This is it. My last day on the mountain. Filled with good-byes and the typical “come back soon” requests. I’ve seen and learned so much, it’s hard to grasp the magnitude of how far I have come since arriving at Catoctin immediately after graduation. Some days have tested and challenged me. Some have seemed more like play than work. But it’s all in the rear-view mirror now. I will drive off the mountain to never experience it the same way again…
Well that’s how I may have started this post if it truly was my time to go. Alas, I am the proud recipient of a CVA extension that will keep me here just a little longer. I would say the last post I make will start the same way, but 5 months is a long time and I can say with certainty that I will be a very different person. So I give you this reflection, a small taste of the beginnings and ends I have experienced and continue to live through at Catoctin Mountain Park.
Life on the mountain goes on, without even the faintest shudder or ripple in the norm. There were no celebrations or acknowledgements on my “last day”. Even now, I “celebrate” only by treating myself to this blogging session filled with strange nostalgia from my first days in the Park. A year ago I was fresh out of college, unaware of my naivety about the Park Service (and everything else). Today I write with more experience and confidence than ever, but still remarkably unaware about how naive I really am (naturally, I can only assume to what degree). Ignorance is bliss, so they say, and I feel my blissful bubbles popping with each coming day.
2017 has been surprisingly kind so far. Since my last post, we have gone through our biggest annual service projects without any unusual amount of trouble. The diversity of groups and project activities has been truly staggering to me. From basic trail maintenance to complete building transformations, Park volunteers have taken every opportunity by the horns. VIP program growing pains have been surprisingly manageable and program transitions have been far easier than expected.
I have welcomed renewed mountain life with open arms. Green has replaced the gray of winter. New workers have invigorated Park progress. And of course, the promise of my “new CVA life” has challenged me to go above the bars we have already set. Instead of coasting these last days after almost 10 projects in 8 weeks, I look to the summer and fall with ambitious plans. Already we have new group service commitments and the promise of new summer volunteers. New challenges await, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.