• 63°

Forest of happiness found just a few miles away

Had enough e-mail to drive you crazy this week? Need a break from all of the telephone calls, problems at work or any of the other millions of small stresses of life? Never fear, help is available."

Sounds like an infomercial for some fly-by-night travel agent booking discounted cruises to Puerto Vallarta, doesn't it?

Well, perhaps a little south-of-the-border sun is what you need. But why travel far away to get your batteries recharged?

If happiness is a state of mind, I found a forest filled with happiness and passion for nature on Saturday.

People with passion for their work always impress me. Each time I meet someone who seems to really "fit" with their work, I feel as if I've discovered another small bit of proof that the world isn't totally crazy. At least not as crazy as a week filled with e-mail, voicemails and other problems facing us might lead us to think.

Saturday afternoon I had that feeling of discovery after meeting a group of workers build fish habitat formations in the bottom of the Lake Vesuvius lakebed.

"This is a dream," said 26-year-old Zac Allen of Minford in neighboring Scioto County.

Heads nodded in agreement on all sides.

"This is one of the few jobs now where you don't have to sit in front of a computer all day," one of Allen's colleagues chimed in.

For Allen and other seasonal workers with the National Forest Service the chance to work outside during much of the summer on special projects is just one of the draws.

Making a difference ecologically is a much higher purpose.

"Just the fact that where we are standing has been under water for 60-something years is amazing," Allen said.

"We'll be able to say, years from now, 'we had hot dogs out right there.' They'll think we're crazy and say 'you're just too old,'" Allen said. "It's a neat thing to be a part of history."

Indeed it is, as is helping to preserve a precious bit of wilderness for the enjoyment of many who need a break from the realities of modern life by slowing down a bit and soaking up a little nature.

"Most people don't realize what they have in Wayne National Forest. People drive far away to see what they could see right here."

Kevin Cooper is publisher of The Tribune. He can be reached by calling (740) 532-1445, ext. 12 or by e-mailing kevin.cooper@irontontribune.com.