Sunday, June 29, 2014

Where Sam is Going

Being a high school student means that the instant school is out for the summer I get bombarded with questions such as: What are you doing this summer? What are your plans for the break? Are you getting a job? Where are you going? What are you even going to do with yourself? To this I respond with an answer that leaves a feeling of disappointment hanging in the air around both the questioner and the questioned. I say this: Oh, I'm going to central New Jersey! Ouch. Their mouths usually say: That sounds...cool, any good birds up there? But their eyes betray them. I know what they're thinking. It goes a little something like this: Why the HELL is he going to New Jersey? There aren't any birds up there in the summer! One person didn't even bother with the niceness. He just said: "Oh that sucks."

eBird map, depicting the avian-rich region known as the Pine Barrens in July.
The truth of it is, I had no choice in the matter. I applied for the Student Conservation Association, a program I did last summer in the Allegheny National Forest of Pennsylvania. I get to live in the woods for a month and restore/build trails, build bridges, staircases, and pathways, become an expert camper and experience the wonders of nature firsthand. I had such a great time last summer that I wanted to do it again, but I don't get to choose my position, I go where they put me. It's one of the things I love about the program, I get to find new places to fall in love with. I know there aren't going to be birds there, but there's going to be a unending supply of motivation and inspiration coming from a group of conservation-minded teens like myself.

There may not be birds to see, but I've got this fun li'l guy to look out for.
 LIFER MONSTER (Jersey Devil)
So when people ask me what I'm doing this summer I say: "I'm going to the Pine Barrens of New Jersey" with pride, knowing that I am going to have a transformative experience while giving nature a little bit of help.

I also follow up the New Jersey statement by mentioning my vacation to Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks following my month in the woods. That usually changes the subject before I have to defend myself about the whole New Jersey thing.  

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