Sammy Pressman Spent 3 Months Laboring in Alaska’s Backcountry


Was it an easy way to spend a summer? No. Would he do it again? Absolutely.

ABOVE: “When there are more days of rain than sunshine during a trail-building hitch, sometimes, to stay cheerful, you just have to embrace the mud.” Eagle River, AK

Last summer, University of Michigan student Sammy Pressman spent 3 months roaming the wilds of Alaska, sleeping in a tent and working on a variety of vital conservation projects—restoring moose habitat, battling invasive plants, closing dangerously eroded sections of trail and replacing them fresh routes. He experienced it all as a member of one of SCA’s Alaska Corps teams.

Outdoor adventure was far from new to him, but, he says “I had never spent 3 months living in a tent before, or running a chainsaw on 8 hour days, or building trail consecutively for multiple weeks in a row. It was great to work with people who share the same ideals and lifestyle that you do, and working with multiple agencies and parks you get to meet so many awesome and interesting people! It really opened my eyes to the type of work that is possible and what conservation work entails.

Manual labor and an amazing view = a typical day on an SCA Alaska Corps Team. Here’s 3 of us taking out an old, washed out trail in Kenai Fjords National Park with Exit Glacier in the background.”

“There is just something satisfying about spending all day outside working alongside teammates who are equally in love with that kind of labor. Though it may be hard, and you might complain once in a while, you just get so much satisfaction from seeing your work materialize, like when we got to hiking a trail we had just finished building, or look back at how many trees we had cut down by the end of a long hitch. I would definitely want to do something similar to this again someday, whether for SCA or with the government.

To celebrate a crewmate’s birthday, we made Oreo pudding from a mix with dehydrated milk. It may not be ice cream cake but it tasted 10x better under the circumstances! This was during a day off that we spent backpacking in Denali National Park, and it’s just a great representation of the backcountry lifestyle.”

“I learned so many things, from technical skills like chainsawing and trail building, to general outdoor life skills like how to stay sane when it’s constantly raining, and how to manage rapid transitions between backcountry immersion and the comforts of civilization. I also learned something about myself and what type of work I may want to do in the future. I may never use some of these skills again, but learning them gave me a new appreciation for all of the work that goes into managing parks and their resources. And of course I have to say, getting paid to travel around Alaska was absolutely amazing. I had the opportunity to work in three of the state’s National Parks, exploring parts of them that the vast majority of people never get to see, and encountering some amazing scenery and wildlife along the way.” 

BELOW: Sammy backpacking through Denali during a day off work.