Learn about the Conservancy Work Week program through the perspective of a 2022 Work Week Volunteer, Tina. Tina volunteered in Work Week 10 in Yosemite Valley.
Q: Had you spent a lot of time in Yosemite before applying to the work week? Why did you first apply?
A: This is the fourth time that I visited Yosemite National Park in my life. Previously I was only able to afford to spend a day or two in the park but wasn’t able to camp. I have always enjoyed volunteering in general, and I like nature. Since this Yosemite work week program combines both of those aspects, it was a no-brainer for me to get on board.
Q: Did you know going into the program what kind of work you’d be doing?
I have to admit that there were quite a few documents explaining the mission, but my hope was that I’d get exposure to a different side of the park that visitors don’t normally get to see. I also hoped I’d get in a real good workout from the various projects. Basically, I went in open-minded without digging too deeply into all the finer details of the work we’d be doing.
By the way, I’d like to give a big thank you to Alissa [Brush, Work Week Coordinator]. Since it was my first time volunteering here, and going alone, I wanted to be well prepared. I asked a ton of questions that she was kind enough to answer as best as she could.
Q: Did you know anyone going into the work week? Did you make any new friends during the week?
A: I didn’t know anyone at all. Aside from exchanging some helpful emails with Alissa, I went in pretty blindly.
Yes, I felt lucky to be on this team. First of all, the camp host (Patty) was very sweet and assisted me with my personal needs. She also became someone that I could easily just strike up a conversation with. In addition to this, one of the others from the team kindly drove me around the park in their spare time throughout the week.
During our off time (aka unwinding time), others shared fun stories of their past Yosemite volunteer experiences. I initially arrived via public transportation, but on my return trip home, one of the other teammates was kind enough to offer me a ride. While on the ride back, we did a little detour that showed me yet another side of the park which was not a part of the program. Another teammate shared with me his perspective on being from another state, which helped inform future trips I have in mind.
There are so many more people that I am happy to have met and spent time with that made this particular week even more unique. I’m enjoy keeping in contact with many members of the team, even after the trip.
Q: What aspect of your work week surprised you the most? Or what element of the program did you least expect?
A: I was impressed with the sections of trails that previous volunteers had worked on and felt proud that I could contribute to getting more pieces of the trail completed.
Throughout the work week, I learned about different plants, and the steps to plant them. For a long time, I’d always wished I could leave a little piece of me in the park. And now with the work I did planting flower seeds at the meadow, I feel a sense of pride, as well as a deeper connection to the park and can proudly say “I planted flowers in THAT meadow!” I really can’t wait to see those flowers bloom.
Another thing that surprised me about this program — it was about more than just getting things done, there were opportunities to learn about Yosemite built in. They’d have experts come out and share stories about the park. One day, they brought in a naturalist that shed more light about the park’s history and provided further insight into a lot of different subjects. We even got a basic lesson overview of how to mountain climb.
Q: Describe how the week went – highs or lows, what work you did for the park, what did you do in your free time? How was the food?
A: One of the highs for me was seeing people work in unison with one another during each and every project that came our way. The willingness and cooperation I observed in helping each other with even the day to day tasks, from taking out the trash, washing dishes, filling water — that carried over to coordination and cooperation when our team needed to find a missing and injured teammate after dark.
Even though we all came from different backgrounds and locations, we were a like-minded and open-hearted bunch, so in our free time, almost all of us gathered around the camp fire. We’d share stories and experiences about our lives, and play a nice game of cards here and there.
The only thing I can think to complain about was that since the food was so amazing, my dreams of losing some weight during the week quickly fell apart. Out of the 7 days, there were total of 18 meals. With lunch, there were lots of lunch meat and veggie options, along with varied bread and tortilla options. Not to mention the various cheeses, avocados, dressings and hummus. Basically, enough varieties to allow one to get creative in how they’d like to build their own sandwich for lunch.
For breakfast and dinner, there was nothing repeated. You’d have English muffins, pancakes, hash browns, omelets, sausages, ham, and some veggies. For dinner you’d have grilled things like tri-tip, salmon, pork chops, also chicken. For some days we had burgers, spaghetti and meatballs, and on and on. But on top of all this, what make me miss Chef John more was his homemade side dishes, such as coleslaw, pasta salad, mango salsa, caprese, cheese logs, and last but not least occasional cocktails. Mainly, there were a lot of flavors and options that one couldn’t easily get anywhere else.
Q: Describe the impact you hope your work will have on the park.
A: I hope the flowers we planted will bring joy to future generations, and that the work done on the trail inspires others to open their heart to further contribute not only to the park, but to our planet.
Photos courtesy of Tina.