Riley Hunter – Wilderness Ranger Intern
Utah Valley University
Upper Yellowjacket Volunteer Project
Salmon-Challis National Forest
I was told, ever since my early teenage years, that my love for the outdoors was going to lead me to a job with the Forest Service doing trails and backpacking around as a Wilderness Ranger. To be honest, I never truly believed them and I still don’t know that this field is where I will end up. I don’t know what my passions are, or what I can truly dedicate my time to.
But my first hitch taught me a whole new level of passion and working to preserve what you believe in. We worked on the Upper Yellowjacket Trail with three amazing volunteers. I personally have never been one for volunteering, but watching these three individuals with different backgrounds and experiences come together for their love of Wilderness got to me. They all worked so hard and for free. We ended up clearing out fallen trees, creating French drains, cleaning up the the trail with retread, digging some new tread, and brushing up the sides of the trail. The fact that these people would willingly dedicate their free time to digging in the dirt and mud, chopping up roots, hauling heavy buckets loaded with rocks, and cutting down trees -both in the cold rain with heavy, wet boots and when it got hot in the afternoons- allowed me to understand what it is really like to be passionate about something.
At one point, we talked about how friends may think you’re crazy for dedicating your weekend to doing hard labor all for the sake of access to good trails. There are people out there who truly care about our Public Lands and the idea of Wilderness. To maintain access to these areas for all to enjoy, even those who don’t fully appreciate or understand the concept of Wilderness, takes a lot of effort. What is your level of dedication to the trails you use? Are you willing to take the challenge and volunteer your free time to help keep access to your favorite trails open and experience the bliss of solitude of independence of the back country?
Here's a shout out to our volunteers Larry, José, and Miranda! Thanks for all of your hard work this past week!! You have my respect.