On Sunday, April 21, Civicorps said goodbye to Corpsmembers Sahsae Robertson and Josh Ballard as they took a leap of faith and joined the California Conservation Corps’ 40 year old Backcountry Trails Program (BCTP), a joint program with AmeriCorps. Sunday was the perfect day to begin something new. A clear blue morning and lush green hills lay ahead of us as we drove to the foothills of the Sierra Mountains to the CCC’s Placer Center. Civicorps Lead Counselor Natasha Vinakor was the perfect co-pilot for this trip, because she assisted in navigating the excitement, anxiety and a wide range of emotions bubbling up for Sahsae, Josh and myself.
As a former Backcountry Corpsmember, I too started my 5 ½ month journey in the mountains of Yosemite at the Placer Center. 21 years ago I set off on a life changing and career defining trip that led me to incredible sunrises, breath taking mountain lakes and some of the most physically demanding days of my life.
I can’t predict what exact adventures Sahsae and Josh are about to experience but I do know that neither will be the same if and when they return to Oakland. They will each hike hundreds of miles, build countless early morning campfires, dip bone tired bodies in cool mountain creeks and lakes and make a crazy amount of sandwiches for lunch each day. Both Josh and Sahsae will sit by a camp fire with their crew members late into the night talking, laughing and getting to know each other. By no means will every day be great, some days they will have to drag themselves out of their warm sleeping bags into the cold and sometimes wet mornings, or haul their bodies that last 100 yards to get to the top of some god-forsaken trail. Josh and Sahsae will cherish the letters and packages (we have addresses for both) delivered by the mule teams once a week along with the grocery order. At some point they miss and crave home, friends, family and some specific food that will be out of reach.
Dr. Seuss wrote “Oh, the Places You’ll Go”. For many reasons, we of the BCTP felt that he was speaking to us because of lines like “it’s opener there in the wide open air” and “ on and on you will hike, and I know you’ll hike far and face up to your problems whatever they are”. After dropping Josh and Sahsae off, I now know that Dr. Seuss was speaking to all who have attempted a season in the wilderness.
Special thanks to Dan Ramos at The North Face for hooking us up with much needed gear and clothing for this adventure, and to Sports Basement in Berkeley for the gift card.