Becoming Paul Bunyan

As a child, I loved hearing tall tales about a legendary lumberjack who could take down a giant tree with one swing of his axe….a true outdoorsman whose faithful companion was a giant blue ox…. a man who was larger than life….a character who epitomized fortitude ….Paul Bunyan. Little did I know as a child, that one day I would follow in Paul Bunyan’s footsteps and become a lumberjack myself.

My journey to becoming a lumberjack has not been easy, and honestly, my prior professional commitments would probably be frowned upon by Sir Bunyan. Before joining Mile High Youth Corps, I worked as a Project Manager at a Healthcare Software Company. I was a “point and clicker” as my lumberjack mentor would later declare. Not very Paul Bunyan like I must admit, but during my time in the business world I was able to shadow my inner child’s discontent through various Paul Bunyan approved activities such as climbing mountains, sleeping in the woods, and competing in physically demanding actives. However, my Paul Bunyan aspirations could only be contained for so long. After two years behind a desk, I quit and set out in search of adventure, mountains and new challenges. The search ended when I found Mile High Youth Corps.

I have had many great experiences at MHYC, but nothing has made my inner child smile like last week’s chain saw training in Salida, CO. Everything about the experience reminds me of Paul Bunyan.

For the training, we stayed in a large log cabin called the Ponderosa Lodge. The Lodge is nestled against the Rocky Mountains and outfitted with a barn that has failed to contain a roaming llama know as “Tina.” The rooms at the lodge are appropriately equipped with rustic wooden bunk beds, and yellow shag carpeting on the walls. The instructors at the training obviously knew of Paul Bunyan based on their attempts to copy his facial hair and wardrobe. The menu at the lodge was created for lumberjacks. Lots of eggs, sausage, beef, mash potatoes and other hearty items. Also, the cafeteria servers did not scorn me when I came back to the food line for fourths. Yes indeed… Paul Bunyan would endorse the Ponderosa Lodge.

The training itself was also quite remarkable. The first day was classroom based, and focused on teaching us how to avoid losing any limbs. After the class work, we went into the mountains for hands on training. Decked out in chaps, hardhats, and other protective gear our group looked like a bunch of Superheroes ready to rid the forest of evil disease and hazard trees. My first significant Paul Bunyan moment came to fruition as I yelled “TREE FALLING” and heard my tree hit the ground and shake the earth around me. Awesome.

I am now chain saw certified and one step closer to the legend that I idolized as a child. Next step: find a giant blue ox.

-Collin Hoffmann, AmeriCorps Leadership and Conservation Corpsmember

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