Sierra Club's Best Internship on Earth: Military Families and Veterans Initiative, DESTINATION: Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

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Sierra Club's Best Internship on Earth: Military Families and Veterans Initiative, DESTINATION: Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

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Monday, August 13, 2012 - 2:00pm

Wow, what an incredible week! Weeks like this justify the title of this internship – the best on earth. Right now I’m in Puerto Rico for the annual Sierra Student Coalition summer training program, but I’m taking a moment to reflect on my Fourth of July holiday with the our nation’s military families.

I left San Francisco on Monday, July 2, headed to Jackson, WY, in the heart of Grand Teton National Park.  There, at the Teton Science School, I joined a National Military Family Association retreat with families from all over the country. Over the Fourth of July holiday, we hiked, canoed, watched wildlife, and took in the magnificent Teton scenery -- a great American treasure!
Tuesday was the most enjoyable day of the retreat for me. In the morning I joined a small group of three families to canoe across String Lake, directly beneath Mount Moran. I initially took my canoe partner for an experienced outdoorsman by his looks, but it turned out he had only canoed once before -- and that ended in a capsized boat! 
On this particular morning, the wind was picking up and causing choppy conditions on the lake, so I was slightly concerned. This time, however, his strong paddling and my sure hand on the rudder kept us afloat as we navigated the entire length of the lake and back to our launch point without incident. The other canoes all returned successfully as well, with soaking-wet clothes the only cause for complaint!
That afternoon, I joined a different group of families for a scenic raft trip down the Snake River. As a photography student, I have long admired Ansel Adam’s famous photos of the region, and to be rafting through it at sunset was like being in his work. The wildlife was terrific as well. Along the shore we saw two bald eagles, three beavers, and many moose -- some very close up! As the sun set behind Grand Teton, I was awed by the rays of light falling over us – what an inspirational sight!
Later in the evening, I ran into the mother from one of the families I had been canoeing with. We got to talking about the lifestyle that comes with a military career, and I was surprised to learn just how often these families must relocate their homes and lives for their job. This particular family had raised their children all over the globe, from the U.S. to Germany to Korea, but they wouldn’t have had it any other way! I have always respected military families -- but after this trip I feel even more grateful to them for their service. 
The Military Families and Veterans Initiative is a program within Sierra Club Mission Outdoors, an initiative to connect people with the wonders of the outdoors.  MFVI works to ensure that those who defended our country and their families get to enjoy the land they served and experience the restorative powers of nature.  For more information and future outings, visit