Triple Your Impact – Mary Travaglini’s Story


Multi-time alumna Mary Travaglini (pictured above on the right) created unforgettable memories while leading several crews during her time at SCA. As we encourage you to triple your impact through December 31, learn about Mary’s three-time black bear sighting at North Cascades National Park and other experiences that inspired her passion for conservation.

SCA: What are the first three words that come to mind when you think of SCA?   

Mary: Recharge. Connection. Fulfillment.

SCA: What is your “best” SCA story and why is it the best? 

Mary: I led 8 trail crews and as is typical of the leaders, we see or experience more than the crew members simply because we interact with agency partners, or as was the case in my days, we usually visited our work sites the month before our crew began. My crew in North Cascades was in bear country, and we had to do all the typical daily precautions to protect against bears, from our food storage to our daily hike to work. Three times I experienced a black bear sighting, to the chagrin of the whole crew.

The first was as we hiked home in dense brush to camp–if the team wasn’t chattering then someone in front had to be calling out the classic “Hey Bear” to warn any bears we were coming. One day, a bear charged right in front of me across the trail before anyone behind saw it. The second time, I was hiking back 11 miles alone after bringing out a crew member on medevac and saw a mother and cubs! But the third time was the last day — we had packed up camp and filled in our latrine pit and I was using a nearby campsite “toilet” when I heard what I thought was the sound of humans cutting off the switchbacks of a section of trail above camp. When I turned to look, it was a mama bear with baby cubs walking behind me not too far away. There’s nothing a little more nerve-wracking than a mama bear with cubs than adding a pants-down situation to the mix! I of course froze in position, took a deep breath after they went by without noticing me, and had a “you won’t believe this” moment to share with my crew, who were all still jealous, despite the fact that I could have been mauled…

SCA: What is your favorite SCA memory?

Mary: I was an SCA high school trail crew participant, which really launched my journey into conservation, as well as my love of SCA. Our crew leaders were very committed to having us learn about the landscape around us, and we hiked out for a long weekend to learn about the redwood forests of northern California. We hiked into a recently acquired private sanctuary to meet a 2,000 year-old redwood called “Big Red.” Communing with that redwood with my very close team was an experience that can barely be described, and brought us even closer to the land we had been living and sleeping on for weeks.

SCA: What mementoes do you still have from your SCA days and why are they, in particular, so important?

Mary: I think I have most of the rosters from the trail crews I led, and a few crew shirts, old SCA patches from crews and my internship, my workskills instructor vest, a helmet, and if you count people as mementoes, many lasting friends from crew members, fellow leaders, interns I hosted, fellow workskills instructors, and former SCA staff.

I also have a plaster cast of a wolf print, feathers, and crew journals written by my co-leader and I. All of them are reminders of how significant a role SCA has played in who I am today as an individual, a leader, and a team member. And they bring me back to my SCA experiences, where I often felt most free, at home with the earth, and important in the world. 

SCA: If you could return to (any of) your SCA service site(s), what’s the first thing you’d do and why? 

Mary: I’d go right back to the Lost Coast of California where I was on a high school crew. In fact, we hope in 2021 to have a 30-year reunion there, on the Buck Creek Trail! Why would I go back there? Simply put, it was a magical place and magical time, and who wouldn’t want to go lay out under the stars there again with such a great group of people? 

SCA: Complete, as applicable: “I donate to SCA because __”

Mary: SCA provides opportunities for young people that are nearly impossible to find through other volunteer programs, and it has given me a wealth of irreplaceable memories and skills.

Triple your Impact with a gift to SCA today!


Student Conservation Association