Twenty-five! That's a long time! In that time I have lived in Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Washington, Nevada, Wisconsin, California, Idaho, Florida, Oregon, Alaska and Oregon again. I've been a naturalist, a firefighter, a biological technician doing restoration, a wilderness ranger, a recreation planner and a kayak ranger. I've cleared a lot of trails. I've cleaned a lot of toilets. I've written a lot of plans and picked up a lot of trash. I've driven a bulldozer, a fire engine, a swamp buggy, a boat, and a tractor. I've had to run from a couple of fires, burn out a safety zone while one went around us, lost a couple good friends to the wilderness, and hauled dying people out of the woods, saving their lives.
But. Into everyone's life who does this work comes a decision. Do I continue to work outdoors for low pay, sacrificing my body to the punishment, or do I take a higher-graded job and move up into a cubicle farm and still be able to hike at 80? Except for a lucky genetically gifted few, the first choice guarantees future relationships with surgery and physical therapists. I chose the cube and it is challenging. It's hard to feel the same sense of pride in producing a plan as I did when I cut trees out of a trail or saved someone's house. At the same time, I can take time off in the summer. I can pick my backpacking trips and I don't haul eighty pounds of trash out of the backcountry for work anymore. I don't have to go on fires and breathe smoke unless I choose to.
Will I get the thirty year certificate? I have four years to go (the certificate was a year late). I don't know. Our jobs are tenuous, tied to the whims of Congress. My book could become a best seller (pleasepleaseplease). Who knows?