This volunteer story was originally submitted and published in the Marin Independent Journal in December 2010. For the full story, visit the Marin Independent Journal website.
Group takes volunteers into America’s wild lands to work by Vicki Larson
A few on our trip weren’t strangers to the nasty Russian olive trees; eradication efforts in the Grand Escalante and surrounding areas is part of a 12-year project, and some had participated in earlier trips and returned to see the progress from all that prior tree-hacking.
“Some of the service trips we do are really meaningful to me personally. I like to kill Russian olive trees,” laughs Pacheco, who makes sure he’s on at least one of the four Russian olive tree eradication trips Wilderness Volunteers offers a year. “Slowly but surely we’re making huge progress in one river canyon. You can see it on a map; we’re tackling it, we’re getting it done and one day we’ll see the final project come to fruition. It will be the efforts of many, many volunteers and it’s extremely satisfying.”
…Since all work and no play makes for a strange vacation, each Wilderness Volunteers trip offers one off day. By Wednesday, bloody and sore after two grueling days, we were ready for some down time. A few hung around the campsite or meandered along some nearby trails. Some went into town to get a burger or latte and to check e-mails and voicemails. I wanted nothing to do with civilization, so I joined a small group on a hike to explore a slot canyon. We departed under somewhat darkening skies and three-quarters of the way it started to rain. Then it started to pour; then the hail came. “Flash flood!” was all I could think of. As we watched the river rise, we knew better than to attempt to head back to camp so, after huddling for warmth, we set out for higher ground and sun. If nothing else, it made for some really great storytelling later that day.
Inderhees feels the same way. “In addition to doing some good, hard work with a tangible result, there’s the satisfaction that comes from working with a diverse group of people who came together for a shared reason. That is my favorite part.”
Pacheco says that’s a common sentiment. “I’ve made a lot of friends on these trips. A group of 12 unconnected people come together very fast in a setting like that, where we’re camping together, we’re preparing meals together, working together and as a team we’re getting something done. That’s a formula for forming instant friendships.”
When I signed up for my Wilderness Volunteers trip I was eager to unplug from the world; instead, I discovered I had never been more tuned into it.