Passing on a passion for the wild
The Student Conservation Association has been a part of my family since the day I was born. Indeed, I truly was an SCA baby: my mom and dad met working in Yosemite National Park back in the ‘70s, and eventually wound up leading SCA crews every summer in the backcountry. Photographs of my parents from this time are forever etched in my brain. The two of them surrounded by excited and diverse high school volunteers: my dad bounding and bearded; my mom small and fit, with long, wistful hair. And of course some of the most epic scenery I had ever seen as their backdrop. These photos still mount the walls of our living room back home today.
My parents eventually relocated back to the east coast following their tenure as crew leaders, where my dad soon found himself working directly within SCA management in Charlestown, NH. I believe the staff consisted of only a handful of folks at the time! Thirty years later, my dad is now retiring from SCA after pouring his heart, soul and career into enhancing opportunities for young people to engage with and give back to nature. I was born into this ideology, and despite my disposition tending toward the rebellious side, I’m happy to say that I followed suit (as did my two older brothers).
At 15, I nervously embarked on my first national crew in Denali National Park. It was four weeks of stunning scenery, rockwork, building muscle, loving the dirt, and learning more about my connection to the world around me. I was immediately hooked and soon signed up for another high school crew the following summer– this time in Yosemite, of all places. Coincidentally, my oldest brother was also working trails in the Yosemite backcountry the same summer, much to my parents’ absolute delight. Can you imagine how excited they were to hear two of their kids were working in the same park in which they met, fell in love and married? At 16 I rolled my eyes a lot about this fact, but in retrospect I think it’s quite wonderful.
One of my favorite memories was when my brother somehow located my crew at Lower Merced Pass Lake, just below Red Peak Pass, dozens of miles in the Yosemite backcountry. We were used to being rather solitary as a roving, backcountry crew and I remember us all being on guard as we watched this lean, dirty, unshaven stranger tromp into our camp. Lo and behold, it was my bro! Fortunately, we all had the next day off, and my brother and I spent it fishing, skipping rocks, playing cards and hanging out with my crew. It was sublime. We took a photo of us during this time that my parents have mounted next to a picture of them as youngins on the top of Mount Dana. I daresay the resemblance is there. We are certainly our parents’ children.
I could go on at length about all of my favorite SCA experiences (as I’m sure could most alums): on summiting Half Dome twice (for sunrise and sunset!), on living like I was in the 1800s while working on a crew in Flathead National Forest during college; and on thickening my skin as I lead my first SCA crew in southern Texas in the blistering heat with my own wonderful high school volunteers. All of these wonderful experiences emboldened my passion for the environment and a belief to give back.
I often wonder whether I would have found SCA had I not been born into this family and culture of giving back to wild places. I’d like to give myself the credit and think so, but in all honesty, most of the time I feel insanely lucky that this is the world in which I was raised.
In a way I find this both a blessing and a bit disheartening. Connecting young people with our wild places should be more easily cultivated, but in reality it takes leg work. It takes resources to connect with youth who have a passion for the wild, yet lack the means or mentorship to realize these passions. In a time in which the planet needs these connections more than ever, SCA continues to reach out to young people everywhere, encouraging them to join our ever-growing family.
Photo above: Kathy and Scott Weaver, with two of their children (inset: Johanna and Travis), and Johanna Weaver.