Hike with a purpose
November 15, 2006
When I read Rob Pudim’s Oct. 28 essay titled “Westerners: These are my public lands, partner,” I felt as if he and I had made the same journey from youthful years in Pennsylvania to adulthood in Colorado.
Growing up in the Keystone State, I, like Rob, had no concept of public land, of public ownership. The only ownership I comprehended was that patch of chemically enhanced suburban lawn that marked my boundaries. But then, in my 20s, I visited the Rocky Mountain West; I was mesmerized by those vast miles of mountain and forest that belonged to all of us, miles of wild places that I could explore without permission. Imagine that!
In time, like Rob, I traded my slick soles for lug soles, my urban wardrobe for a uniform of tan and green. He is a volunteer backcountry ranger with the Indian Peaks Wilderness Alliance. I serve as a volunteer wilderness ranger for the Aspen-Sopris District of the White River National Forest. Our passion for protecting our wildlands is expressed by our putting our boots on the ground to serve as the eyes and ears of an understaffed Forest Service ” to walk the trails, to educate the hikers we encounter, to render aid when needed and to report what we see and experience to Forest Service professionals. We volunteers give, yes, but we gain, too, learning from nature and from our fellows, experiencing the magic of fragrant forest and windy tundra, and savoring the satisfaction of being part of something critical to wilderness preservation.
Instead of hiking for your pleasure alone, consider hiking while simultaneously being of service to your forest. It needs you. And it is indeed your own, your playground. The Forest Conservancy is the nonprofit partner of the Forest Service in the Roaring Fork region. It fields a trained corps of USFS-uniformed volunteer rangers dedicated to the land and committed to educating those who use it.
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