In defense of wilderness

In defense of wilderness

In defense of wilderness

By Alex Relph
2014 Wilderness Corps Crew Member

“The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders.” — Edward Abbey

“I’m nervous,” I had told Alexis yesterday in the REI parking lot as she dropped me off. Now I’m at the remote Vulcan Lake Trailhead. We load our packs full of food, gear, and set out on the trail. In just hours I’ll be joining a crew I’ve never met, and who have had the last month or so to get to know each other.

Three hours into the hike Gabe, who is leading me in, calls our first break as we gaze out over the Kalmiopsis’ ridges. We get water from a spring and forge on, and after another hour I’m tired. This is part of what I was nervous about.

Finally I ask to take another break, and Gabe turns around looking a little surprised. He’s reluctant but we sit down in the shade. “What’s the rest of the crew like?” I ask.

“This is Micah’s second year with us,” he explains. “Aaron is your boss, you met him on the interview. He’ll catch you up to speed,” he says. After that interview, I had taken a job at REI, and got a call from Gabe in early June.

“We lost a crew member to an outside injury,” he said on the phone. “Do you want to leave REI for a summer in the woods?”

He caught me off guard. “Yes!” I told him. “I’m sick of being at a cash register!”

“You’ll have to put your two weeks in and join the crew a little into their first hitch,” he had explained on the phone. And now here we are, I think.

After a few minutes we get moving again. We finally reach camp, rest, and the crew begins to arrive from a day of work. We work down there for another thirteen days. Over the summer they become my family and southern Oregon’s wilderness areas becomes my life, from the clear waters of the Kalmiopsis, to the dry high country of the Soda Mountain Wilderness.

I’ve come to believe wilderness should be loved, but not loved to death, and we should do the minimum necessary to maintain it and keep it wild. The wilderness allowed me to get in touch with myself and form a greater understanding of life. Nothing makes me more alive and more in tune than being surrounded by the universe in its most natural state.

Learning how to appreciate life on life’s terms where nature is in control is how I prefer to live, from one adventure to the next, in wilderness, America’s best-kept secrets.