Tales from the Trail: About Service


Ella Stack

Three hitches into conservation season, I’m beginning to notice things about the natural world I wouldn’t have thought to look for before. These new observations have come from the nature of the work and just through virtue of spending so much time outside.

I have come to find the nature of the service out here enjoyable in its own right, but also refreshing in a society where our attention flints from one activity to another like a rock skipping over water. Spending a full day trying to set one large rock in a rock staircase feels almost archaic. But focusing just on this one rock, for instance, recommends a greater degree of reflection on your relationship with a particular rock than most people have in a lifetime.

After painting blue blazes for many hours one day on hitch, I started seeing the shape of blazes everywhere. I felt like Rapunzel in that scene in the Disney movie when she realizes the sun drawings are all around her, except instead of noticing an elaborate drawing of sun, I was noticing a relatively common shape of rectangle. The shape of my Nature Valley bar reminded me of a blaze. Even the strip of toothpaste on my toothbrush looked blaze-like. The windows on the houses we passed? Blazes. Although this heightened awareness of certain rectangles happened just that one day, this phenomenon has manifested itself in other forms throughout my trail season. 

I may not be Rapunzel finding drawings of suns in the tower where I’ve lived my whole life, but my increased awareness of trees and rocks in forests after these hitches have given me a similar feeling of seeing the familiar with new eyes.