I wake up early on a Friday morning, and to say I’m not a morning person would be an understatement. I grovel at my multiple alarms going off at various times and snooze is hit on repeat. Put on my shirt, pants, belt, boots and grab a small enough lunch that my significant other likes to remind me I couldn't satisfy the cat who I’ve actually become quite close with. Hop in my car, usually still yawning, and I’m not so surprised anymore that this Southern California heat is already beating me down (fun fact: my car's A/C has not worked properly for the past 3 years). Luckily I don’t live far from my job at Mt. Baldy, located in the San Gabriel Mountains on the eastern border of Los Angeles County. I am a Resource Assistant hired through the Hispanic Access Foundation to work with the US Forest Service and was paired with the recreation department to maintain the developed and high use areas within the Angeles National Forest, San Gabriel National Monument. This includes trail heads, camp sites, water lines, trash bins, toilets and any other structure owned by the Forest Service in the area under my supervision. After I park my car at the Lover San Antonio Fire Station, I grab my yale key and trade my Hyundai Accent for a Chevy Colorado (which has a magnificent A/C unit I might add). At this moment, I’m at a base elevation that starts around 1200’ and start my drive up the mountain to the Mt. Baldy Forest Service Visitor Center sitting at 4200’. The drive up the mountain and out of the local smog with the windows down makes everything I do in the morning worth it. The change in air temperature, drive above the clouds, and large appearing pine trees truly wake me up and allow me to appreciate the work I signed up for.
To say this job has its ups and downs would be an understatement in my opinion. The things I’ve seen and have had to literally scrap off the floor has made me a stronger more bacterial resistant person and given me a newfound appreciation of jobs in the forest or parks that largely go unnoticed. This includes the all in compassing trash found practically everywhere to the less glamorous human excrement left behind by your average outdoorsman. As I said it has its downs and sometimes it can go very downhill, I’ve found out that my mortal enemies happen to be the 20 or more black bears that call the mountain there home, with there constant destroying of garbage bins that are supposedly bear proof (they are bear proof, but most of the time people just don’t know how to close them) and the mayhem they cause the campers. I respect that they live in this area but they can add an extra hour plus of cleanup and having to tell campers there is nothing I can do when they break a car window and reupholster the inside of their car is always fun. Bears are nothing compared to some of the messes I have to deal with in the 11 bathrooms you can find throughout my duty station. I won’t go into much detail but thank goodness I was provided with a strong enough power washer that takes care of most things. My personal favorite line when someone thanks me for my work is “my duties are your doodies.” It is childish but laughing helps.
While it may be hard to see the joy this job can bring from the last paragraph, there are upsides as well that you can see from the moment you drive up the mountain. Many people I interact with are surprised to find out that you don’t have to drive an hour to two to find a pine cedar forest but Mt. Baldy is just that. From its beauty of large trees, clear creeks and wildlife you frequently encounter, Mt. Baldy is a 15 minute drive for most suburban people living in east Los Angeles County. Not only can this scenery make my day, but the locals and recreationists that thank me for the work I do provide me with a sense of pride in my work. One of my favorite things to do is inform anyone who asks about the local wildlife or any other ecological question as well as the history of Mt. Baldy. I also can’t forget about the coveted stickers I hand out to the kids who come up with questions or just want to wave and say “hi.” I have a hard time seeing myself sitting in an office, plugging numbers, and typing reports so working outdoors with the Forest Service fits my personality and goals for what I enjoy doing.
Agency: U.S Forest Service
Program: Conservation and Outdoor Recreation Program (COR)
Location: Angeles National Forest