For the past few years, Wilderness Volunteers has had an annual intern. Our interns participate in at least 3 service projects and document their experience through writing, photography, and other expressive mediums. This year’s WV intern is Alixandra Schoback, who goes by Alix for short. Take a second to meet this California native who is setting out to improve public land management.
My name is Alix, I’m 19 years old, and I’m a student at U.C. Berkeley. I’m studying political science and environmental economics and policy. I’m going to be starting my senior year this fall. I’m originally from Marin County but my family moved to Santa Cruz when I was in 5th grade. My parents still live there and I absolutely love it.
In a perfect world, what’s your dream job once you finish college?
In a perfect world, I would like to work in public lands management in some way, shape or form. I would love to work with US Fish & Wildlife or the USFS. I’m not sure if my educational experience would be applicable to field positions, but I would like to do administrative stuff. I would focus on ensuring we are managing our public lands better from the top down.
What’s a fun fact about you?
My first job was at the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz making ice cream cones.
Are you planning to go to grad school?
I’m currently debating between grad school and law school. I either want to get my degree in law or get my masters in public affairs with a focus in environmental policy. I’m not sure which avenue I’ll be taking but I do plan to take some time off.
How would you describe your relationship with the great outdoors and public lands? How has that evolved over time?
My relationship with public lands began very late. My parents are very involved and into backpacking and hiking… stuff like that. As a kid, I was having none of that. I was an indoor kid. I like to read, do crafts, stay at home; I didn’t play any sports nor was I very physically active.
A couple of years back I went backpacking for the first time and it totally transformed my relationship with these places… mostly because I realized what an effect being outside for a prolonged period of time had. Distancing yourself from the typical “necessities” which are truly luxuries in modern life. Distancing myself from all that and spending time in nature really grounded and centered me. It feels like a homecoming when I go on a trip, even if I haven’t been there before. It feels like within myself I am where I should be, where I want to be. It’s an incredible relationship and I feel very lucky that I get to go to these places and experience that. Some people don’t get this opportunity.
Would you describe yourself as an indoor or outdoor cat?
I’m definitely an outdoor cat. I do things my own way, I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about what I’m supposed to be doing. I find my own path and I like to be outside.
When you’re not in school or you’re not outside, how do you like to spend your free time?
In my free time, I like to exercise a lot, which is another reason I like backpacking and being outside. Those activities provide built-in physical activity and help with positive endorphins… they help me sleep well. I like to craft, I like to sing and play the ukelele, and I like to sew things.
Did you ever consider stewardship or conservation work before your WV internship or your WV project?
No actually. I considered going into a field that would allow me to work to protect public lands when I first started backpacking. It was really on my first WV trip where I met Taryn; she explained her experience with AmeriCorps which seemed really cool to me. It’s still an opportunity I’m considering, especially the more I go backpacking.
How do you think your generation sees public lands?
Broadly speaking for my generation, I think it depends on who you talk to, and depends on where you grow up and where you come from. That’s one of the biggest things to address in increasing public awareness and access to our public lands. You will meet people who grew up surrounded by nature, or who grew up in families who had the time, the resources and energy to take their kids outside. That’s a luxury in itself. I have a lot of friends who are very involved with the outdoors and they think it’s super important to protect these spaces.
At the same time, I think it’s easy for people of my generation who don’t have that exposure to not know that these spaces are plentiful and there is so much to be gained from experiencing them. In the age of social media and the internet, the pressures young people face in achieving success is intense. It’s easy to get wrapped up in that. Maybe thinking you can’t take the time to step back and take time for yourself, to engage and appreciate this resource. One of the big reasons that I care about this matter is that people need to know that public lands, National Parks, just don’t take care of themselves. There are a lot of hard-working people who do the work, but there needs to be much more support, funding and focus from the government. There needs to be more advocacy from the people in order to keep these spaces as they should be.
How would you create awareness or a developed relationship between younger demographics and public lands?
We all know these places exist. I didn’t have a deep connection, deep care, or deep passion until I actually went and spent time outside. I think we need to acknowledge the realities of this generation which looks like social media and the internet, to leverage those assets to appeal to younger generations.
There is a bit of a disconnect in the way we talk about preserving public lands and the way that plays into our overall environment, like fears about climate change. They are obviously integral to each other, but I don’t see that discussed as much as it should be. There’s a lot of young people who are passionate about working to mitigate climate change, but I don’t think the connection is made between public lands and climate change. I think outreach would be helpful, but unfortunately, it’s a chicken-egg situation. As more young people get involved, I think more young people will be interested. Seeing their peers doing things to combat climate change and work to preserve public lands will make them see they can do it too!
How did you get involved in WV and what was your first trip?
I knew about WV because my mom donated years back. She had a WV shirt and hat. I was always aware of the organization but I wasn’t sure what they did. A year ago now, last summer, I was looking for something to do while all my friends were all off doing cool things. I wanted to do something cool too, so I came across the Hakalau NWR trip on the Big Island. It as an incredible experience. I’m being honest when I say it was life-changing.
What do you hope to learn or experience during your WV internship?
I think that the biggest thing has been meeting a variety of people from everywhere who care about the outdoors for different reasons. I’ve had so much fun learning about the technical aspect of projects: learning what all the tools are named, the different types of trail work and why we’re doing it. The different native plant species being planted and where. The biggest thing is the people because that’s fundamentally what we need. We need human involvement, we need people to care in order for things to improve and change. Learning about people’s journeys to stewardship and conservation has been really interesting. It provides insight as to where I could be going, and where I can meet other people along the way who also deeply care about this issue.
As of today, you’ve completed two projects for your internship. Do have any unexpected highlights to share from your time so far?
I’m going to talk about the people you meet on trips again. It was really incredible meeting people from all across the country. On our Big Bear project, I met a trip leader and his wife from Portland, Oregon. During our project, we all got to know each other very well. Once the trip wrapped, they reached out via email saying I was welcomed at their home in Portland whenever or even to say hi. It was so unexpected, hospitable, so kind and generous. That trip also had incredible food, which was surprising to me. I was expecting a backpacking type of food. This was a car camp trip, so I get there and I was really tired. I took a nap and woke up at dinner time. I introduced myself and was greeted with lasagna. Lasagna! It was absolutely delicious.
What’s your favorite backpacking meal or food?
I’m hungry so this is a great question. Last summer I went on a backpacking trip in Wyoming. My mom had these Tasty Bite lentils. I had never had them before but they were so delicious. We got back home and we had more in the cabinet. My mom said, “sometimes these things are only good when camping…” but I ate it and it was just as delicious!
In-N-Out is my first move. This was my literal first move coming back from the Shasta-Trinity project. I was driving someone else back from our project and we stopped at In-N-Out. We got our burgers, ate them quietly and looked at each other. “Should we go again?” We got back into the drive-through line and went again. I regretted it a little bit, but it was still so great.
REI garage sales: take it or leave it?
I say take it definitely. It’s important when we talk about spending time outside and spending time outdoors is to reduce our waste as much as possible. Buying second hand, used, and fixing our current gear is a great way to accomplish this.
Who do you admire in the world?
Is it too tacky to say, my mom?
Oh my god no! That’s a great answer.
My mom. My mom has taught me so much in my life. She has taught me how to be aware of my own emotions and intelligent about the way I feel. It’s really hard and a difficult thing to learn. My mom has instilled that in me forever. She’s a great teacher, role model, and works super hard. She’s really driven and she’s the most loving, caring woman. When my friends meet my mom, they know why I am who I am. Sometimes we clash but I really admire her for everything she’s done.
Where have you been lately that’s been amazing?
This year, one of the best moments I had was skiing up in Tahoe. My friends from school and I would go up throughout the season. There’s this one run at Alpine. It was a huge powder day and we sat at the top. Eventually, we slowly made out way down and it was one of the best feelings ever. One of the best views ever and you couldn’t beat it.
Any future domestic travel goals?
I guess I’m saying it, so now I have to do it. After I graduate from school, I plan to hike the PCT. My plan is to do it in 2021. I’m taking an extra semester and I’ll graduate in fall. I’ll take the fall and winter to prepare and get ready. It’s a lofty goal, and we’ll see with the fire and snow. It’s something that has always fascinated me.
In a perfect permit world, which direction?
Peak bagging: take it or leave it?
Take it. Take it!
In camp leisure footwear: Crocs or sandals?
I’m definitely a sandals person. I had a great pair of Tevas, but they melted in Death Valley. I’ve been working with flip flops which aren’t ideal. I should probably change that…
Do you have a favorite trail working tool?