To celebrate AmeriCorps Week 2020, we are sharing the service stories of SCA AmeriCorps alumni and how their experiences impacted them. Anna Kellner took the plunge and explored challenges she had never encountered before, and those challenges ultimately ended up being the greatest reward. In her own words, here is her story…
I woke up one morning, had a cup of coffee and thought to myself, “I’m gonna do something I’ve never done before.” An Adirondack Mountains Hiking Guide appeared in front of me, magically. I took another sip of coffee and turned to the page which promised a challenging hike, a stunning view of the distant high peaks and a drive of less than three hours: Ampersand Mountain.
I packed an excessive amount of gear for a three mile hike on a sunny day, including headlamps, a raincoat, and four pairs of socks, because I wanted to feel prepared for this thing I’d never done in this place I’d never visited.
After a gorgeous drive, I finally parked on Country Route 3, right across from the trailhead. Pants tucked into socks, Keene bag on my back, water bottles sloshing – I was ready for this three mile hike up 1,737 feet.
To make a long story short, I was not ready. I vastly overestimated my athletic abilities and limped for a week.
After a mile of rock stairs, scrambling, and bouldering, I came to a point in the trail where I couldn’t see the trail markers. It was 3 o’clock and the sun would set in a couple of hours. I was alone and nervous. As I wandered for 20 minutes, searching for red trail markers in the height of fall foliage season (impossible), I passed by this incredible fissure in the mountain. I froze there, in awe, and felt my sweat start to cool in the icy breeze. I listened for other hikers, the highway, an airplane… but all I could hear was the howl of the wind whipping through these two rocks, which were once one. All at once, my frustrations melted away.
When I graduated with my bachelor’s degree, I applied for over 60 positions. It was so frustrating (like searching for the trail markers). But a year ago, I woke up, sipped my coffee, and decided to do something I’d never done before. I accepted this position. And, just like that moment on the mountain, my perceived failures gave me the chance to enjoy a whole different world.
I tried to prepare myself for this position. I packed wool socks and snow pants – but I wasn’t prepared. No emergency whistle or CPR mask could have prepared me for what I really experienced here. The majesty of Taughannock Falls brought me to tears. Walking out onto a frozen Eel Bay, watching ice fishermen drill through the ice, blew my mind. I visited Long Island and explored the pebble shore of Setauket, drove beside the Erie Canal singing “I got a mule, her name is Sal,” swam with friends in Canandaigua Lake, hammocked on a bluff next to Lake Erie and went scuba diving in the St. Lawrence River.
Every one of these memories gives me goosebumps. Each is worth the 60 “This Position has been Filled” emails. I wouldn’t trade my time in SCA and AmeriCorps for anything.