Challenging but what an experience!

At the end of last year, I found myself at a loose end. I’d been working in Edinburgh and knew I didn’t want to spend the run up to uni just hanging around. I decided that I wanted to go to the USA. I also knew that I wanted to go to the famous National Parks.

I began to research on the internet and found Volunteer USA. Three months later I found myself on a plane to Phoenix, Arizona. I was very intimidated by the prospect of living with loads of new people for three months. However, within fifteen minutes of arriving my worries had gone. Everyone was so friendly and like-minded it made it very easy to be at ease.

I was assigned to the Coronado National Forest for my first 8 day hitch. This project was a ‘backcountry’ project, meaning everything we had to bring we carried! We had to hike three miles to the work site on a mountain hiking trail. It may not seem like a long way but in 35C heat, with a 20 kilo pack and with a 2 metre saw in hand, my thighs were on fire and my shirt was soaked.

The work started the following morning, beginning with a 6 o’clock wake up and starting work at 7. The work I was assigned was building a staircase on the trail out of rock sourced from the mountain. This meant scrabbling up the side of a mountain inhabited by rattle snakes and mountain lions. Although I should say, the mountain lions were only heard, never seen.

Three days later and a beautiful staircase was first christened by my boots. The immense satisfaction of knowing that my structure will be on that mountainside for years to come is massive.

This project finished with a bang. We were caught in a thunder storm for the last night. This was unfortunate because I found out that my tent wasn’t as waterproof as I thought. I woke up at 1am to find a swimming pool in my tent. My sleeping bag was soaked and the temperature was very close to freezing. I had to spend the rest of the night shivering in the only dry part of my tent with the hike down to look forward to at day break.

Needless to say, I was miserable but I know that whatever I have to face in my life I was there and I survived, I didn’t give up. I think I am much stronger for having taken part and all of the projects I got put on from then on were amazing.  

Like the sound of working on conservation projects in the US National Parks? Find out more about Volunteer USA