Every now and then the featured presentation at our weekly meeting just kind of takes your breath away. Last week's noon meeting was one of those times.
Fellow Rotarian Kelley Aline responded to the call for a speaker after a cancellation and she addressed us on the subject of "Young Women and Fire." Beginning in 2005 after her freshman year in college, Kelley became a wildland firefighter. It is physically demanding work, traversing steep and rugged terrain, digging lines, hauling chainsaws and 40-pound packs, working a full days and many nights, sometimes only grabbing 30 minutes of sleep, and then rising at 2 a.m. to start again. As a competitive racer and former farm kid, Kelley was up to the task. 

Over the course of the next several summers, she met smoke jumpers and heli-repellers and became part of a hot shot crew, fighting fire at a higher level because of her proven experience and ability. She fought fires in over 15 states including Alaska in that role and was eventually promoted to senior leader of a crew. Unfortunately, a knee injury made it impossible for her to perform at the level she felt was necessary, so she accepted her supervisor's offer to staff a lookout in the Bob Marshall Wilderness instead for the summer of 2011.

With no running water, no electricity, and no digital access, life at a lookout is quite isolating. "You wake up and make yourself breakfast thinking, This is the greatest life there is!  By 10 a.m, though, you're down to, This is pretty good stuff. By noon, you're restless and looking for a distraction and by evening you're wondering about the meaning of life." She stayed in the Bob by herself from July 2 - October 10, visited every now and then by some hikers and running into a bear or two. Looking back, she says it was an unforgettable experience.
It was also an unforgettable presentation. To look at this demure young woman, now a financial adviser, you would never guess the strength of body, mind, and spirit beneath that charming smile and professional demeanor. You go, girl!