Nick Meyers, 32, has always enjoyed getting outdoors – whether it is mountain climbing or biking, kayaking, dirt biking, surfing, kite surfing, fishing, tinkering around the house, landscaping, working on motors, wood working, dog training or backpacking – he is all in. He also knows the value of working hard. It is that combination that made him who he is today with one of the most challenging jobs as a lead climbing ranger on Mount Shasta on the Shasta -Trinity National Forest in California.
What does your job involve?
My job is extremely multi-faceted. Overall, the job entails contacting a lot of public visitors in the field, public speaking and educational presentations to all ages, search and rescue operations and patrolling wilderness, maintaining and building new trails, and managing recreation and special use activities.
With almost 20 years of service, the Mount Shasta Avalance Center is certified by the U.S. Forest Service National Avalanche Center and operates December through March, issuing public avalanche danger forecasts and providing valuable, free avalanche awareness and companion rescue workshops to the public throughout the winter. The climbing ranger duties – such as search and rescue operations and wilderness patrols – do not go away in the winter time, however the avalanche center tasks take priority. We also help out with Forest Service fire assignments as needed. The job duties are always changing and you have to be ready for anything at any time.
How did you become interested in working for the Forest Service?
I was attending Feather River College in Quincy, California and completing general education courses and contacted Rick Stock, the Recreation Department head. I took some of his recreation leadership-based courses and thought, “Recreation-based classes for college!? Sign me up!”
After taking the pre-requisite classes at Feather River, I transferred to Western State College of Gunnison, Colorado’s outdoor recreation leadership program for additional courses while completing an internship at Feather River. I applied for many positions as I was working my way through school, ultimately getting the job as the climbing ranger on Mt. Shasta at age 19 and have been here ever since. I finished college at Western State, worked seasonally on Shasta and eventually decided to live here full time. I love it.
What challenges have you had in your career and how did you overcome them?
There is a challenge here almost every day. This is my favorite quote, maybe ever, “It takes a village …” All of my challenges have not been overcome alone. Conversations with mentors, friends, family and co-workers have been a driving force for me in shaping my tactics to overcome challenges. Talk to people, communicate, have a mentor. Different challenges take different tactics. Whether it’s setting the weekly plan as work leader, conducting a difficult search or rescue, public speaking, resource management issues … each situation should be looked at uniquely and free of judgement. Humans are outstanding at using past experience and judgement for new problems. The biggest challenge with my job is working with other people. It’s super fun and a challenge I really enjoy. I love people, communicating with them and finding out what works and what doesn’t. Patience and understanding go a long, long way.
What’s difficult about your job?
This job is certainly not easy, but extremely engaging and a lot of fun due to its variable nature. “If you’re bored, you’re boring…” a friend once said. Some of the hardest days as a ranger are long search and rescue missions. Climbing/descending all day and night exhausts you beyond belief, mentally and physically.
I can remember as a kid, I worked for my dad. He owned a golf club manufacturing business with a giant, dirt parking lot littered with pine trees. He made me rake the whole thing. Not for punishment, but just because he liked it to look clean and professional. I absolutely abhorred that job. He taught me a lot though and through that task, I learned the idea of professionalism. Professionalism can occur at all levels and makes a difference.
Who has inspired you?
I have to give it up ultimately to my parents. They are and have been the rock in my life. They structured my childhood perfectly, though naturally I didn’t see it that way at the time! There were rules and boundaries, but they allowed me to explore my own creativities, needs, wants and desires. I am an only child, and they gave me the platform to succeed but were not pushy. I’ve never felt like they are trying to direct my life and they have supported me with every decision I’ve made and have provided honest feedback. My parents are the salt of the earth.
What is the most interesting aspect of your career?
I really enjoy snow-based avalanche and glacier science. I work with a lot of industry-leading professionals in these fields. My snow and avalanche-based cohorts are amazing and are always providing really new and interesting things regarding the formation and occurrence of avalanches. I also work with the U.S. Geological Survey in their work to study Mount Shasta as a volcano and its glaciers. I also enjoy the summer flora and fauna of the mountain. The sexy aspects of my job get highlighted a lot, but much of the job is not only search and rescue work, but also working hard to protect, learn and teach others about Mount Shasta and all of its intricacies: its flora, fauna, geologic condition and its weather
What is the most interesting or exciting thing that has happened for you in your current job?
Search and rescue with helicopters is pretty exciting, I can’t deny it. While helicopters are scary, nobody is going to deny they are awesome. Any little boy out there will tell you this, and the feeling, for me, has not changed with age! I love search and rescue – everything about it … the challenge, excitement and the hopefully positive outcome. Aside from a recent story and podcast in Popular Mechanics about a recent event, Mount Shasta is known for its spiritual powers. People from all walks of life, and I mean all, flock to the mountain as the snow melts and weather warms. They camp, climb, drum, chant, pray, meditate and celebrate all around it. We get to visit with these folks on the lower flanks on a daily basis. Let me tell you, the conversations get interesting. I’ve learned the value of listening. I’ve also learned the value of never judging somebody until you’ve walked in their shoes. It’s easy to judge and make a decision quickly. From my hundreds of visitor contacts, I’ve learned to take the time to really talk to a person, listen, find some common ground, and then engineer for compliance … or just to be a friendly forest ranger!