By: Rachel Shoemaker, Interpretive Ranger at White Lake State Park
I was ready for fall – in theory at least. Pumpkin spice everything, beautiful assortments of ripe pumpkins, those unbelievable colors, and of course, all of the fun celebrations that await us every year. As much as I anticipated all of these things, I wasn’t truly ready.
This realization came during my fall break. Before taking off, I had discussed my plans with a co-worker who told me how much I would enjoy Acadia National Park. “What a perfect time you’re going, too! It’s just going to be gorgeous up there with the leaves starting to change color,” they said. To be honest, I thought they were getting little ahead of their self – it was only the first week of September, after all. We wouldn’t be seeing fall foliage for another few weeks! Sure enough, as I was climbing along the rocky cliffs and admiring the dazzling oceanfront views, I noticed that some of the trees were changing color. Some of them had even already dropped their leaves! It still didn’t sink in.
After returning to NH from an incredible trip in Acadia, I decided I wanted to have one last adventure and hike up Mt. Washington. There had been a frost advisory the evening before that lasted into the early morning. This is ridiculous, I thought. Earlier in the week, I had been sweating profusely on my hikes in Acadia and now, I was having to dress in layers and pack my mittens! On my drive up through North Conway, I got a good glimpse of the mountain and noticed that its grand slopes looked a little frosty, so I called the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center and asked them about the trail conditions. Thankfully, there was only a small amount of ice halfway up the trail and it was in the direct sunlight, so it would be melted by the time I reached it. Sure enough, I needed those mittens once I got above tree line and on top, it was a nice, breezy 32°F. It’s still only early September! I thought.
When I returned from break, I was excitedly relating my adventures to my friends and they couldn’t comprehend my disbelief about fall coming “so early.” They just looked at me funnily and teased that yes, fall comes a bit sooner up here than it does in North Carolina…
I will admit that fall did catch me by surprise this year – but not for the reasons you would think. I am indeed aware that fall comes sooner in the Northeast (despite my southern upbringing). What I was not aware of was that I wasn’t ready for the changes that fall brings.
For me this year, fall will mean that the SCA NH AmeriCorps program is coming to an end. This 10-month internship has been a whirlwind of incredible experiences. Professionally, I’ve learned how to translate my passion for the natural world into meaningful messages that people of all ages can relate to. I’ve had the unique opportunity of working at not just one, or even two, but five state parks over the course of the year! Outside of work, I’ve developed long-lasting friendships with many of my colleagues in the program, hiked the NH48, and also hiked an obnoxious number of other peaks both within the state and in neighboring states. I took my first solo road-trip ever and spent a week exploring Maine’s coast. I could go on-and-on about what an experience this program has been, but I won’t (thank goodness, you say). What I will say is that through all of these combined experiences, it has provided me with the self-growth I have needed to move on.
My disbelief that fall is already here stemmed from my stubborn refusal to believe that the program is coming to an end. In a month, myself and 28 other colleagues will be faced with that hard fact – not to mention the questions that will follow such as What will you do next? Personally, I am clueless as to what job will be the next step, and that’s okay. These life-changing 10 months have provided me with everything I need to move forward.
Fall is here. The season has changed, and along with it has come other changes. Our experiences may not be entirely similar, but the message is the same. Change is inevitable; it’s going to happen regardless. As sure as the change of seasons, we can be sure that when we face transitions in our own lives, we will be ready when the time comes.