By Bill Hodge, Executive Director
The season always begins with excitement for some, trepidation for others, and the giddiness of meeting new people. The convergence of experience and opportunity, pushing personal boundaries and new landscapes pulls the team together that would otherwise never meet.
They come from school, from the trail, and some from their most recent seasonal gig. They arrive never having met each other, about to spend long periods living and working as a team in remote and inspiring locations. It requires trust and a heart full of possibilities.
The conversations start out like speed-dating – where you from? What’s your major? Why did you apply?
We fly from an immersion of seventy other passionate Wilderness stewards and advocates building skills to teams of six – cut-off from society totally reliant on each other.
The season brings heart-stopping views, sore muscles, and crazy conversations. A season in the Wilderness pairs the introvert with the class instigator, with only the trees to sort them out. The relationships stretch and rebound like a rubber band between your fingers. Sometimes your teammates are the only people you will see for ten days, and sometimes the visitors bring surprises to buoy your spirits.
The work can be exhausting, rewarding, infuriating, and inspiring in the span of a couple of minutes. The landscape can provide cool swimming holes and oppressive heat, a long green tunnel, and soaring vistas. The conversations start with rudimentary discussions of a piece of legislation passed long before the crew was born, to a deep dissection of why Wilderness matters now more than ever.
The time out of the field can mean serious whiplash from cell phones and city traffic to total silence and no outside communication. You can’t wait to get away from your crewmates, to moments of never wanting to say goodbye.
The team comes together for precious few days during a crazy summer. Stories are shared. Laughs about things too personal to make this blog. Songs that prove teamwork and Wilderness can inspire the best creativity.
In the end – people that walked awkwardly into a pavilion not knowing what waited for them just a couple of months ago – there is love. Love for place, love for each other, love for the team, and love for an idea. The love they inspire in me is fuel for the road ahead – the opportunity to spread that love, that love for experience for others to share.
Love – for a group of pirates – that made a world of difference for Wilderness in the Southern Appalachians.