We arrived in smokey Joseph, Oregon, mid-afternoon on Saturday, just in time for the local farmers market. While Jimmy was shopping for fresh produce, I noticed a woman posting fire information notices on a bulletin board outside the Visitor Information Office.
Talk about a small world. The woman tacking up notices turned out to be a fulltime RV friend we first crossed paths with in March 2012 at the SKP Co-op RV Park near Casa Grande, Ariz., where we were all snowbirds.
We knew that Pam, and her husband, Steve, had been longtime volunteers with the forest service and other outdoor agencies–however, running into her thousands of miles away in a small northeast Oregon town was a great surprise. (BTW, Steve is currently working at an incident command center in northern California.)
Pam and Steve’s volunteering story began more than 20 years ago. Back in 1991, while still working “for a living” in Ohio, they found a library book about volunteering in the outdoors. “Steve went through it and then I went over the listings and we found we both have a love for forests, national parks and wildlife refuges,” recalled Pam.
They then ordered a catalog, “Volunteering Opportunities in the Northwest Forests,” because that was a region of the country they wanted to explore. “We pored over the possibilities, selecting several and submitting letters with a short resume.”
Their first position was staying in a backcountry cabin in the Kootenai National Forest, near the Canadian border. “We interviewed folks that visited that remote spot because it was a proposed wilderness area and the forest service needed information about the recreational users. After this experience we were hooked.”
Pam and Steve went on the road as fulltime RVers in 1998 while still in their 40’s and “volunteering while exploring” has been “a passion” for them. They currently travel in a 2008 31-foot Sunset Creek travel trailer pulled by a 2008 Ford F250.
“Life has been good to us and we feel the need to give back,” said Pam. “Also some of our volunteering activities have resulted in offers of paid positions. Volunteering gives you time to explore an area and gain valuable local knowledge.”
Other volunteer positions Steve and Pam have done include: Monitoring bald eagles, Wilderness Information Specialists, assisting with a Recreation Impact Survey, park entrance station volunteers, Fire Prevention volunteers, Back Country Rangers, and Incident Information volunteers.
“Often we return year after year to many of these activities. Once you have experience you become much more valuable to that agency,” said Pam.
Photos: Fire information at the Joseph, Oregon, Visitor Information Office. (Julianne G. Crane). Middle: Jimmy Smith, Julianne and Pam in Joseph, Oregon. (Kathy Campbell) Bottom: Steve and Pam by their 2008 31-foot Sunset Creek travel trailer (Julianne G. Crane).