Women in the Wilderness

This week I had the opportunity to participate in the Women in the Wilderness program with the Eastern Sierra Conservation Corps. This program takes women from ages 18 to 25 on an eight-day introductory immersive backpacking trip to a national park. I was one of the seven women selected to participate in this program this year, and was able to take this backpacking journey to Lassen Volcanic National Park. When I signed up for this I had no idea what exactly to expect, but what I did know was that this was something I had been wanting to do but never had the chance to. As a female and a Latina, opportunities to do outdoor recreation are not as accessible as one may think, and this program gave me the opportunity to break these barriers and prove to society that women and minorities should have the same opportunity for these type of activities. This program gave us all the equipment and assistance needed to make this trip as immersive as possible, which was great. I traveled to Sacramento where the other women and I were picked up by the leaders and were taken to Lassen. We received an introduction on what to expect and the logistics of this trip. As I look back on it, this trip truly challenged me physically, mentally, and emotionally, making it an unforgettable experience. In this time I was able to accomplish things that I had never imagined I would, such as reaching the top of cinder cone, which was a steep one-mile hike, but once I was up there I felt unimaginable satisfaction and happiness with myself. Experiencing the backcountry has given me a new sense of appreciation towards our national parks that I don’t think many people have. By experiencing parts of the park that most people don’t, it helped me understand the mission statement behind the National Park Service and why it is so important to help preserve our national parks and nature. Part of the program also incorporated spending time working with the trail crew at the park, which essentially clears the trail of fallen trees, debris, or obstruction of the trails. Meeting this group of individuals truly inspired me to want to pursue a career in the Park Service, as they were all so passionate about what they did and although it was labor intensive they found satisfaction and happiness in it. We spent a day with them learning how to use cross cut saw, which requires two people and is used due to the Wilderness Area restrictions in the park, and I learned how to survey a tree in terms of how to cut it and the mechanics behind sawing a tree and how it can bind and/or wedge and how to approach the situation. I really liked learning about this aspect of the park, because many times we see these trails as being there but we do not think of the people behind them and how they are maintained, and by understanding how these trails are put into the ground it  gave me a new sense of appreciation for them. We also had to opportunity to speak to one of the office workers at the park, which gave us an inside look into how the park is managed and gave us helpful tips on how to find a career in the Park Service. I had visited national parks before but never thought of the logistical process that goes behind it, and speaking to her shined a new light on my perspective of parks. This journey was exhausting as I had never done this before, I carried a 40-pound backpack, and walked over 40 miles through rough terrain; it was such a challenge for me, but I was able to do it. I now look back and am so proud that I was able to accomplish this, and through this time I kept remembering my current work in my internship and how it is related. I made mental connections I would have never made in the office that I think will help further support and improve my projects. Although I am still a bit tired I am so thankful for programs like these that let people have access to parks, and am thankful for the support of my supervisors, leaders, and family that allowed me to make this great adventure happen. My piece of advice is do things like this, things you have never imagined yourself doing, explore the outdoors, and don’t let your socioeconomic background hinder your dreams. Till next week!

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