Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Living the Mission

Hello all,

I wanted to share with you my blog post that I've written for the Grand Canyon Trust this week. We were all asked to write about something we've learned or something that we will take with us from this project. Here it is, enjoy!

“I’m so jealous, you get to go to the Grand Canyon.” These were the words repeated to me over and over again as I prepared for a two-month stint in Northern Arizona with the Grand Canyon Trust. “It’s not the ACTUAL Grand Canyon,” would be my constant reply, trying to help my fellow corps members understand that I wasn’t about to spend my eight weeks along the Colorado River with amazing cliff views and breathtaking night skies. What the Grand Canyon Trust actually was, I had no idea at the time, so imagine my surprise as I found myself under a spectacular sky of stars after our 15 passenger van crossed over the Colorado river and drove past the towering Vermillion Cliffs. No, this was not the Grand Canyon, it was the Colorado Plateau, spanning four states and including one of the world’s natural wonders with so much more.

My first impression of Kane Ranch was that I must have been in volunteer heaven. I was fed delicious food morning, noon, and night during orientation. The ranch was an adorably cozy home with a real dining room table, perfect sized kitchen, beds, and room to sleep outside. As a long term volunteer, these were luxury items. Soon I began to realize what other commonplace things would become luxury items as well: electricity, hot water, ANY water, warmth, light, internet. I learned how to wash dishes without running the water at all, how to shower quickly enough that there would be hot water for 9 showers after mine, and how to limit my cell phone usage so that I wouldn’t have to use too much electricity to charge my battery. I wrote letters, bundled up, and put some new batteries in my headlamp.

The adjustment to this conservative way of life was not nearly as difficult as I expected. In fact, I found myself appreciating the amazing surroundings and the simplicity of life in the House Rock Valley. Little did I know, the Grand Canyon Trust was working its mission statement into not only my volunteer efforts, but into my way of life.

The mission of the Grand Canyon Trust is “to protect the Colorado Plateau – its spectacular landscapes, flowing rivers, clean air, diversity of plants and animals, and areas of beauty and solitude.”

There I was, only a few days into my time volunteering with the trust, and I was falling in love with the beauty and solitude of my worksite, waking up to the landscape every day and being thankful that places like the House Rock Valley still existed for me to visit.

I could have easily been fed facts including the size of the Colorado Plateau, the types of plant and animal species living in the area, and the threats to the region…and I was. The thing is, I was also experiencing this area firsthand. Eventually I would restore fencing for one of the fastest land animals in North America, hike down the Paria River and drink from a natural spring, remove invasive tamarisk to make room for willow, learn about the coal-fired power plant on the Navajo Reservation, and much more. Landscapes, rivers, air, plants, animals, beauty, solitude.

I have worked with a large handful of non-profits and never have I lived out a mission statement so fully in my work and daily life. The Grand Canyon Trust values volunteers not only as workers, but as stewards, continuing the appreciation of and passion for the beautiful land we live on.

My work with the Trust has changed the way I see the world around me. If that’s too cheesy for you, suffice it to say that the Trust has changed the way I live my work. It is this passion for all parts of work that I will take with me when I leave Northern Arizona and continue my adventures. Not only will I continue my love for this area, but I will also try to truly live the mission of those I work with next.

Ghandi was right when he said we should be the change in the world. My only addendum would be that we should truly live the change in every aspect of our work and life.


Friday, April 6, 2012

Tumble On

Hello helloooooo!

I'm posting from a lovely little coffee shop in downtown Flagstaff, where most of my team is spending our AmeriCorps NCCC spring break. And let me tell you, it feels nice to do some relaxing in civilization.

We returned Tuesday, a day early, from our AMAZING experience in the Paria Canyon. Only 5 of us went, including my team leader, and it was both weird and nice to have a smaller group working on the project. While in the canyon, our job was to continue working to eradicate tamarisk along the Paria River's benches. Tamarisk is an invasive plant species that is not only very hard to get rid of, but it also takes all the water and such from native plants such as the willow, and pushes them out of the riparian ecosystem. Removing tamarisk will allow plants like the willow to flourish.

Our group hiked into the canyon the day after my birthday (on which we slept under the stars at the trailhead). It was a long hike (12 miles!) with heavy packs (or so we thought) but we made it to the Big Spring campsite before dark, setting up camp and collapsing until the next morning. The coolest thing about Big Spring was the namesake, a natural spring from which we got all our drinking water, no filtering needed! I'd say it's one of the coolest things I've experienced in NCCC so far. Some other cool things: quicksand (lots of it), hiking in the water every day (even though it was cold in the morning!), the stars, learning how to backpack and camp, surpassing the sponsor's goals for us, and making it back out alive (despite having to carry more stuff out because we didn't have horse packers).

I can't believe how beautiful of a place I get to work in every day, but I am happy to be spending some time in the real world. I'm staying in a local hostel (everyone is so helpful!) and my teammates and I are committed to eating as much delicious food as we can while we're here.

We will be returning to the House Rock Valley on the 9th to start our next hitch on the 10th. Team team will be camping on the Paria Plateau for 7 days doing road closures. Then at some point we'll move to another ranch home to finish out the project. In other news, I've got my TL interview with Denver on the 27th, so wish me luck!

I'm excited to keep working on this project, but also to find out where I'll be going for my last 10 weeks of service from May-July, back with my original team. We should find out in a few weeks.

That's all from me for now. Keep tumbling on!