Thursday, September 25, 2014

From the Road


I hope ya’ll have been having a great start to a new NCC year. I have been traveling all along the west coast and have had some wonderful adventures.

I am writing this for a few reasons. Firstly, I would like to thank all of you for such an amazing year. When I began the program I had little experience with tools, especially chainsaws or jackhammers. I’m pretty adventurous but compared to a year and a half ago Daisy, it’s a pretty huge feat to get giant (they seemed giant in my mind, before) flesh-eating machines into my hands. Learning and becoming comfortable with these machines because of the guidance of Corey, Nate and Vince as well as general training has made me confident to face other fears as well.

I also learned about attitude. I remember the first week, when we were all sitting in monsoon rain, drenched to our guts in the downpour and immediately learning that you have to keep lighthearted when situations are tough otherwise you’ll just be miserable. Lindsey and Justin and I were yelling back and forth but none of us could hear over the sound of the downpour so it just turned into unrestrained laughter. Ever since the downpour this lesson in attitude has carried me through difficult times.

The people in this program are a huge part of why I grew. With everyone coming from different backgrounds, there were a lot of different viewpoints on life. I had the opportunity to have deep conversations about life and perspectives. Being in the field gives time for great reflection and idea sharing. The friendships that were created and the memories made together are an invaluable part of this program to me. I would like to thank you for this most of all.

End of Summer On a Trail Crew

Before even coming to Reno, I knew that this summer would be full of challenges. I had basically thrown myself into a program 2000 miles away from home and away from any support. Admittedly, I was quite anxious, but at the same time, I was exhilarated! Excited that I had the opportunity to do meaningful work and explore new places. I wanted to squeeze the day for all that it was worth and learn all I could. 

I soon learned that, despite my motivation, I was a true greenhorn in almost every aspect of what I dubbed the "NCC experience". Here I was, big city boy educated in a traditional sense, and with minimal exposure to the outdoors other than through pictures in magazines. I was a new recruit among veterans who had basically grown up with the outdoors. However, I saw this as an opportunity to learn and carried on.

My first real challenges came a couple of hitches in, after my initial excitement fell. The heat, long workdays, and the lack of a comfort zone had started to take its toll on not only my body, but my mind as well. I could handle my body aching, but this kind of mental strain was hard to bear. I became frustrated with the work and fell into a pit of pessimism. I didn't think all of the effort was worth my time and certainly not my health. On one hand, I wanted to quit, to give up and leave. However, deep-down, I also wanted to see this program to completion. By braving through tough situations, I gained a broader understanding of my limits and shortcomings. Not only did I have time to reflect, but also had time to face my faults. I began to see trail work as a character building experience and a metaphor for life.

Sometimes the earth is soft and smooth, making it easy to pave a way through; in these times one should enjoy the simplicity and perfect this section of tread -- life. Other times the earth is rocky and uneven. At times like these, even more effort should be invested in because this is where it counts. Just because work is harder is not a reason to be lazy; rather the opposite is true! Only when the tread is rough can your diligence polish it. At the same time, though, one must realize that tread can always be improved infinitely, bit by bit, but that one should not get caught up in this infinite improvement. Sometimes it is better to move on rather than getting caught up in little things. I also learned that talking about our hesitations and challenges is the best way to get through them, together. I could not have done this without my crew encouraging me and helping me pass the time, which is bound to pass no matter how slow it seems to be ticking at times. 

As I prepare for my last hitch, I will continue to seek meaning in my work. By no means have my hesitations and frustrations disappeared, I have simply learned how to be resilient and handle them in a positive way. I usually don't appreciate the work I am doing until after it is done, but I know that there is no other place I would have worked at this summer than here.

Omkar Kulkarni