A Mercyhurst student has pledged 10 weeks of her summer to sweating, performing manual labor and peeing outside.
Sophomore Psychology major Margaret Kneuer will work with the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps trail crew to lead a group of young adults through different wildlife experiences while maintaining zero contact with civilization. She hopes to gain a new appreciation for nature and to work hard in the wild. Senior Social Work major Margaret Switzer worked with the trail crew last summer.
“You just learn how to coexist with nature and different people, and it’s really awesome,” said Switzer.
“You learn a lot about camping and the outdoors and survival skills because you sleep in a tent the whole summer, or, sometimes when the weather was nice, we would all sleep outside of our tents.”
Working with the Rocky Mountain Youth Corps trail crew means working 40 hours a week for various companies like The Forest Service or working on national park projects. Each night everyone participates in reflections and team-building exercises. On the weekends, trail crews can climb mountains, investigate caves, visit national parks and explore sand dunes.
“I think I’m going to gain a lot of knowledge and skills about the outdoors because right now I have a very limited knowledge,” said Kneuer.
“I’m expecting to be put to work, to be tested and to gain a new experience. I know it’s going to be a good summer, though, because this is a crazy and unique experience.”
Each trail crew is made up of nine people total, and everyone is a stranger until the trail crews meet at the beginning of the summer for orientation.
“I’m going in totally blind,” Kneuer said.
Once every weekend, the trail crew will have the opportunity to shower and do laundry. Although showers are few and far between, Switzer says the experience is worth it.
“I had such a great time and I definitely noticed when I came back from the summer that I was more laid back and chill. I felt like there were problems and then there were bigger problems,” Switzer said.
Switzer has many fond memories of the trip, but one funny story stands out as her favorite.
“There was this one time when my crew leader peed on my pants, but it was my own fault and my own stupidity,” said Switzer.
“We were working for The Forest Service and after work we were laying our stuff on the ground while we set up our tents. For some reason, I forgot to bring in my rain pants for the night and I left them on the ground. The next morning my crew leader asked if anyone left his or her pants out last night because he accidentally peed on them when it was too dark to see.”
While Switzer reminisces about her experience, Kneuer is gathering the supplies necessary for the summer. She wants to be as prepared as possible.
“I’m trying to prepare my body for the endurance, because I’m going to be hiking and doing manual labor. I want to be ready for that and I’m mentally preparing for it too,” Kneuer said.
The Rocky Mountain Youth Corps has several programs similar to the trail crews, such as a fire crew to combat wildfires and a chainsaw crew to clear the forest. Applications to join a crew are still open, and anyone ages 18-25 can apply online.
“If you’re just looking for something to do for the summer, then there’s still time to apply,” Switzer said.
To send your application go to rockymountainyouthcorps.org.