I’m standing on a wind-blown bluff overlooking a mountainous ocean coastline, hip-high grasses brushing against me in the light afternoon breeze. Backpack on my back, a similarly-clad office-mate is standing on my left, likewise looking off into the impressive landscape. “Two hikers lost amid nature’s wonders”— it’s the type of scene you’d see on wilderness maps or on landscape posters.
Actually, it is one of those scenes. A hundred yards behind us and up on a higher hill is a BLM photographer, capturing the moment for use in future King Range promotional materials. It’s the second day of this unexpected tangent in my CLM internship—Zach Marine, landscape model. “I move to California and just fell into a modeling gig,” I’d jokingly explained to my parents. Still, it’s hard for me not to be awestruck by the fortune I had to not only hike a beautiful trail (the Lost Coast Trail) and camp overnight while being photographed doing it, but to do all this while getting paid. This is part of my job! Maybe I should look into this modeling thing more seriously….
Cut to three weeks later. I’m in the office working on my computer and our NEPA planner comes up and hands me the draft version of the King Range Wilderness Plan. On the cover is a familiar coastline vista with the backs of two every-man hikers in the foreground. “That’s me!” I say. Then the even cooler part sinks in—as I look through the document I see all the maps I made, 13 in all. As amazing as the opportunity was to model for the BLM (I never thought I’d be writing *that* clause), the real serendipity happened a month earlier when there was a significant need for someone to produce the maps for this wilderness plan which was running desperately close to its deadline… and the GIS specialist was out of the office for the next three weeks.
For me, who had wanted to learn more about GIS and gain applied experience with it, it was the perfect opportunity. Now seeing those maps in the draft plan brought home how cool the whole experience had been. I had learned something I had wanted to, I had helped the office fill a need they had, and I had produced something that will be of benefit to the public as they evaluate the wilderness plan or put it into effect. I couldn’t be more delighted.
Plus I was on the front cover (or at least my back was), and that was pretty cool, too.