Petrified Forest NP ’01, Denali NP ’02, Pacific Crest Trail ’06, Great Sand Dunes National Monument ’07, Upper Connecticut River Basin ’07
As both a high school participant and a field leader, Nathan Taxel has seen both sides of the SCA experience. Now the Outdoor Education Coordinator at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Nathan is putting into practice the skills and ideals he learned in the field.
Honestly, I initially chose SCA because it was the only free outdoor program I could find as a high school student. After my first program I was hooked. The sense of accomplishment after a program and feeling like I was making a real difference is what brought me back to SCA over and over again.
There are many things, but the one that stands out is the day we finished our project on my second crew in Denali National Park. We built a short section of trail that included two large retaining walls and two stone staircases. Some days, we spent the whole day placing one rock, or we would struggle for hours to get a rock to the work site just to have it not fit. But we got it done and it looked great. To this day it is one of the hardest single pieces of trail I have ever worked on, but the structures we built will last for generations. We used the same dry masonry techniques that they used to build Machu Pichu and the pyramids. I’ll never forget how I felt when we got it done.
After being part of so many different SCA programs, both as a participant and a leader, it is really hard to pick favorites. One that stands out is summiting Mt. Washington with the first high school crew I led. It was the first summit attempt for all my members and some of them really struggled, but we all made it to the top. I consider it one of my greatest successes as a leader.
I really didn’t have to do much at all to inspire the group. I spoke about the experience of reaching a summit and how it can motivate them during their everyday life, but mostly the inspiration came from within the team. The stronger members stayed with the slower ones and helped get them to the top. Making the hike a group effort rather than an individual one was the key to our success. My members were so proud of themselves when they reached the top. Your first summit is something that stays with you. After you climb a mountain, everything else in life seems a little easier.
I would not be where I am today if it was not for my involvement with SCA. As a high school student, my crews in Arizona and Alaska exposed me to the outdoors and environmentalism. In college, my internship made me want to work in outdoor education. Later, working as a crew leader for SCA gave me the experience I needed for my current job. Not only did I learn how to work with youth in the outdoors, but I also learned how to be a teacher and a leader. The time I spent in the field with SCA has prepared me for anything I could possibly face here in the “real world,” except for having to spend part of each day at a desk! SCA has truly been a defining factor in my life.
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