What to expect? The Unexpected…but enjoying the ride


I like to rock climb, a lot. When I looked at this internship based out of Bear Brook State Park, the second thing I did was find out the location of the nearest cliff/boulder field. Since coming to New Hampshire, I’ve been able to get around to some really cool places. My friend Scott and I went to Franconia Notch State Park to climb Cannon Cliff. It was the most ambitious climb of my life and the fact that I was a little nervous didn’t help.

Then Scott says, “Ian, please don’t get mad…” Uh oh. Not what I want to hear. “I forgot my climbing shoe.” Phew! No worries. I assure Scott he’ll have no troubles and we set out from the parking lot. The trail to the cliff turns out to be a nice paved bike path, with a short hike up through a rock talus field. We walk on the bike path for a period of time that assures me that we’ve gone too far. No problem! We turn around. Scott points out a trail heading towards the cliff, sweet! Now we’re cooking! It’s the wrong trail… No problem, we’ll cross the talus field here and be on our way. A long, hot, nerve-wracking hour later, we get to the base of the cliff and proceed to have the best day of our lives.

Whether I’m teaching a classroom full of 4th graders, climbing a granite cliff, or leading a conservation crew in a beautiful forest, I always expect the unexpected. Like death and taxes, accidents, mishaps and oopsie-daisies are a fact of life. The tough part is that teaching, climbing, and leading crews are, while enjoyable in so many ways, all pretty stressful endeavors to begin with. There is a responsibility to deliver an informative, meaningful, and fun lesson. I could – and do – spend hours, if not days preparing for a lesson. I research resources on teaching the subject, think of my students’ needs, gather my materials, then get a good nights’ sleep.

However, when I arrive at school that day I find out there is an impromptu assembly! Or maybe half of the class is out sick with the flu. Who knows? Just last week during conservation work skills training, we were sent out to demolish a bog bridge that we needed to rebuild during the week. Simple enough… We were equipped with chainsaws, rock bars, timber carriers, and a lot of enthusiasm. Not soon after getting our gloves dirty do we learn that the bridge is attached by re-bar to supports buried in some of the finest smelling bog-mud Bear Brook has to offer. As leaders we can go through list after list of tools to bring, do site visits, ask all of the right questions, and when we get to the work site, be forgetting the perfect tool for the job.

I didn’t know what to expect by accepting an internship to teach and work on crews in the cities and forests of New Hampshire, but the one awesome thing that I’m getting used to is being flexible, reflecting on what’s going well, and enjoying this wonderful opportunity while I’m on for the ride.