees, buildings, and even old trucks in Jawbone. I envision the satisfaction and confidence of our beginning backpackers as they finally reach Beechie Saddle to spend their very first night under the dark skies unobstructed by city lights. I anticipate the relaxed and meandering conversations I will have with the many guests that seek out the solace and silence of Opal Creeks trails, water, and, of course, the kitchen’s superb cooking.
What wilderness means to me extends beyond my personal experience of it (though I have had many, relaxing and challenging, to be sure), and being in the wilderness of Opal Creek holds an altogether different meaning for me precisely because of the many opportunities we are able to offer to thousands of people each year. And the incredible story that goes along with Opal Creek, of how this particular wilderness was fought for and ultimately protected so that it can be enjoyed by the thousands lucky enough to find their way to the gate at the end of the Jawbone Flats “drive way,” compels me to do the sometimes mundane tasks that go along with this work. Even if, for only one day, someone is able to spend time at Opal Creek, to slow down and perhaps, in those moments of stillness, re-connect with something more than the many daily projects that inevitably cross our desks, or the countless other things I could list that at times feel more important than a simple walk in the woods, I know it is all worth it, because wilderness is indescribably precious and is in need of folks who see it as such.
I could ramble on about what wilderness means to me; how grateful I am places like Opal Creek still exist, that I am one of the lucky ones who not only has been there, but has lived there and that I continue to work to make wilderness experiences available to others, but I’ll leave it at that and simply say I hope to see you in the woods during our 2013 season!