Growing up in the outdoors led me to a career in the outdoors as an environmental consultant among other things. Spending over half of each field season "out there" has had some powerful and sometimes unintended consequences.
It would be enlightening to hear from people like NOLS instructors, field techs, fire fighters, seasonal Federal Govt employees, etc. How have these experiences shaped your thinking as opposed to being a backpacker that goes on a few trips a year?
Even one field season as a backcountry ranger for instance, has changed some people's lives forever. Please share your thoughts.
I started backpacking in the Sierra in the 1940's with my parents. My youthful exposure to the outdoors definitely influenced my choice of work.
I worked in forestry and in ecological research for most of my career apart from my Army days and early, pre-university work. During my outdoor career of over forty years I had a variety of experiences. For example, I spent six months living in the field in Antarctica and probably another aggregate year living in the field (and feeding mosquitoes) north of the Arctic Circle in Canada and Alaska. I worked as a seasonal smoke-chaser and smoke-jumper in the 1950's. I also worked as a timber cruiser in coastal Alaska and as a logger in Idaho at various times during my younger days. Most of this work required living "out" for long periods.
My observation is that most people involved in outdoor work do not spend much of their spare time hiking or backpacking. Rather, most outdoor workers of my acquaintance headed for the nearest city to partake of the benefits of civilization: beer, burgers, women and music. Sure, there were exceptions, including me on occasion, but for the most part, when the weekend came, the bright lights or home and family beckoned more than did the wild. I spend much more time hiking, mountaineering and backpacking now that I have retired than I did when I was working outdoors.
We have many similarities in our careers. I applied once to do meteorological research at McMurdo Sound but could not get the job. The Arctic must be a great teacher. We would like to hear more from you.
It is amazing how many outdoor people do head for town for rest and relaxation. I became very confused for a couple of years, when my vocation began to overwhelm all my recreational interests.
Loc: California (southern)
I have been surprised at how many people working in the outdoors don't go there for recreation. Part of this is simple logistics - you have to find time for dental checkups, arranging mortgages, and buying cars (to say nothing of goodies at REI!). I have been somewhat of an exception because I almost always managed to spend a fair amount of free time away from town, even when I was doing archaeological field work. Every day of field work generally requires about three in the lab, so I had plenty of weeks of office work when the weekends were a welcome relief.
I began as a fire fighter, and originally wanted to be a traditional park ranger, but I stayed with archaeology when I realized I got more time away from the desk than most rangers; and I had chances to find some real nice things....
I was a NOLS instructor for 7 years and out 100 days each summer and about 5 weeks each winter (two winter courses). I think one's age has a lot to do with how you spend time when not working. I was young and had no obligations. After a summer season, we immediately hit the mountains to do our own climbing in that short period of Indian summer. Then it was hunting season- time to get meat for the winter. Then it was winter course time. After teaching winter survival, we would ice fish and do our own cross country skiing. We also worked in the equipment room- I think I sewed hundreds of stuff sacks over the years! Then it was spring- hitch a ride to Yosemite for a few weeks! THen instructors courses, after which there was a brief interval that we could do our own early season rock climbing in warmer canyons before summer season of courses started again. Most the instructors I knew back then were the same. Our courses did not allow us to do the kind of climbing we really wanted to do, so we did this on our "own time". Perhaps the folks I hung out with were all fanatics. We did not have much desire to stay in civilization.
My experience was very much like Daisy's...those free days were the ones when we tackled the big peaks or long hikes that we couldn't do on the job. But yes, we were young there.
My father was a ranger during the summers when I was young, and I do remember the hurries to get everything done before we went to the mountains...or before we started school. Lots of errands and details that couldn't happen up there.
I live on 2+ acres in a neighborhood of similar properties, near the end of a dead end street. It is mostly covered in pine, has a stream in the back, and my dog out front. It gets a little harder to justify or even see the point in going anywhere to camp when I live like this. I still do on occasion though.
Yeh, but you do not have a 14,000 foot peak in your backyard or 150 miles of trails to travel. I guess it depends on if you are an explorer or happy with just being outdoors. I am an addicted explorer, to the point where I have actually moved to be close to another mountain range when I have exhausted exploring in one mountain range. Now I also dabbling in coastal hiking and deserts.
We have mountains in Florida. It's just that here we call them "on-ramps" or "bridges".
Seriously though, for years I have maintained a yahoo group called Tallahassee Trails. I made my own trail guide of 29 trails in the area, including trailheads for the Florida Trail which is more than 1000 miles long. I'm sure there are still trails not in my guide.
It is great to love the place where you live. I like to tour the property each day and look for raptors, wild horses, quail, doves, and rabbits. I have a campsite in the backyard and have hosted tent parties every winter for 30 years. Large canvas tents and tipis work best with a woodstove or a fire going. I will have company on Thanksgiving, where we traditionally cook outside in Dutch ovens, sometimes with buffalo the American meat. Some of the guests insist on staying in the wall tent at night.
Sometimes however, I need to "get off the property." It comes from years of travelling. There must be a continuum between homebodies and people like wandering daisy.