The Roman philosopher Marcus Aurelius once suggested that, from time to time, we spend a few nights sleeping on the ground. It didn’t really matter where it was – it could even be right next to the bed we usually sleep in – as long as it was not what we were used to. The idea was to switch things up and break the normal routine. If we can experience, even for a brief time, what might be thought of as a last resort, such as losing a good bed to sleep on or air conditioning, we would become less anxious about losing those things in the future. We would realize that as long as we have the essentials, things would be alright.
When I started this summer with the NFCT I was, unsurprisingly, fairly used to sleeping in a bed. Other than some scattered camping trips throughout my childhood, I had spent many nights on a beautiful, 10-inch thick box of springs and foam. I had traveled plenty but often stayed in hotels. I was fairly sure trail work and “tent life” would be something I would enjoy, but there were certainly some unknowns. Would the bugs get the best of me? Would I get tired of the food? And what worried me most: would I simply get tired of sleeping in a tent all summer?
The short answer is no. I loved it. But the long answer is one full of crazy adventures and amazing people. As part of the Roving Crew I got to explore rivers and lakes and mountains I never would have known about otherwise. I learned how to properly paddle a canoe, and then how to paddle a canoe with an outhouse strapped to it. And I met people, both that I worked alongside and met along the trail, that were immensely inspiring to me. It should be noted that things did not always go just as planned. An axle broke on the trailer I was driving, I got lost on logging roads in Maine, and one night water slowly dripped through the only spot in my tent where water could possibly get in, right onto my phone. There were mornings I woke up and didn’t have any desire to move heavy rocks for the next eight hours. But if it means working in the outdoors and having experiences like those I had this summer, these mishaps are well worth it to me.
As I get ready to return home to air-conditioning, a refrigerator and, yes, my comfy bed, I feel sad to pack up my sleeping bag for the last time with the NFCT. And I think Marcus Aurelius was right. This summer on the trail has showed me that things will be okay – and often far better than okay – if I decide to switch things up. It not only gave me the confidence to weather those changes, it gave me the confidence to seek them out. Those experiences are out there as long as I’ve got my tent and some flat ground.
Work on the Bow Loop was funded by Maine Bureau of Parks & Lands and the Horizon Foundation. All 2017 stewardship work done by the Northern Forest Canoe Trail was supported by TimberlandPro.
“Stewardship Intern Reflects On Rewarding Summer” by 2017 stewardship intern Griff Keating
“Life on the Trail” by 2017 stewardship intern Matt Brabender