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Blazing Her Own Path


Hi! My name is Mariah Warren, and I just completed my second year as a full-time student at University of Alaska Southeast, in Juneau. My major, a Bachelor of Liberal Arts with an emphasis in communication, reflects a very important element of my quest for knowledge: variety. I want to learn about everything, go everywhere, and explore the different aspects of the world to the greatest of my ability. The adventure I selected for this summer is reflected in the accompanying photograph: I'm working with a trail construction crew, employed by the fine folks at Trailmix - a non-profit organization dedicated to creating and maintaining trails in and around Juneau.

The attraction that this sort of work holds for me is automatic - an intrinsic part of who I am. Raised in the tiny fishing community of Edna Bay, Alaska, I learned from an early age of the satisfaction that can be found in a day of hard labor. Day-to-day life is a matter of water to be hauled, wood to be chopped and, yes, trails to be blazed. Although I am now a city dweller, there is a part of my soul that longs for those days. Through bugs, rain, and more bugs, I have never looked back.

Working with Trailmix, beyond just being a lot of fun, is an education in communication all by itself. Standing across a noisy piece of machinery, trying to relate just where a load of gravel should be dumped, one realized the extent to which communication transcends the mere words we speak. Of course, the atmosphere of Trailmix encourages verbal communication as well - between worker and worker, worker and crew leader, and even (according to my friend Amy) between human and machine. She has been known to regale us with reports of just which words, in exactly what tone of voice, are most effective in showing a recalcitrant piece of equipment who's the boss. Yes, at times words are just the only way to truly express our inner feelings.

By happy happenstance, the first major project I was involved in upon beginning with Trailmix was very much University related: the new trail that runs from the Auke Bay elementary school up to the new UAS recreation facility/National Guard building is a work of art produced by none other than the Trailmix crew. I was proud to contribute in even a small way to the new facility, and from what I've seen during bold forays in search of water and restrooms, it's pretty incredible: a huge gymnasium, suspended running track, climbing gym, weight room and even a trail leading up to it - and a very nice one, if I do say so myself. I can hardly wait to see inside the building after the final touches are added. Just one more reason to look forward to starting classes this fall!