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by Justin Bigelow
Of all the memories I have stored from my October month of service with AmeriCorps St. Louis, one stands out in particular. It isn’t of any out of the ordinary moment when I was frightened or tested in some way. It’s of a very mundane and calming moment during a typical day of service. However, I think this memory is so important to me because it represents the three features of life on project I’ve come to cherish the most, which are: spending time with good friends, visiting scenic destinations, and performing arduous, but rewarding, days of service.
The memory is of a warm, calm afternoon in Montana which I spent cutting new tread for Peacock Trail. The day had begun much differently as our team hiked up the trail in the frigid morning hours before dawn. During our morning trail-building work we were largely silent as the wind howled, and a brief snowstorm of small snow pellets blew past our spot on the mountainside. However, after lunch, the weather changed dramatically as the clouds lifted, and sun shined brightly at our backs.
It was then that I took a break from digging up grass to look out at the stunning view below our trail. From our vantage point on the mountainside we could see an expansive valley stretching from the town of Sheridan directly below us to the large city of Butte a good hours drive away. The image of that valley and the snowcapped peaks far off in the distance is one I will never forget, and is among the most scenic vistas I witnessed in Montana.
The rest of the afternoon was spent either grubbing roots and grass off the trail, cracking jokes with my teammates, or looking out at the expansive view below. This combination of hard work, camaraderie, and scenery made the moment incredibly special to me. The afternoon of work felt less like something I was told to do and more like something I was uniquely privileged to be a part of. From what I can tell these moments are all too common in ERT while on project, and I continue to feel motivated every frigid morning in the pre-dawn dark to rise and work again.