Steven Mantini – Wilderness Ranger Intern
Payette National Forest
As a Wilderness Ranger Intern I have adapted to the physical and mental stresses, while enjoying the incredible rewards, which accompany heavy trail maintenance and isolation in the Frank Church. However, this hitch on the Marble Creek Trail presented a host of new challenges and even more rewarding experiences as we worked side by side with a group of volunteers. Instead of being solely responsible for myself; Kelly, Gabe, and I were now responsible for 7 volunteers. The exchange is simple, we take care of the logistics, shared equipment, meals, and work planning, while our volunteers dedicate a week of their free time to help us clear and improve the trail. It is a tremendous commitment on behalf of both parties. Before we even arrived at the trailhead, we spent hours planning meals, food shopping, prepping equipment, and stressing about all the variables that working in the wilderness presents. The volunteers drive themselves hours up dirt roads, commit to the intense, physical work of trail maintenance, and do it all on their days off from work, while they could be laying in a hammock enjoying a cold beverage.
Once we met up with these dedicated volunteers and made the 2-hour drive to the trailhead, I began to feed off of their tremendous positivity and dedication. Throughout the week they dealt with mosquitoes, horseflies, over 30 creek crossings, and countless other challenges. Not only did they handle the challenges in stride, they were able to accomplish a tremendous amount of work as well. I was impressed with their ability to read the complicated binds of fallen logs and help us cross cut saw safely and efficiently. Once we all got into a rhythm, my worries faded away and I was able to enjoy the great company. We were a diverse group with a wide range of ages and backgrounds, yet we bonded quickly over our love of the great outdoors.
Their appreciation for everything wilderness helped me to slow down and remind myself of all the reasons why I love this work. My office includes majestic sunsets, the endless music of songbirds and creeks, epic stargazing, and sometimes more importantly, the opportunity to bond with others in the absence of modern distractions and comforts.
Thank you to all of the volunteers for your amazing work, to Jon Binninger for packing all our food and tools and bringing us a surprise resupply which included his fantastic organic, fair-trade coffee. Purchase it here and support SBFC! http://landgrovecoffee.com/product/organic-cross-trails-blend/), and to Jesse and Josh from the US Forest Service for clearing the road to the trailhead, giving us tips and tricks for efficient trail work, and partnering with us in everything that we do in the field.