A blog by Anna Tawril, a member of our Southern Crew this summer:
I’ve always believed that simply being in wilderness is inspiring, good for the soul. More time spent outside means more opportunities for self-improvement and more character built. However, after a summer with Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards, it has become clear to me that who you spend time with is just as important as where you spend it. Throughout the summer, my crew, as well as other members of the SAWS community, have been an inspiration and have taught me more than I could have imagined. Each person brought something different to the table, creating an inexplicably strong dynamic. Even after a single hitch, I could feel myself getting closer to the person I want to become.
Chris is by far one of the most dedicated and thorough people I have ever met. Every step he takes seems to be filled with purpose. It was clear he doesn’t lack motivation or determination when we watched him lace up his sneakers for a trail run, or pick up his kettlebell after a long day of trail work, as not to fall behind in ultramarathon training. Likewise, he never let laziness get in the way of his journaling, often pausing in the middle of the trail to jot down an idea. Chris motivates me to put one hundred percent into everything I do.
Andi has taught me to appreciate the little things. Often, she would point out a bug or a leaf with genuine excitement. Her enthusiasm for the smallest things in nature has definitely caused me to open my eyes and look around, instead of getting tunnel vision on the destination.
Kajler is a wildcard; everything he said had to be taken with a grain of salt. Boundaries weren’t an issue. He knew how to start a conversation, whether it was one you wanted to be a part of or not. He’s a living example that sometimes you have to just go for it, without worrying about what other people will think. That being said, Kajler taught me a lot of other useful information, such as knots, types of trees, and places to travel in the West.
Like Kajler, Jenny was a bit unpredictable. No matter the situation, two things were certain: she would have a crazy story about it, and she would (most likely) fart while telling it. After hearing about her travels cross-country and undetermined future, she has helped me realize it is okay to live life without a solid plan. Some of the best stories and adventures come from little mistakes and spontaneity. This has been endearing as my time in college dwindles and the “real world” quickly approaches.
Eric has taught me patience—a virtue I’ve never had much of. His cheerful and happy attitude was often contagious and he never seemed frustrated with those of us who didn’t always know what we were doing. He also stressed the importance of Wilderness as a whole, altering the perspective I have of it.
As a whole, the crew has broadened my horizons of books, music, food, and ideas about Wilderness and its role in our lives. They value outlets and forms of media that are not just social but foster growth and improvement. Furthermore, they benefit from what they spend their time listening to, reading, or doing. Instead of skimming over lines and humming to the beat of a song, they’ve pointed out quotes and lyrics that I had never before taken the time to notice.
I’ve felt a lot of personal growth from being surrounded by such remarkable, noteworthy people. Not once had I heard a complaint about our long days, heavy hauls, and steep terrain. I pushed myself because I did not want to let them down. They have shown great character and have set the bar high for my future coworkers and friends. The lessons they’ve taught me and the ideas they’ve given me, probably unbeknownst to them, are things I will value and carry with me for years to come.