Laura Bogar, Mount Rainier Ambassador, Conservation Leadership Corps member
The mountain never really leaves you.
I’m three days back from a fifteen-day stint on Mt. Rainier, and the dirt is still working its way out of my pores. But I treasure it. Though showers are nice, nothing compares with the joy of being on a crew. Getting really intimate with the land turns a little dust in the pasta from a mistake into a seasoning. Bug bites become battle scars. And acquaintances turn into friendships stronger than the rock bars they’re forged with.
I’m probably the first high-schooler to post a blog here. I’m the first-ever Rainier Ambassador, a position which has allowed me to take a greater leadership role within a high school crew. The crew in which I participated was composed entirely of kids from Seattle, members of the Conservation Leadership Corps which runs out of the SCA’s northwest regional office. I’ve done a couple of crews before, starting after my freshman year of high school: two weeks on Mt. Rainier, and then a month in Glacier National Park the next season. This new ambassadors program has served as a fabulous opportunity for me to practice and enhance my trail-building and leadership skills, learning how to facilitate the construction of everything from French drains to friendships.
No matter what I may have learned about checksteps and water bars and properly brushed trails, the most important thing I got out of this experience was a renewed confidence in the power of community on the trail. I’ve found that this is a common response to the crew experience: Everyone involved discovers some aspect of community, or diversity, or simple love for their fellow crewmates, which they had never thought possible before. I am perpetually astonished by the adaptability and resilience of the students who come out on a crew. Many of the kids with me on Rainier had never done this sort of work before – ever – much less spent such an extended period in the woods without a shower. And, at the beginning of the crew, loud whining kept pace with the lack of experience.
But transformation is possible. By the end of the trip, I had witnessed students go from sluggish hikers and unenthused workers to role models in themselves, blazing up the trail and swinging Pulaskis for all they were worth. Something had clicked. The mountain made sense to them now. The work had become a source of pride. And the group had become more a family than a mere crew of laborers. Everything had come together.
The Rainier program provides a valuable sense of place for its Seattlite participants. The mountain shines over every mile of Seattle’s streets, her summit catching the first few rays of sun and holding the fire of sunset in her glaciers long after the skyscrapers have lost their glimmer. After a summer experience like this, we’ll all be able to rise each morning knowing that our mountain will be there, providing an ever-present reminder of the importance of community and a link to the natural world. She’s always there for us, much as we have been there for each other these last couple of weeks. And now, we’re there for her.