Tell us about the Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation.
BMWF provides volunteer stewardship for Montana’s 1.5 million acre Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. We work to keep trails open, restore native habitat, mitigate user impacts, and engage youth and adults in wilderness experiences that change lives and instill a lasting land ethic.
We work in close partnership with the US Forest Service to create educational and challenging conservation service projects within “The Bob.” Since our first summer in 1997, our volunteer crews have cleared and improved over 5,000 miles of trail.
What does a day as the Bob’s stewardship coordinator look like?
In early Spring, it's still a lot of planning and organizing for the field season. Once field season kicks in and our seasonal staff arrive, it's more supervising and training for the first few weeks. I teach our crew leaders and interns the basics of trail maintenance. I get them certified to use a crosscut saw, and train them on backcountry travel, living, and following Leave No Trace principles while in the backcountry.
I also lead trail work projects myself. This consists of planning for me and 7 other volunteers to spend a week in the backcountry. I pack and organize the gear, and then work with a packer to have our heavier gear packed into the wilderness. We hike between 7–15 miles to reach our camp for the week. During a typical day on the trail, I’m up at 6:00 to get the coffee on. Then folks start rolling out of their tents between 6:30 and 7:00, make breakfasts, and pack lunches and water for the day. From 8:00 to 4:30 p.m we're on the trail clearing downed trees, improving tread, brushing back overgrowth, etc.
What brought you to working in the forest?
I went to college for Forestry, and Recreation Resource Management at the University of Montana in Missoula. After graduating, in an effort to pay my students loans off more quickly, I enrolled in an Americorps Program called Montana Conservation Corps. I spent 10 months on a trail crew, and I was hooked! I still enjoy the trail work aspect, working hard, and being out in the backcountry for extended periods of time. I also love that now I'm the one passing these skills on to other young folks just getting into the field.
What did you want to be when you were growing up?
I wanted to be a Physical Therapist. I thought it sounded fun to "work out" with people. Having worked through my own injuries and seen physical therapists for many reasons, I now realize it's much more than that!
Tell us something dirty.
7 days in the backcountry, working in a burned area (from wildfire) with no shade, hot temperatures, no showers...you get dirty! It takes more than just one shower after returning home after a hitch like this to get fully clean. Permadirt is a fact of life working on the trail!
What do you have to sacrifice to be good at what you do?
You sacrifice all the general comforts of home. Sleeping on the ground, no showers, pooping in a hole, no running water...it's not super comfortable for some. That, and one does not make a whole lot of money in this field!
What are you great at, and what do you suck at?
I'm a hard worker. I love the physical aspect of the job, and I work hard to stay strong (even in my older age). I suck at asking for help. I will overwork myself as opposed to asking others for help.
What scares you?
Watching my young interns trying to chop a log for the first time. I envision the ax going right through their feet every time.
What are you doing when you’re not working hard?
Enjoying adventures on my own time. Mountain biking with my dogs, paddleboarding on the river, and backcountry skiing are my most favorite activities. But I can also relax in front of a fire and read a good book. And I won't lie—I can binge on a good show like everyone else!
Who’s a role model who helped you in your journey to where you are?
A former supervisor of mine was an incredibly strong willed woman– and she weighed about 100 lbs soaking wet. She is one of those women who will figure anything out, she just needs a little time to do it.
If you could give your 20-year-old-self advice, what would it be?
Don't be so intimidated by others. That, and do some stretches! I should have started regularly stretching waaaaaaay before I did. And I remember older people telling me that, but I was stubborn!
Bob Marshall Wilderness Foundation has trail projects to offer for anyone and everyone. Check out www.bmwf.org for how to get involved.
Dovetail Workwear Disclaimer: We are not the boss of our Women At Work! They say it their way and wear it their way.