Looking back on the last couple of months, I find myself reflecting on the growth I have gained during my fellowship. I felt uncomfortable at times, navigating a completely different landscape (like coming across a black bear for the first time during a solo hike), meeting a lot of people, and immersing myself into the Meeker community as an “outsider”. For the last part of my fellowship, I moved from the Lost Creek bunkhouse in the forest to the in-town bunk house in Meeker. My work transitioned from working outdoors every day, to working behind a desk at the Blanco Ranger District office. My main project while in the office consisted of developing the 2020 Wilderness Ranger Manual, a source that had not been updated in over 10 years and is over 80 pages long. As I compiled information regarding the Wilderness Ranger role, wilderness ethics/regulations, and updated Blanco Ranger District information, I thought about the information I wish I was taught at the beginning of my fellowship. With that in mind, I hope this manual will serve future Wilderness Rangers as a great resource.
As I put together this manual, I started thinking about all of the information and knowledge I have grained throughout the season from being out in the field and in the office. My fellowship at the Blanco Ranger District has consisted of trail maintenance, outfitter inspections, campsite inventories, hunter patrolling, tabling and interpretation opportunities, and office administrative tasks. To wrap up the season, I am compiling all of the campsite inventory and outfitter campsite inspection forms, photographs, GPS coordinates and creating a Google Earth database.
As I prepare to move forward onto the next adventure, I constantly reflect on all of my accomplishments during this fellowship. I have gained wilderness survival skills and backpacking experience, which I have never felt so confident in before. Being outdoors and creating life-long friendships with people that share the same love for the outdoors has been one of my favorite parts of this experience. I spent most of my fellowship outside and learned so much about Colorado’s northwestern landscapes. One highlight of this fellowship was an encounter with a friendly and talkative sheepherder during a three-day backpacking hitch. I had the opportunity to have a long conversation with a Hispanic sheepherder in the Wilderness Flat Tops, where he shared his knowledge of the land and his experience as a sheepherder for many generations. His excitement for talking to a Spanish speaking Latina in uniform was apparent and I was very proud to represent the U.S. Forest Service, in hopes of alleviating any intimidation or tension that many Hispanic livestock ranchers face with land management agencies.
I look back on my first week, meeting my coworkers who I also lived with, being introduced to the U.S. Forest Service mission, learning about trail work, slowly and painfully acclimating to Colorado’s elevation and rough/steep terrain, and I think about how great my experience has been at the White River National Forest, Blanco Ranger District. Though I am saddened that my fellowship has come to an end and it is time to part ways, I am very excited to apply all of the valuable knowledge I have gained during my fellowship and pursue a career where I can continue to serve as a steward of the land. I am extremely grateful for Hispanic Access Foundation and the MANO staff who has made this amazing opportunity possible. Hasta pronto!