Recently, while chewing sloppy melted chunks of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and watching shadows cast by moonlight cross the walls of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, intern Patrick Dowd got his first taste of the area around Paonia. He grew up in the San Francisco Bay area, moving inland in 1991 to attend the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Since graduating from the place everyone calls See You, Patrick moved to Costa Rica to teach English with the volunteer organization World Teach. There he learned to enjoy rice and beans "cada dia" - every day. He spent the past year working as an instructional intern for the nonprofit Eagle Rock School in Estes Park, which specializes in experiential education. This summer, the San Juan Mountains served as a classroom while he taught high-school kids from around the country for the Colorado Outward Bound School.
Patrick says his experience in the field gave him a truer understanding of the word wilderness - and an appreciation for a good hot shower.
New intern Katie Fesus (pronounced Faces, thanks to a soft Hungarian "e") tells us she grew up all over the world: New Jersey, Australia, England and Boston, among other places. Since graduating in 1994 from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire with a degree in English, she's kept on moving.
After a mountaineering expedition in Bolivia, she taught snowboarding in Sun Valley, Idaho, and Aspen, Colo., and backpacking and paddling courses for Voyageur Outward Bound School in the Beartooth Wilderness of Montana, the Bloodvein River in Manitoba, Canada, and the Chihuahuan Desert of Big Bend, Texas. Since she is used to living out of her car, Katie says, "I'm excited to sleep in a bed, have access to a telephone and to stay put in Paonia for the next three months."
This is Katie's first "indoor," 9-to-5 job ever. Although she's a little nervous about going stir-crazy, she says, "This is a first step toward protecting myself from skin cancer."
Here comes fall
After an unseasonably hot, dry summer, the weather broke definitively on Sept. 6, just as the Paonia High School Homecoming Parade was beginning. Cold, wet homecoming queen candidates, football players, the marching band and a pickup-load full of teachers shivered down the street. The parade set off an argument in HCN's office afterward. Did the initials KSA scrawled on a pickup truck stand for "Knowledge, Skills and Ability" or "Kick Some Ass"?
Despite the rain, staff (safely under our awning), waved enthusiastically, hoping the kids would appreciate our support and remember later not to stage "pear wars' in front of the HCN building. If they used ripe pears it might be OK, but the unripe ones, we've found, go right through a window.
- Betsy Marston, for the staff