A dream assignment--4 weeks in the backcountry of Denali. Here are Adrian's stories, photos and video about working with a team of high school students he'd never met before in one of the most remote, beautiful places on earth.
Name: Adrian Willis
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Work/Site Location: Denali National Park., Alaska
Dream job: Professional Dancer!
Favorite book: Catch by Will Leitch
Favorite movie: Toy Story
Favorite park: Acadia National Park.
Something few people know about me: My eye twitches sometimes when I get bored.
Background: I love dancing, arts, or anything that allows me to show off. I have been working with the SCA for 3 years now. These have been some of the best years of my life so far.
Adrian Willis turns 18 this week, is a freshman at the University of Texas, is an SCA veteran and has just returned from Alaska. He talked with us recently about that experience.
Q: Adrian, what did you do this summer with SCA?
I spent a month working in the backcountry of Denali building a new trail in the Triple Lakes region. There were six of us, a random group from across America. I lived with them for the duration of the month.
We actually were cutting new trail, although I got to work on a little project building a retaining wall. We were forced to stop building the trail right at the end because the Park Service could not allow us to cut down a tree that was blocking the way. It was actually frustrating not to be able to finish. We were within hours of getting it done.
Q:What was it like being in the backcountry of Denali?
It was really pretty and we had a great view at lunch every day. The weather was unpredictable, sunny and warm one day and overcast and cold the next. Where we were working, the mosquitoes weren't bad, but at Wonder Lake, you could see clouds of them hovering over you. I wore rain gear a lot.
Q: And the food?
We got to cook anything we wanted. I made sushi twice. Whoever was cooking got to choose what everyone ate. So we had the master cook and the master slave who got to help. And anyone who didn't have anything else to do got to wash dishes. We ate lots of pasta, lots of it, and stir-fried veggies. There was great food and we always had leftovers. Between all the healthy food and the exercise, most people got stronger and thinner.
Q: How strenuous was it?
Well, I was already in great shape and pretty strong, so it didn't seem all that hard.
We hiked about an hour and a half or about 3 miles to get to the work site each day and then back again, so that took some energy. The only hard thing was to carry the tree stumps and I volunteered to do that a lot.
Q: What was the most amazing moment?
The first night of our recreation trip, well this will sound weird but it made me want to come home. So I have to explain. Where we camped to work wasn't backcountry; we worked up in the backcountry but we didn't live there. Our recreation trip at the end of our hitch went into the backcountry. It was harsh. We had to cross rivers of glacier water, and when the night came the wind really picked up -- to 40 miles an hour -- and the windchill was miserable. I'm from Texas and this was the coldest I had ever been. I just wanted to come home. The next day I got out of soggy boots and changed my socks and it was ok. I got to see Denali at its harshest and most beautiful.
Q: What will you just never forget?
During that last week, we went rafting and the tour guides had us do a circle of trust, where you stand on the edge of the raft and hold hands and then lean way back and support each other. Then we got to jump in and the guides helped us get back in the boat. We all got to be close friends by the end.
Q: What will you take away from your SCA experience?
I've worked with SCA for the past three years, and at every event I learned a little something. I want to continue that. I really want to continue with SCA. It would be completely awesome to be a crewleader. I think I'd be a pretty good crewleader.
Q: Have you changed?
I'm really comfortable talking in front of a crowd, and I can easily explain things. Once you tell me something it sticks with me. Like, I can still talk about the prairie restoration work we did last year. I can remember just about everything I learned about it and explain it to others. Some of who I am today is because of SCA. SCA has taught me to be my own person. I don't have to rely on others.