A year in the life

By: Danielle Yaste

First off, I would like to forewarn you that I am getting a little overly sentimental about my Conservation Corps term winding down.  With that being said, I think the sentimentality is warranted, and I would like to tell you why. 

At our spring training our district manager told us this: “This year, it’s a once in a lifetime experience, you may not see it now, but you will.” 

I thought about it a lot over the next seven months, and she was right, at the time I really did not see it.  I was skeptical.  It was getting to be summer, we were treating invasives, planting endless amounts of trees, and I swore we were never going to leave the Munger trail.  I was tired.  But, as the months passed, she proved to be right in more ways than one.  Through the hot summer days of invasives, trail maintenance, and back country trips, to the cool days of chainsaws and construction projects, the Conservation Corps has proven to be more than a job, more than “something to do for a year.” It has been a challenge, a perception change, an opportunity to get to know myself more than ever before.  I have never truly had to test my physical ability or my technical skills, and have rarely been pushed out of my comfort zone.  This past year challenged that, my program staff challenged that, and my crew challenged that.  Jenna challenged my fear of trying something new when faced with the possibility of inadequacy.  Katie challenged me to keep trying when I felt weak (you should have seen me the first time I picked up an ax).  John challenged my occasionally linear thinking mindset, and Ben challenged the need to always be right (sometimes, at the beginning, I swore my chainsaw was broken, I really just needed practice).  And that was just our field staff; I cannot even begin to describe how thankful I am for my crew.  They pushed me to try new things, they made me laugh, often until I cried.  Many days they were my cheerleaders (in a really masculine, cool way), my teachers, and my honest, sassy critics. 

I gained so much from my term of service—more than I could have imagined.  So thank you Jenna, Ben, Katie, John, Jerry, and Chris—thank you for teaching us both technical and soft skills, for guiding us, and encouraging us.  Thank you to the entire Northeast District, particularly Arrowhead, for being quirky, unique, talented, and for letting me hang with you.  Most of all, thank you Amber, Nick, Josh, and Jack for being unapologetically yourselves; adventurous, crazy, hilarious, skilled, and most of all, an extension of my family.

Now that my sentimentality is over, I invite you to take a look at what a year in the life of a corpsmember looks like, through the eyes of the Moose Lake crew.