People Who Save Wild Places: Austine Denbeck

People Who Save Wild Places: Austine Denbeck

Denbeck CrosscutIn 2013 Austine Denbeck did something different with her summer than most of her graduating high-school class. It started the weekend after she graduated.

“We hiked around Babyfoot Lake,” Denbeck says. “And cut a big log from the trail.” That was five miles, moderate miles for the Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area’s hiking standards.

Three weeks later she hiked 9-miles into Carter Creek, in 100 degree heat. “That’s a hike usually reserved for only the most experienced backpackers,” says Gabe Howe, SMC executive director. “She wasn’t ready.” Babyfoot Loop

“I felt horrible,” Denbeck says about the hike in. “I got heat exhaustion,” she says. “And I wanted to go home. I didn’t know if I could make it.”

But Denbeck didn’t go home. She spent the next two weeks in the Kalmiopsis Wilderness Area running crosscut saws on downed logs. Clipping brush. And learning. Denbeck Chetco

“I learned how to listen to my body,” she says. “I learned about the wilderness.”

“Austine had a very tough time on the hike in,” says Howe.

“And I learned about myself,” says Denbeck.

Denbeck got $1,500 for college for her service. She’s a freshman at University of Oregon.

“I had her lead the hike out: nine-miles, the same hike she struggled with on the way in,” says Howe. “She had no troubles at all.”