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A summer in the wilderness: Max Bearak blogs

<r from the tourist bonanzas in Colorado and California, not once did I run into another hiker in the wilderness areas, where no motorized travel is permitted. I had come seeking physical work and the outdoors, and I received it in full, complete with starry nights, sweeping vistas of thunderstorms coming my way across vast valleys, and the pleasure of falling asleep in a pitched tent to the sound of aspen leaves blowing in the wind.”

So wrote Max Bearak ’12, who spent the summer in Ely, Nev., at the Humboldt National Park and blogged about it for the New York Times.

Bearak had several ideas in mind before planning his last summer break of college, but ultimately decided that he wanted to work as a wilderness ranger somewhere remote where he could trek through isolated land. He was hired as a wilderness ranger and placed in the Humboldt National Forest, performing the documentation and mapping out of the wild countryside in eastern Nevada.

“I was monitoring changes in the wilderness area,” Bearak said. “It was great because these places have not been documented at all. I was completely free.”

Bearak was a four-hour drive from any city that would make it on a map.

“There aren’t many places in this country besides Alaska that would be like that,” Bearak said. “I really got to know the place well.”

He survived off of a lot of mac n’ cheese and tuna. Natural food was difficult to come by as Nevada produces very few edible plants and berries. He drank from streams using a water filter and slept in a tent that he carried on his back.
When asked if he ever got lost, Bearak smiled.

“My friends call me Maps,” he said. “I am really passionate about navigation. I guess a few times I’d think I was further than I was, but no, I never got lost.”

In fact, Bearak’s favorite part of the summer was making maps, detailing points of interest and points of invasive species.

Despite being alone in the remote wilderness, Bearak encountered little danger.

“Eastern Nevada’s done a pretty good job of eliminating most threatening animals,” he said. “I was probably the most in danger from rattlesnakes,” but he says even that threat was small.

Bearak did encountered a few surprising sights, though.

“I ran into a lot of abandoned mine shafts. I also found beer cans from 80 years ago whose companies don’t even exist anymore,” he said.

“The whole experience was surprising because of my lack of knowledge of the place before. The town of Ely, Nev., is from another America, a different era. It’s stuck in 1974, which is when people starting leaving. It’s like a Wild West town, a real one; it’s the opposite of a tourist attraction.”

Though he doesn’t want to go into the profession of wilderness ranging, Bearak plans on doing work in public health and policy development and/or foreign aid.

To read more about his experience, check out:

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