Holland is a National Registry First Responder, a Wilderness First Responder, a National Association of Search and Rescue SARTECH II, and teaches CPR, AED and Wilderness First Aid for the American Red Cross.
After Wilderness First Aid class, base campers wind down around home-cooked meals and random story sharing. New friends play a Howie Day song on their guitars. They sing the lyrics, “Even the best fall down sometimes.” A nearby whippoorwill seems to want to sing along, but a bit out of key. I am reminded of where I am and that I am only a guest here. This bird speaks of life to us and we stop playing to listen what she says.
Base camp’s fire continues to burn within its contained rock ring. Campers have mostly all gone to bed. I have another chance to sit with Bill Hodge before checking in for retirement. He speaks from the heart.
“We should be willing to step up and be good stewards of specially designated wilderness. That’s what Southern Appalachian Wilderness Stewards is all about and it’s certainly what this conference is all about. It’s starting to create that next army of folks willing to get out there, whether it’s doing trail maintenance specifically, or doing other work in these wilderness areas. To me, that’s sort of the core of what this conference was about or what SAWS as an organization is about.
It’s to allow people to continue to expand their knowledge base, so if you came this year, you will come back next year. We will allow you to take your training opportunities to the next level. Maybe we’ll offer Wilderness First Responder or incorporate Search and Rescue”, he explains.
Wednesday is dedicated to Wilderness 101. The Wilderness Act, which established the National Wilderness Preservation System, now comprises more than 105 million acres and contains wild places from all regions of the country. Relevant dates and events in America’s national forest history are presented in class by Ocoee Ranger District forest rangers.
Wilderness Values Questions are handed out and smaller groups split up to debate these issues during lunch break. “Do you feel hunting is an appropriate activity in wilderness?”. Do you feel it is OK to have trail signs in wilderness?” These are a couple of questions that attempt to get answered, but there isn’t much group consensus as individuals feel differently.
We reunite around base camp’s fire ring, that evening, to sit for a more detailed discussion. Wilderness management issues are presented to the group who represent public opinion. In many cases, there is no definitive agreement, once again. It’s apparent that it is tough to define a wilderness policy that satisfied everyone.