The Wilderness exists even in Washington D.C.

Interns enjoying a restful moment in Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. Photo by Jean Spencer.

Six interns, three men and three women, all in their early twenties, all temporary residents in our nation's capitol, all from all over America — decided to leave the city for a weekend last month in search of an adventure.

No, it's not the preview for the summer's latest romantic comedy; rather, it's a true story of what happens when interns at The Wilderness Society (and other organizations) get a little restless in the city.

The last weekend of March marked the dates for our backcountry camping trip in the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia. Located approximately three hours away from the TWS office in downtown Washington, D.C., the Valley seemed to be the perfect wilderness destination for a group of young passionate environmentalists.

With two cars, we navigated down progressively windier mountain roads under a bright orange, nearly-full moon anticipating the weekend's wildness.

Setting up camp. Photo by Jean Spencer.Once we arrived in Shenandoah, the real adventure began. With tents, trail snacks, and of course backpacks, we trudged over rivers and up hills for miles and miles of trail. Saturday night was unquestionably the best part of the entire trip — we ate our dinner on an overlook, sang songs, laughed uncontrollably and even occasionally screamed at the top of our lungs while joking about bears or rangers coming to get us.

There’s something about walking through the woods all weekend that makes you feel more alive. Filtering our water straight from the river, sweating in the hot humid weather, breaking into song on the trail, hanging our food in a tree (to keep it away from bears), swatting at mosquitoes, checking for ticks, sharing granola bars, walking at different paces, breathing fresh air, not hearing traffic or seeing other people — all of it was glorious. But it was also hard work. We were only there for a weekend; I could not imagine backcountry camping for weeks or months like many people do every year.

The weekend camping trip was not nearly as cushy as our typical day at The Wilderness Society. It's difficult to even compare the daily office routine with playing in a river, navigating a trail at night, discovering a snake under your feet or seeing nothing but mountains in every direction.

"This is what it’s all about," Tim, a policy intern, kept reiterating while we walked along. "This is what The Wilderness Society was founded on," he said.

Tim is right, and when I returned to work on Monday, I was surprised at how revitalized I felt about working for The Wilderness Society.

Sometimes, when you aren’t in the wild, it's hard to remember that wilderness actually even exists. But it does. Even when our policy people are on the hill attending hearings, even when our communicators reaching out to reporters, even when the development team is searching for donors, the wilderness exists. While the people in this city make their daily commute, while the business folks of D.C. attend their happy hours, while homeless people shake their cups of change on the street, while our president speaks to the nation, the wilderness exists.

The Wilderness Society wants the wilderness to continue to exist. We want people to know that it will be there when we need to escape the city. We must remember this. This is why we all sit in our offices, drafting legislation, working with politicians and donors, because we recognize that not every place in this world should be buildings, concrete, roads and cars. The wilderness exists for a reason.

Interns enjoying a restful moment in Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. Photo by Jean Spencer.
Setting up camp. Photo by Jean Spencer.