Our 'INTO THE WILD' series are a collection of stories, photos and interviews from inspiring folks who love our shared wild spaces, take time to truly celebrate them and do their part to preserve and protect them.
Lacey Rose is here!!!!!!!!!
Hmm. What can I say about Lacey?
She is truly a wild woman extraordinaire. A country forester, backcountry camper, avid paddler and skilled gardener. She's a badass human being, has been so inspiring to me in getting outside and moving past my own fears and is truly one of my very bestest friends. We are absolutely THRILLED to have her here!!!
From Fear to Comfort in the Forest
My relationship with nature has gone through several stages of evolution already in my life. I grew up in Labrador, and my first trip to the cabin was when I was just weeks old. My grandfather helped build the railway into Labrador in the 1960s and built the family cabin in the middle of nowhere by tossing building supplies off the train. I spent my childhood immersed in wilderness, yet my feelings toward it at this stage were of fear and not wanting to be alone. There were things to be feared that probably seemed reasonable for my parents to tell me about to keep me safe – getting lost, getting eaten by bears, death by exposure due to insect bites (legit – the blackfly and mosquito situation in Labrador is no joke). The bear claw and teeth marks on the cabin door probably didn’t help the situation. My family used the forest for hunting, trapping, getting firewood to heat the cabin and picking berries. The first fish I caught was longer than I was tall at the time. Any night spent in the woods was in the safety of a cabin, or very rarely in a tent, in a gravel pit surrounded by many other tents. Yes, that’s how we rolled in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Although I grew up surrounded by trees, there was no commercial forest industry, and I didn’t know anything about forestry. It was by luck and circumstance that a wise professor told me to look into it when I was trying to decide what to do with my life. I was a serious treehugger, mostly thanks to seeing the movie Ferngully when I was 8 years old and chose to study forests so that I could save them. I spent 5 years learning about all things forest. This led me to the second stage of my relationship with forests: immersion and awe – but in a controlled environment! I learned how to compass, identify SO many species of trees and plants, and all the ins and outs of managing forests. But there were always other students and teachers around, kind of like a security blanket. No need to fear.
My first job in the woods was in Northern Ontario, with the forest industry, and I will be forever grateful for that experience. Enter stage 3: panic and irrationality. At first, I was working on tree plants, where you were lucky to find enough privacy to find your own tree to squat behind. But eventually, I had to work solo on occasion, in the middle of vast forests. I would travel together with co-workers, then split up for the day. No cell phones, no radios. See you at 4 back at the truck! I cannot describe to you how afraid I was those first months. It was completely due to my past perception of the woods, my lack of experience, and low confidence level. I checked my GPS every 2 minutes to make sure I knew where I was. I gasped at every sound expecting an angry bear to jump on top of me. My imagination was wild. I like to think that everyone starts out this way, they just don’t come clean about it. So, if this has happened to you, you can now feel better about yourself – and don’t let it discourage you enough to quit!
I had some really cool experiences while working in Northern Ontario, mama moose with babies crossing my survey path and casually looking my way, seeing timber wolves on the road, staying in camp and going for an evening fish to pass the time. As I spent more time in the woods, the fear slowly began to dissolve. Another important change took place. I realized that cutting trees was ok. Ontario’s forests are so stringently managed that years worth of effort and planning have to take place before even one tree can be harvested. And - trees grow back. Every hectare of forest is legally required to be regenerated, and plans must be in place to ensure that all values that exist today must be protected for all future generations. Young forests are equally important as old forests. And, imagine this: the people who work in the woods love forests more than anyone else. I’m still a treehugger, but I no longer think that you have to “protect” forests to save them. Wood is our only renewable natural resource, and we’re wise to make responsible, sustainable use of it.
Fast forward a few years, through a few desk jobs, becoming a Registered Professional Forester, and I ended up back in the woods, with another great mentor. I learned to look at the forest through a different lens. Through practice, learning (by asking dozens of questions every day) and time, I came to savour every minute I spent in the woods. I grew confident in my ability to navigate alone. I started carrying bear spray, brought my dog to work with me, and after a few uneventful encounters, stopped fearing those snapping branches. I am now in Stage 4: love, comfort and respect. I can build a darn good lunchfire and enjoy my sandwich toasted and mittens dried in winter. Every day brings the wonder of seeing something new or beautiful. Although I have a job to do when I’m out there, you really have to stop and smell the flowers to get the most from working in the woods. Being inquisitive makes you better at what you do. I also go back country camping now. In a tent in the middle of no where with my husband and our dog. Paddling and portaging everything we need on our backs. For fun. And I love every minute of it.
If you asked me to close my eyes and picture my happy place, it would be stretched out on the forest floor, shaded by trees with a few sunbeams sneaking through, chickadees and nuthatches singing, leaves quivering in the breeze, deeply breathing in the earthy smell of leaves turning to soil below me. Alone. I actually feel the stress melt away when I’m in the woods. Even in the rain. Even in the cold. Even in the height of mosquito season. When I look back at the beginning and the overwhelming fear that almost kept me out of the woods, I feel so grateful that it didn’t. Experience and knowledge are power. Everyone is capable of developing this kind of relationship with nature. You just have to get out there. Start small. Hang out with people who can teach you something. Feel prepared. Read some books. Even better, read some books while in the woods. Because life’s better outside.
Lacey Rose grew up on the 53° N parallel in Labrador, Canada. Graduating from the University of New Brunswick in 2006 with a Bachelor of Science in Forestry, Lacey has been a Registered Professional Forester in Ontario since 2008. Lacey’s work experience has ranged from working on tree plants in the Boreal forest, to writing a forest management plan for 250,000 hectares of Crown forest in the Great Lakes St. Lawrence forest, to hands-on managing a small, community forest landbase. Outside of these roles, Lacey is a councillor for the Ontario Professional Forester’s Association, Co-Founder of Women in Wood, and the host of a web-series titled “Mighty Jobs”. Otherwise, you will find her gardening, paddleboarding, ice fishing, or camping in the interior of Algonquin Park.