Highlights On This Page: Grace's Biography, Photos, and Essay
Hometown: Walpole, NH
SCA Work/Site Location: North Cascades National Park, WA
Dream job: National Park Service
Favorite book: This I Believe
Favorite movie: "National Parks: America's Best Idea" by Ken Burns
Favorite park: North Cascades, WA
Most memorable SCA moment: Climbing on top of a boulder, looking out at the awe-inspiring view and saying, "This is why I do what I love to do."
Something few people know about me: I'm just as comfortable, if not more comfortable, wearing a hardhat and gloves as I am wearing a dress and high heels.
Background: After moving to Walpole, NH from Atlanta, GA, I became very curious about the nature around me; I'd never seen so many trees and hills! Having now been exposed to the meaning of green, I grew more aware of my ecological footprint, and wanted to help the environment through any means necessary. When my mother told me about the SCA, I was more than excited, seeing as I had never been to a national park and that this was my chance to do what I've dreamed of. Now that I have completed three high school crews, not only am I able to tell my story to my friends and get them inspired, but I'm also more eager to answer the world's call everytime, no matter where the path less traveled may take me.
Over the summer of 2009, I was a member of my last High School Crew for the Student Conservation Association. I and six other students, all from different areas of the country, were destined to work in the North Cascades in Washington State. Our new home was a six-mile hike north of a very small town named Stehekin. We had no access to running water, no showers, very few opportunities to have our letters sent out and brought in, and our only contact to the outside world, or at least the people who worked for the National Park Service in the area, was via radio. Despite the lack of such amenities and luxuries, however, we all lived large in our backcountry setting. We filtered water that we fetched from a nearby creek, chopped rounds from the fallen trees, and occasionally rinsed off (if you can call it that) in another creek by jumping into the cold glacial run-off.
Hiking the Six Miles to Our Campsite
The friends I made on the crew are people I will surely keep in touch with over the next few years. All of us bonded very well. One of the crewmembers, Jacob from Kentucky, and I had met last summer at the SCA Commencement. After keeping in touch since then, he and I were surprised to learn that we would be on the same crew together. The other people on my crew, Greta (CA), Daniel (MD), Rich (IA), Dylan (NC), and Frances (CT), all felt comfortable being around one another after our arrival. Throughout our time in the North Cascades, we all looked after each other, shared responsibilities, and had a life-changing experience together.
Taking a Break - Frances Enjoying the Sunshine
Our leaders, Andrea Penglase and John Peton, were two very different people, but their personalities combined made our crew that much more entertaining and unique. Andrea told us all in one of her emails that she loved to play games. Every other day she shared a new game with us, such as "Eagle Eye", "Celebrity", and a group favorite, "In the Manner of the Adverb". We also shared some games we knew with her, such as "Pass the Snort" and "Veggie Off".
John was a little more on the serious side, but when he found his inner child-which became more frequent as his beard grew-everyone knew it. He was the one people would come up to for questions, ranging from "How can I stop my heel from sliding in my boot?" to "What if a bear comes too close?" On that note, while we were having lunch on a trail we were brushing, Dylan pointed out a black bear that was minding its own business... or so we thought. Its walking style went from aimless to strangely getting closer; it wouldn't respond to our attempts at frightening it. Thankfully, John helped us leave the area without any problems or panic.
Our crew was given several work assignments to complete over our three week stint, with the first being to fix up two campsites along Flat Creek Trail. We had to create new tent pads, dig out fire pits, and clear out a lot of the duff (the top layer of earth that consisted of moss, needles, leaves and rotting logs).
My Fellow Crew Members, Dylan and Frances, Hard at Work
After moving into one of those campsites, we were prepared for our main assignment. Each morning, we would hike roughly 1.5 miles to our next job site to help the North Cascades [NOCA] Trail Crew create a half-mile long re-route to replace what had been washed away by a flood a few years earlier. The seven of us knew about this assignment from a last minute email, but after our first day on the field, we realized what we had actually signed up for. We used tools such as shovels, picks, Pulaskis, McClouds, grub hoes, handsaws, and of course our hands, to build the new trail. One tool some of us favored was the grip hoist that was provided by the NOCA Trail Crew. Through our leaders and the NOCA Crew, we were taught how to use these tools properly and safely. Some of the tasks at hand ranged from raking out the duff and digging out and leveling the trail to rolling down large rocks and rip hoisting bulky clusters of vine maple root.
When the NOCA Crew left for their break, we took on our third assignment, which was to brush Park Creek Trail (where we hiked up some of the steepest switchbacks I'd ever seen). With our weed whips, handsaws, and loppers, we cut back overhanging limbs and brushed back the vegetation that grew into the trail.
Jacob, About to Join the Crew in the Creek
What was great about all the work that we did was that we would return to our sites the next day to see all the work we had done. It's truly amazing how much work can be accomplished with such a small group of people. All of the work was well worth it; we would get stronger, and we'd let out a sigh of relief knowing that our work will made an impact that will help the park for many years to come. It's also great to know that the people from the National Park Service and the hikers will appreciate all our hard work now and 10 years from now.
My time up in the North Cascades is something that I will always remember. This experience was filled with thrills... and plenty of spills. At the beginning of the crew, I was sitting in a truck bed with Jacob telling him that I was really sad that this would be my last crew. Now that I'm back home, I am sad that it had to end so quickly, but I was also happy that my last crew was the best one. I have to thank those people for making my time up there so enjoyable and memorable. More importantly, I have to thank the SCA for giving me the chance to have such an awesome experience. Without them, I may have never been able to answer the world's call.