I had an amazing experience on Volunteer USA. The projects were in the most spectacular locations, and being able to work in these places was an honour and a really unique experience. There were some tough moments, and some times when I wondered what I had let myself in for, but these were short-lived. Once we’d finished a day’s work, hiked an enduring hike back to the campsite, had a bit of dinner and thought about the work we’d achieved that day it made it all seem worthwhile! The whole experience was really rewarding and I have come home with so many great memories, hundreds of photographs and many new friends!
I did five projects in total:
1. Zion National Park fencing – this was a back-country project in the desert. The work involved constructing a fence, putting in posts (after carrying them hundreds of metres), making brace structures and securing barbed wire.
2. Bryce Canyon trail work – right in the bottom of the canyon we were doing work on the mule trail to improve the surface and drainage.
3. Grand Canyon North Rim – we were working on a short trail in a side canyon making stone walls to line the trail. Work mainly involved collecting large rocks, bringing them up the steep canyon edge and placing them into the ground.
4. Zion Emerald Pools Trail – in the more touristy part of the park, we were working on the popular Emerald Pools trail building steps and making water bars for drainage. This also involved collecting the rocks to use for the structures.
5. Grand Canyon South Rim – this is an on-going project on the busiest trail in the Grand Canyon (South Kaibab). The work was collecting rocks and stones to be used in ‘rip rap’ structures which improve the surface and prevent erosion.
The most important part of my experience was my fellow volunteers. I met so many different people; the people I flew out with from BUNAC, the other people who arrived at the same time as us, the people I was sharing my house with, and the people I went on project. In particular when we were on project everyone bonded really well, and because of the tough nature of the work, team-work and a sense of camaraderie was so important. During our time off we made several road trips. We visited Tuscon and Saguaro National park in South Arizona, Santa Fe, Las Vegas and San Francisco. Hiring a car was a really great way to travel, and it worked our pretty cheap between a group of us.
For anyone considering doing Volunteer USA I’d say do it! It is such a unique experience and I don’t know of any other way that you’d ever be able to work in such amazing locations! For anyone who wants to do something worthwhile in their gap year or time off, wants to meet some great new friends and wants to push themselves to the limit, then this is the programme!
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