Confessions of a Wilderness Volunteer
Our friend Meghan Sural is the Assistant Manager of our outlet store here in Reno, NV. She’s also a devoted wilderness steward. Though her roots lie in Appalachian soil, her heart roams free on the open deserts of Nevada’s vast wild (and unprotected) places. She kindly shares some soulful words with us here about her time spent volunteering for Friends of Nevada Wilderness.
Early June. Two weeks before the season’s solstice -- making days not yet their longest, but long enough. Warmer weather has set in, but the heat has yet to hit its hardest. It’s Friday, and I’ve signed up to go on a wilderness restoration trip with Pat Bruce from Friends and a few other lucky volunteers. We hit the road for Mt. Grafton Wilderness, and a wave of excitement pulses through me -- my first trip across Nevada on Highway 50.
Having grown up in the east, I feel a whole new form of wilderness in Nevada. There, I knew lush rhododendrons and the smell of Appalachian dirt always in the air. Now, I smell scrubby, sweet-scented sagebrush. There, thick, green vegetation surrounded me. Now, waves of smooth, velvety milk-chocolate peaks roll into long ranges that meander to the horizon. Dipping and climbing through basin and range, I feel a rush of emotion, a vibrant and positive sensation, rushing the self-erected walls of everyday life. Cocooned by house, workplace, relationship, and comfortable lifestyle, my body and spirit are thirsty for some wild relief.
We arrive at our destination just west of the Utah border in the dark. We set up camp quickly, keeping the tops of our tents open to stargaze between bouts of sleep.
In what feels like only a few hours, the sun peaks over Wheeler Peak to the East -- a feast of sunshine and wild land spreads out below our camp. We eat, but not too fast, so as to enjoy the world around us. We fuel up on instant oatmeal and clear, desert air before hiking up to the wilderness boundary.
Mesmerized by the rocks -- with their beautiful swirls, stripes and glitter -- I allow the dust to coat my skin and hair as I stop to touch each dazzling stone. This does not make me a helpful volunteer, and at times I have to pull myself from some shiny jewel so I can help the others finish our work to cover vehicle scars in this wilderness.
Heaving large rocks, I feel my spirit reveling in reconnection to the land. Touching the rocks, sniffing the sage, butterflies bounding about, wildflowers popping open -- each is a salve soothing my senses, a thousand rivulets connecting me to the land, filling the cracks of my parched senses inside with freedom and devotion. As wilderness floods this inner plain, I reconnect with my own wilderness inside and realize that the wild land is a part of me. Wilderness deserves my attention and respect. And in turn, my very being needs it.
Friends of Nevada Wilderness is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving all qualified Nevada public lands as wilderness, protecting present and potential wilderness from ongoing threats, informing the public about the values of and need for wilderness, and restoring and improving the management of wild lands.
Friends is now planning their summer volunteer work and they're looking for volunteers. If you'd like to help with wilderness restoration -- be it your own inner wildness, or some place deep in the wild heart of Nevada -- sign up here:
[Reclaiming two-track and punking large rocks are part of the job. Photos, Brian Beffort]