My name is Paul and I am the Sequoia Veterans BC Trail Crew Supervisor. This is my second season as a BC Supervisor for the CCC. I have had many successful seasons in the backcountry and I am very fortunate to be working with the Veterans Crew. This season my crew is very diverse. We have seven Military Veterans from the Army, Navy and Marines, 2 CCC Corpsmembers, and 4 Internet Hires. While it may seem too diverse and uncommon, our crew has become a family. Our work is demanding, but we have been rising to the occasion. Due to your support and the support of David Muraki and Mr. Laird, I am able to give back to this organization and the Veterans who have served our country. Thank you for this opportunity.
My name is Sophie. I am one of the four civilian, internet hires on the Sequoia Vets Crew. I cannot thank you enough for your support in making the Veterans Backcountry Trail Crew possible. To challenge myself so physically and psychologically and to live simply in the wilderness for an extended period of time are two things I have wanted to experience my entire adult life. In my 25th year this is exactly what I want to be doing, and I feel infinitely grateful for this opportunity this program has provided.
I was raised in the Central Sierra Nevada foothills between Fresno and Yosemite. Growing up in a rural area I developed a profound appreciation for the natural world. In college at UC Santa Cruz I was active in the Student Environmental Center’s Green Building Campaign, and after college I worked at W.A.G.E.S. (Women’s Action to Gain Economic Security), a nonprofit that builds green jobs for low-income Latina women. I feel very passionately about both the green building and green jobs movements as a means to allow urban, traditional living while still preserving and promoting the wonder and beauty of the natural world.
While I was ecstatic about being accepted into the BC Program, I was concerned, even disappointed, to be assigned to the Veterans Crew. When I was 16, my 18 year old cousin joined the U.S. Army. He completed two tours of duty in Iraq as a gunner on a Striker. He and I grew much closer when he returned from war, and for three years I tried to be there for him as he drank himself into illness and chaos trying to cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
My cousin is doing much better these days, but that was my primary experience with Veterans before the BC season. Today, seven of the twelve people I have spent every day of the last two months with are Veterans. These people are my best friends, my brothers and sisters. Every day we laugh together and work together. We share the joys of cleared trails, safely fallen trees, conquered summits, and well-sharpened tools. We also share the pain of sore muscles, close calls, and overcoming personal challenges.
I am growing in ways I imagined I would through individual effort in the BC Program. I am stronger in mind and body. I am finding inner peace in the outdoors. And, I am more adept at felling trees and digging drainage ditches.
Being a generally solitary person, I didn’t anticipate all that I would gain from the camaraderie of my crewmates. We all set a high standard in our work and camp life, and encourage each other in every way. At the end of a hard day I am cheered by their filthy, laughing faces.
As an old woman I know I will remember crossing logs over rushing rivers with a pick mattock in my hand and a double bit axe strapped to my back, or crosscutting fallen logs with the smiling, sweating face of a good friend on the other side of the saw.
I know how few people are able to experience the backcountry as we are, and how few people delve so deeply inside themselves as we are required to do on a daily basis. I could not ask for a more amazing group of people to share this adventure with. And again, I want to express my infinite gratitude for your support of this program and our crew. Sincerely, Sophie
My name is Robby. I am from the San Bernardino/Rialto/High Desert area of CA. Before I joined the Backcountry Trails Program I was a CCC corpsmember at the Greenwood Center. Before I joined the CCC I was looking for a job after I had just finished high school. I applied for the BC Program early on during my time with the CCC. When I found out that I was going to be on the Sequoia Veterans Crew I thought the crewmembers were all going to be strict about everything. However, as it turns out they are completely the opposite. They’re like regular people. I feel that our crew is really unique and genuine. We have given each other spirit animals and Western names. We always laugh a lot and about everything. When somebody is down we cheer them up. We keep each other motivated on the trails, and the work we’re doing is incredible.
This program is really challenging. It teaches you how to work together; challenges you to be stronger and have the strength to push yourself; and it gives you the will to never give up. This program really does change you physically and mentally. I’m really glad I was selected for this program. I have thus far learned a lot about trails and other work related knowledge that goes along with it which will help open up many different job opportunities for me after the season. Also, the people on my crew now feel like family and together we have seen so many beautiful places. My family and friends are really proud of what I’m doing. I really appreciate all of your help and support you have given us. It really means a lot to us. You guys have a real big heart and are real passionate about what you are doing. Thank you.
“See the great outdoors,” they said. “Build a resume and job skills,” they said. Man oh man, all the stuff they left out!–Ants overrunning my tent, scorpions on my backpack, flies crawling on my face, etc. This program is hard, to say the least. Every day I struggle going to work and coming back. I wake up dirty only to get dirtier, my shirts stained black and white from my sweat and toil. Add to that, I only see the same 15 people for half a year. Then there is the lack of technology and little contact with the outside world.
My name is Monte. I am a water safety specialist with the CCC. The people I have met, the places I have been and my coworkers who I now call my brothers and sisters. Thanks to you and your support, I am becoming a better person in mind, body, and soul. Thank you for allowing all of us this great joy of working in the great outdoors!
My name is Raquel and I’m from the Central Valley of CA. I am 27 years old, a non-veteran, and a graduate from UC Santa Cruz. Four months ago I applied to be a part of the BC Program with both hope and self-doubt. Now, two months into the season the BC teaches me more and more about myself and the abilities I never knew I had. I am surprised at my ability to work and live so happily under such conditions. Even though I have never before kept my body in good physical shape, I push myself harder and harder up the mountain every day, telling myself that today is easier than yesterday. How is it that I can go from almost no experience hiking and no faith in my physical abilities to drudging up a mountain with more determination than I’ve ever had in my life? How was I able to hike 42 miles in three days? How did I climb 3000 feet in five miles on a 30% grade in the Trinity Alps? The only thing I can say is I’m inspired by the beauty that surrounds me–not only the beauty of the wilderness, but the beauty of the people who walk with me through this experience day in and day out. The family bond that continues to grow here keeps me waking up happy; keeps me hiking faster and working harder; and keeps me loving life here in the backcountry. None of this special transformational experience would be possible without your support. A thousand Thank You’s for contributing to something so unique, yet so important.
My name is Myra. I’m a first-generation American, born to Mexican parents. At the age of 17 I joined the U.S. Navy in order to finance my education. I served overseas on board the USS Frank Cable (AS40) in the Engineering Department, in the Damage Control Division. Where I performed preventative maintenance on our ship’s piping systems. Moreover, I was the Attack Team Leader of Repair Locker 5’s Firefighting Squad.
To be honest, I initially doubted my decision to join the BC Program. I had never before been hiking, let alone camping, and I feared it would be too physically demanding and mentally challenging. But someone once said “the things we fear the most are the things we need to do the most.” Though everyday is a struggle, I pride myself in the obstacles I have overcome. It is hard to admit that without the help of my crew I would never muster the courage and the strength to keep going most days. I could not ask for a better group of people to face these challenges with. I really wish I could better explain how life changing this experience has been; that even though it’s the hardest, without a doubt, it is the most memorable. This is why I couldn’t possibly thank you enough for supporting our troops, but more importantly our cause. Thank you so much.
Hello. My name is Justin. I am one of 13 members that make up the CCC Veterans Backcountry Trail Crew. Four years ago I was deployed to Iraq as a Gunner in a Convoy Security Element for the US Navy. During the 9+ months I was deployed I would often day dream of being deep in the mountains that are not far from where I live in southern CA. The mountains for me are a place where I feel the most alive and truly at peace. A lot of the things I enjoyed about the military I have been trying to find over and over again in my post military life and career. I thought it would be impossible to combine my love of the forest with all the things I loved in the military. When I heard of this job through the Veterans Green Jobs I knew that this was the opportunity I had been looking for, and needless to say I was excited and eager to apply. I am now almost halfway through the season and it is everything I was hoping for and then some. Every day I am motivated by my new family to push myself and I am constantly learning new things. I wake up and go to work and see things that most people will never get the chance to see. I am blown away with the landscapes that my eyes are seeing on a daily basis. I would like to personally thank you for all you have done to help get this program off the ground. You have truly helped to change all of our lives for the better. God bless you and thanks again.
“As a Navy Sea Bee I wanted to be part of something larger. I get the same experience serving as a corps member”- Justin
My name is Aaron and I am from Santa Rosa, CA. I am a United State Marine Corps Veteran. I served our country from May 20, 2002 through May 19, 2006. I worked as a Diesel Mechanic working on heavy equipment. I was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, Camp Pendleton, CA and one tour in Fallujah, Iraq.
I want to thank all of the supporters who believe in the BC Program. I found out about this opportunity from a Veteran job posting through my local junior college. I have a love for the outdoors, so upon reading about the program I knew I had found a good match. After going through orientation and meeting my new family I was happy to know I was going with people who had a similar passion for the outdoors. Working and living in Big Basin re-opened my eyes to nature and its true beauty. I also opened my eyes to community, 15 individuals coming together to create a bond. It has allowed us to build trails and new friendships, laugh together, and go on weekend backpacking trips. So once again, thank you for all your support in putting this program together for us and future generations.
“It’s hard to be away from my friends and family, but I get an opportunity to push myself and have another start” – Aaron
Hi. My name is William. I spent four years active duty in the Marine Corps Infantry and was Honorably Discharged as a Corporal. In my time of service to the country I was deployed for a 13 month Security Tour in Saudi Arabia, and an 8 month Combat Tour in Iraq. Since getting out of the military, I’ve missed the camaraderie and brotherhood that was shared from within the ranks, and I have missed being around people with similar experiences. Needless to say, when I found out about the Veterans trail crew, I couldn’t help but feel it was an absolutely perfect opportunity for me to get a similar experience, on top of working in my favorite place in the world–the Wilderness. About half the season is over, and the program is everything I thought it would be and more. Our crew is amazing, not just as co-workers, but as friends too. This program has already changed my life in so many positive ways. On a daily basis I learn things that I can carry with me for the rest of my life, whether it’s technical work experience and knowledge, or advice and admirable traits I get from my fellow crew members. I thought it might be interesting to share something very personal that I’ve gained from the season so far. Aside from the sense of adventure I’ve rekindled, the lessons of hard work, teamwork, and community that made me a better person, and gaining confidence through pushing my mental and physical thresholds, I have to say that what I’m most grateful for is a feeling of inner peace and happiness that I have not been able to find anywhere else but the backcountry wilderness. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making this program possible through very generous donations and selfless persistence.
“I miss the camaraderie and the professionalism in the service. It’s great to work with veterans because we have an understanding of the military experience”- Will
My name is Andrew. I spent four years in the United States Navy as a shipboard electrician. During my service I often dreamt of the mountains, and could be found there during periods of leave. I was discharged in 2004 and worked many trades that left me with a feeling of dissatisfaction. I went back to school in 2008 with hopes of finding my place in the working world.
I found this program because I was looking for work during a break in my education. I was excited to know that there is a program for people like me, people that want to care about their work and develop themselves into a better community member. That is exactly what I’ve found here: individuals that constantly push to improve themselves, and support me on my worst days.
We started in Big Basin SP, outside of Santa Cruz, in a sea of poison oak. My reaction to this plant in the least possible way is uncomfortable. However, I enjoyed every minute of my experience there because of the outstanding crew I am a part of. Moving to the Trinity Alps area was exciting, but it was also a little sad to leave the first home we made together. The work there intensified as we hiked ten to fifteen miles a day with tools in hand. Shortly there after we left and found ourselves in rattlesnake country of the Yolla Bollas covered in dust and thorns. It was here that we all adopted our western names, giving birth to the Yolla Bolla Gang. In what seemed like a blink of an eye we were warmly welcomed to Sequoia NP. We are among ancient giants here and everything about this place is magnificent. The work becomes harder every day, but the laughter grows louder and the embraces warmer. I look around now and see my new family. I have lost the strangers I met in Sacramento. And so, I would like to thank you for your support and your belief that this program is worthwhile, because without it, none of us would be here now, together.
” Being outdoors is more my speed. I can find peace of mind in the new community we are building together in Veterans Green Corps”-Andrew
The BC Trails Program has deep roots in CA, but being one of its newest members from Ohio the program continues to serve at a national level. I am a 25 year old male who served in Iraq as an Air Traffic Controller, but my patch no longer says Greg. I am now defined by my dark brown pants and shirt with Americorps and CCC patches, and no matter how much I wash them, they remain ridden with California’s soil. Before, I was a clean suit and dress shoed college grad. However, I can now gratefully say I am a trail worker. Between those two pivotal points in my life was one of the hardest and yet memorable transitions. The days are long, though the payoff is much longer in the end. The days continue to get shorter and easier as time progresses. Just the other day I can remember sleeping in a redwood as a storm passed on my weekend, or building barrier fences at Bean Hollow at an Indian burial site. Those days have long passed but are still memories that will be cherished in a lifetime among many others. With all the memorable events, friendships, and floodgates of job opportunities after this program, I am eternally grateful for your support. Finally, I would like to say thank you again and thank you for supporting our troops.
“We are protecting and preserving our natural resources for future generations to enjoy”-Gregory
It was the middle of April when I received a phone call asking if I was still interested in the BC Program. I had one week to prepare for the next five months of my life. I was thrilled then and I am still thrilled now to have this opportunity.
These past two months have been truly incredible. I have gotten to travel around and work in four of the most beautiful areas in CA with an excellent group of people. I am not a Veteran, and when I was told that I would be a part of a Veteran crew, I couldn’t help but be curious about the types of people I’d be spending my days with. After eight weeks together (every waking hour together) I’m still looking forward to the next three months, together. I had many reasons why I applied to this program. I wanted to work outdoors; meet new people; serve my community, etc. This program has gone above and beyond that. We were told at orientation that this season would change us, but I don’t think any words could fully express the journey we’ve taken these past months and how much we’ve all grown. I can’t wait to see what the next few months have to offer. I’m tired. I’m dirty. I couldn’t be happier.
Thank you for supporting this crew. Your support is changing lives.
“This seems like a great program for veterans and I am proud to be part of their unit”-Lisa
My name is James. I am 26 years old and have been out of the Service for a little over 5 years. While in the Military I was a M1A1 Abrams Tanker. I was stationed in Inchon, South Korea and Fort Knox, KY. Being in the military was a great part of my life, but I never felt like it was my true calling. Since I’ve gotten out of the Army, I have earned my welding certification, and I have owned my own business for the past two and half years. I also now own my own property in Cohasset, CA which is a small mountain town above Chico. This is where I truly feel alive and at home….in the woods. So naturally I felt the BC Program is where I need to be. I had a friend go through the BC Program last year. He told me about how much he learned and his experiences and how much fun he had all season. So when Karlson Hubbard called me and said “Hey dude, do you want a job on the Sequoia Veterans Crew?” I was super excited and worried at the same time. I didn’t know what to expect from the crew I would be working with. However, I could not be any happier. Everyone is wonderful and exceptionally kind. I am so happy to be around and with such great people. Everyone who is ex-military is similar to me with their love for the outdoors and strong work ethic and attitudes. I now know that the Veterans BC season will be one of the greatest summers of my life. My crew and my wonderful crew supervisor knock out project after project everyday and get stronger and closer by the hour.
I want to personally thank all of you who have helped this Veterans Crew come together and allow us to work trails in this beautiful state. Without the support of you I would not have been able to have this great experience and been able to meet all these wonderful people. So a big thanks!
My name is Rachel. I grew up in Des Moines, IA and have been residing in the Bay (San Francisco) for the past 6 years. My life in the Bay has been a concentration of the fast paced hustle and bustle of roaming bikes, roaring cars, bars, and raging out to live music on overload.
Years ago my friend David (who was in the Military) told me life would pick me up and spit me out into the realization that years had passed without reflection. A year ago one of my dearest friends, Makh, passed away while returning home from a music tour with his band. The driver of their tour van fell asleep and drifted into a parked trailer on the shoulder. Makh wasn’t wearing a seat belt and was ejected from the vehicle, and died instantly. I heard news of his death while I was visiting my mom in Phoenix, AZ. I arrived in the Bay 48 hours before the funeral, and left 24 hours later to Portland, OR with two friends and a bottle of whiskey. Instead of dealing with grief face to face by addressing and expressing my feelings of pain to my social network and family, I evaded grieving by traveling America drowning by worries in the summer heat and glitter of the cities.
Through traveling, my thirst for new adventure replaced my yearning for the Bay. I gained new confidence and was reminded of life’s endless sunset. My journey had become a dedication to Makh. Makh was passionate about his life and always respected life as a “permanent vacation.” Being dedicated to his music had given him that opportunity and it also introduced him to a world of travel, which I was now experiencing for myself.
When I received an email about the Backcountry Program I knew it was ideal for me. My new found confidence for taking on adventure could be realized in between the illustrious mountains and the blazing camp fire, hard work. That fantasy has now become reality. During orientation I was worried about how I would progress in this program and said to my crew member Rocky, “I am sort of out of shape, got little legs and big hopes.” So far this program has shown me the power of the natural world on my splintered soul and I’m not sure I can return from the addiction I’ve gained to this environment. Each day poses new, unexpected challenges that seem feasible. In the beginning these dreams felt like burdens, but with each day and smile I can gladly hike further into the backcountry.
At the end of the day, after the work day has drawn it’s curtains, I can reflect and reflect with the knowledge I’ve put my all in to this program. I am now prescribed to the backcountry norm, but have since gained a new family out of my crew members and the land preserved in these state and national parks.
The organized serenity from Nature calls rushing rivers and tall elegant trees soothes me. Everyday hasn’t been so easy lending to my overall appreciation. I’ve felt wilted by the sun and the tread; frozen by the rain and the night; impatient with the morning early hours; and tears have busted from my face after never ending hikes. However, always after all of that, after I finish my work, I hug a crewmate and look at that tall mountain. I, as a wilted flower, am then able to bloom again with optimism and feel ecstatic about the small day accomplishments which add to the plethora of memories and strength I am gaining from this experience. My friend Makh, and all of my supporters would be proud to know, and eventually experience, my positive gains from this program. Words can’t express my gratitude or explain what this type of accomplishment feels like. I will walk away from this program feeling unstoppable. Never have I worked alongside a team of such genuinely dedicated people or cared so significantly about my contribution to my work. My connection to the wilderness is immersed in my blood.
This program will give me a chance to evolve more into this beautiful place, this Wilderness. In the city I felt able to control my environment. In the wilderness the environment cannot be controlled. I know there is something more valuable and unstoppable behind each piece of nature.
I admire your contribution. Thank you for inspiring my life.