Last March, I was frantically filing my last legal briefs as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York while packing up my Brooklyn apartment. I had decided to leave the city for good, and the law for a while, and spend some time outdoors. I had no plan, other than to head west and to take my time. And that’s exactly what I did.

One year later, I had ended up in Tucson, driven down south initially by the weather and then by the stark beauty of the Sonoran desert. But by March, the desert was getting hot and I was getting restless. I had spent an entire year on our public lands, and it was time to crawl out of my sleeping bag and into a job that would allow me to give back and help protect the wilderness that had been sheltering me.

I heard that the National Forest Foundation (NFF) was looking for a Volunteer and Community Engagement Coordinator in the Methow Valley in Washington, to work on a vast array of restoration projects currently underway as part of its Treasured Landscapes campaign on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. I immediately applied, and two weeks later was in my car, heading all the way up the coast to start my new job.

I crossed the Sierras in late March and was stunned by the lack of snow. High-lying campgrounds, usually closed through May, were snowless and already dry enough to have opened for the season. One week later, I found myself battling my GPS: I was determined to arrive in Winthrop, Washington via Highway 20, crossing the North Cascades and dropping into the valley from a 5,000 foot-high pass. My GPS was determined to send me south, skirting the high mountains and, presumably, the snow it assumed was there.

I decided to ignore my GPS, and hit the gas pedal with my flip flops. I smirked at people who were coming towards me with skis strapped to their roofs – surely they didn’t really still expect to find snow around here? Half an hour later, up in the high mountains, it was them smirking at me: I was standing in the snow, in my flip flops and t-shirt, gaping open-mouthed at the snow drifts towering high above my head, the ragged alpine peaks surrounding me, and the immense valley unfolding before me. The pass had been cleared and opened for through traffic only the day before. Six weeks early for folks around here, but exactly on time for me.

The first thing people will tell you is that this is the most beautiful place in the world. The second is that this is a very special community. And then, without fail, they welcome you to the valley. This is, indeed, a special place, and I am excited to help support the Majestic Methow.

National Forest Foundation