The wind passed over Spencer Glacier and an iceberg-filled lake before hitting our tents, making the June air cold, even by Alaskan standards. The residents of our camp consisted of me and seven other American Hiking Society volunteers, five college interns with the National Forest Service and two Forest Service staff members. We had made camp at Spencer, part of the Chugach National Forest, to access some of the nearby trails and clear them of non-native plants that had the potential to overwhelm local species. Every morning for five days, we hiked away from camp into the mountains. We stopped for lunch and then hiked back down, digging out non-native weeds as we walked.
I love the outdoors. My parents raised me camping and boating on the Great Lakes. I grew up learning to fish and hunt and feel comfortable in the wild. Conservation was taught to me from a young age, and those lessons were reinforced as pollution threatened the safety of the fish that we caught in Lake Huron. Overtime, experiences in the developing world caused my views to shift away from conservation more towards environmentalism, which in turn caused me to take a job on a campaign to stop drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge after I graduated from college.
Even though my current work with AARP Foundation focuses on meeting the housing needs of vulnerable, older adults, environmental issues are still very important to me personally. AARP Foundation offers its staff paid time to volunteer with other charitable or public organizations. This is a benefit that I truly value. Some staff use this time to sit on the boards of different non-profit groups; others use it to chaperone their children’s field trips. I love using this benefit as an opportunity to contribute to society and foster my interests in issues that I don’t always think about on a daily basis. Volunteering with the American Hiking Society gave me a new perspective on nature and environmental challenges. Although I don’t know when I will return to Alaska, it was certainly experience that will stay in my heart for a long time.