Volunteer Monitoring 101 Lesson Eight: The Personal Goal “Exam”

July 3, 2013

Anna Slack
Programs Coordinator, Volunteer Monitor

Happy summer everyone! Despite the recent string of wet weather the monitoring of our 450+ protected properties continues with assignments going out and reports coming back in. UVLT also recently hired a new Stewardship Assistant, Doug Brown, who is now out in the field helping Pete, Jason, and all our volunteers get things done!

Recently our Stewardship Coordinator Jason Berard shared with the staff that we’re about half-way through our annual monitoring visits, putting us on track with our goals for completion for this year. This got me thinking; I am coming up on 2 years at UVLT and nearly as much time monitoring conserved properties in the Upper Valley. Where did I stand with my personal monitoring goals? When I started I made myself a list:

• learn the basics
• do a thorough job from connecting with the landowner and getting my boots on the ground to writing the report
• re-establish compass skills

Taking stock I could say I felt confident in the first two but haven’t yet addressed the third. Then I realized that I have one more goal that I didn’t put on this list. Earlier this year I reminded myself to make time to get outside, for both volunteer and spiritual fulfillment reasons. And I’m happy to say that I’ve been able to accomplish this but something still nagged in the back of my mind. The one goal I hadn’t given voice to was the desire to be comfortable monitoring alone.

Going it alone for the first time.

Boots to take me on my first solo monitoring trip in the Upper Valley and GPS to mark my steps. Not shown: personal sense of accomplishment!

Growing up I had no qualms about exploring the 11-acres my family owns abutting the 700+ acres of Elmore State Park. And to this day I can trek all over that mountain on my own without a glimmer of anxiety because it is familiar, it is my home ground. Other hiking, camping, and monitoring trips through the years and throughout the country were usually done in the company of others. So I never really had an opportunity to become familiar with these new places solely on my own terms. Instead, I experienced the thrill of adventure in a somewhat diluted way; its potency diminished, dispersed over many individuals. Don’t get me wrong, I liked exploring with friends. I saw and did exciting things, got scared, pushed myself, and learned new boundaries but I always wondered a little if I could have done it alone. Not in a thrill-seeking kind of way but rather to see how my self-confidence and reliance would grow.

Well, I am proud to say that I finally met this goal a few weeks ago! I decided that I was tired of wondering, I was just going to DO IT. It might seem like a small personal test, to monitor a few properties alone near a quiet Upper Valley town. I didn’t have to think about an unchecked Mountain Lion population like I did with my SCA crew in Arizona, nor did I have to concern myself with numerous poisonous critters like those living in Western North Carolina as I did when I was in AmeriCorps. But those kinds of challenges weren’t really the point, at least not for me. I wanted to be able to put my boots on any day of the week and go explore without having to wait for company.

So, I did and I had a great time! It is one thing to know where you are in the world, which I unequivocally did since I had a GPS unit; however, it is an entirely different thing to know where you are on a more profound level. The experience of being outside on your own is different, rewarding, and empowering. I reached my goal on 11.1 acres near the Connecticut River and went on to add another 17 acres before the day was done – and I don’t plan on stopping there! With more trails and acreage in front me and the roots of my self-awareness even more deeply grounded I look forward to new growth and new goals and look back with thanks to those who taught and supported me.

Do you set goals for yourself? Feel free to share in the comments below or join me on a hike geared toward experiencing nature at your own pace on July 20th! Details can be found on our calendar.

Interested in becoming a volunteer monitor? Contact us!
Read my previous Lessons here.


A GPS can track your path to a view like this but it can’t capture the feeling of taking it in.