Earth Day Celebration: Where in the World is the Forest Society Staff?

Sophie Oehler | April 21, 2023
Woman sits on the edge of a large rock at the top of a mountain looking out to the view

With the arrival of another Earth Day, we asked some of our staff to tell us about their favorite place on Earth. From backyards to big, craggy mountains, travel with us to the places that have shaped our childhoods, fueled our fondest memories, and inspired us to think of the future and what it holds for our wide and wondrous planet.  

Anna Berry (Director of Communications and Digital Outreach)  

Two women in heavy coats stand in front of a snowy mountain
Anna Berry and a friend at Portage Glacier in Anchorage, Alaska
My favorite place is my home state of Alaska. It’s the greatest place on Earth because of the sheer amount of open space. In fact, did you know it has the most wilderness acreage in the United States? It truly feels like one of our last wild places. My favorite thing to do there is go canoeing in the midnight sun. I’m really looking forward to going back this summer.   

Sarah AlSamaraee (Stewardship and Forestry Administrative Coordinator)  

The best place I’ve been is Sequoia National Park in California. I did a road trip across the USA with my friend after we graduated college, and we were blown away by the size of the sequoia trees. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was a check off my bucket list. Driving through the park, hiking amongst the trees and camping outside are just some of the acitivites I will always remember about visiting this amazing place.  

two women stand in the crack of a large tree
Sarah AlSamaraee and a friend posing with a large Sequoia tree

Naomi Brattlof (Director of Easement Stewardship)  

My favorite place on Earth is closer to home. In fact, it is my home, and the pond that we live on the shores of in Northwood, called Lucas Pond. I love seeing the beach and the shores from a child’s perspective as I watch my son playing in the shallow waters and learning about the animals that live above and below the surface. We have a pair of loons and a heron that frequent the area around our house, and they’re pretty good neighbors, so long as they aren’t screaming at each other. One thing I want to do this summer is watch the sunset from our private access beach. My favorite memories of this place are sitting with my toes in the water with my family and watching the sunfish coming up to inspect our feet.  

A blue lake on a sunny day surrounded by pine trees with a dock in the water
(Photo: Hannah McBride) Lucas Pond in Northwood, the private pond where Naomi and her family live.

Harriette Yazzie-Whitcomb (Administrative Assistant)  

For my favorite place on Earth, I chose the Sacred Mountains around the Navajo Reservation in the Southwest. There are four of them: Blanca Peak in the East, Mount Taylor in the South, the San Francisco Peaks in the West, and Hesperus Peak in the North. These mountains are special to me more for spiritual reasons than visual. I cherish them for the inner peace they bring me, and for what they mean to my people, my ancestors, and to my family. We go there to pray and to connect with the Earth. Truly, any mountain top is sacred, Mount Kearsarge being the closest to my home. Being on a mountain brings me feelings of inner peace and connection that few other places make me feel.  

Anne Truslow (Vice President for Development)  

The place that left the largest impact on me is the Midway Atoll Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific Ocean. This small island (only 2.4 square miles) used to be home to a US Naval facility, named because it is midway between Japan and the US. Today it is one of the largest Laysan Albatross nesting sites in the world. In fact, it is home to one of the largest concentrations of exotic birds in the world. I got off the plane and all I could hear was a deafening cacophony of bird calls and squawking. There are so many birds that call this place home that planes can only land at night when the birds are roosting, so as to avoid any dangerous collisions. It’s almost difficult to walk around the island, that’s how many birds there are. I went there and spent days to work with refuge staff to help them get funding and materials they needed to manage the site. My time there was spent observing albatross parents caring for their chicks (if you’ve never seen one they look like Gonzo from “The Muppets,” look it up), watching Hawaiian monk seals lying on the beach, and spotting Hawaiian green sea turtles just off the beach. But the most impactful part of the trip was the beaches. They were some of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen — crystal white sand, waters so clear that there isn’t even a color in the English language to describe them. But the beaches were covered in trash and plastic: toothbrushes, cigarette lighters, pens, flip flops, plastic beads, everything you can imagine had been washed up on this beach. Walking along the sand, we would often come across dead bird carcasses that had rotted away. We could see bits of plastic in their stomachs. It was so bizarre to watch this collision of amazing wild experience and landscape intersecting with humanity. I came back absolutely psychotic about plastic. It was an influential, personal and existential collapse. I would recommend going to volunteer at this refuge to anyone who wants to feel they are making a difference in nature, or who wants to minimize our impact on this Earth.  

a large group of white albatross birds in a green, mossy field.
A field of albatross at the Midway Atoll Wildlife Refuge (photo sourced from Island

Linda Dammann (Development Assistant)  

In my opinion, the best place on Earth is my family farm in Chateau Gay, New York. It’s on a 300-acre property of open farmlands that offers beautiful views of the St. Lawrence floodplains, and sometimes you can even see parts of Montreal. I love being there in the fall. Though there isn’t a lot of foliage, I still love the peaceful quiet of the season. My favorite memory from this place is sitting by myself on the porch under the full moon. Everyone else had gone to bed and I saw it out the window and felt I had to go out tehre and be with it. I just went out and looked up to the sky. I got an overwhelming peaceful feeling about the size of the world and the beauty that exists within it. Every time I think of this place, I’m reminded of being with family, of farming, and of the smell of hay being harvested in the summer.  

Meredith Reed O’Donnell (Foundation Relations Manager) 

Along the bank of the Contoocook River at the McCabe Forest.

One of my favorite places is actually one of our properties: Mccabe Forest. I grew up in Bennington, New Hampshire, which is right next door to Antrim, but I hadn’t been to McCabe until about 3 years ago to walk our new puppy. McCabe was our first foray into trail walking with our new member of the family. I liked it because I had been hearing about it for a long time, and it was a point of pride to live right next door to something that was so beautiful that had been talked about and recommended to me for so long. It felt like proof that there are other beautiful places in my area that aren’t only the popular destinations like Monadnock or Peterborough (though I certainly understand their popularity). This is a beautiful, forested reservation right along the Contoocook River which flows through my hometown. It’s cool to have something like that so close to home, where everyone can experience the river, the woods, and the pathways. I love watching my dog playing in the water, investigating the shallows and splashing along the shore.  

Jack Savage (President) 

For as long as I can remember, my family has owned 150 acres on the border between Virginia and West Virginia. It’s an Old Appalachian Farm that my family has been congregating regularly every season since I was a baby. Because of my connection to the land, and because of its overwhelming beauty, it is by far my favorite place in the world. When I was younger, my parents would let my brother and I roam the woods freely because it was relatively isolated. I grew up running off and exploring the woods. I think that’s what led me to who I am today. It has helped to shape my values and inspired my passion for caring for the forests and protecting people’s ability to go outside. The forest on this property is different from anything we have here. It’s up in a hollow covered in Appalachian hickory and oak, nestled in the cradle of the West Virginia mountains of Pendleton County. Often, I walk up to the ridge line and look out to the West Virginia Appalachians. There's a stream that runs around the back of the property that still fuels the hand water pump. There’s plenty of diverse wildlife that calls the woods home: deer, bear and rattlesnakes. There are also quite a few big, old maple trees in an old maple grove, which is where I learned to sugar. Looking at the views that surround the property, you can understand why someone would settle down here to make a life.  

A green field that looks out to the mountains
Jack Savage

 Leah Hart (Land Conservation Project Manager) 

My favorite places on Earth are the clear, cold lakes of New Hampshire. I love to go swimming and when I’m swimming in New Hampshire’s lakes it feels like time is standing still. When I’m submerged, I can’t hear anything or see anything except for the sky above. I think there are very few places like that and I feel very lucky to have such nice swimming spots in my home state. Water is not a guarantee, especially now, and it is especially not guaranteed to be cold, clean and accessible for all. That is what makes New Hampshire’s lakes so unique. Every time I get to spend time in the refreshing solitude of NH’s lakes, I count my blessings that I live in such a beautiful place.  

A small blue lake surrounded by green trees
"when I’m swimming in New Hampshire’s lakes it feels like time is standing still."

Michelle Morse (Human Resources Director)  

My favorite place to be in the world is my gardens at home. I find it peaceful and therapeutic: working in the garden, getting my hands in the dirt, watching the pollinators appreciate and enjoy the fruits of my labor. Watching the flowers grow, watching life grow and knowing I am the one making it happen is a feeling unlike any other.  

Tina Ripley (Administrative Coordinator)  

St. Gaudens National Historical Park in Cornish, NH is my favorite place in the world. My middle school held its eighth grade graduation there, so I was lucky enough to have my own graduation ceremony on the lawns of this beautiful park. It’s an old historical estate and gardens that used to be owned by Augustus St-Gaudins, who is a famous American sculptor. It’s very beautiful there, the architecture is impressive, as are the gardens outside. The views outside are gorgeous: a big, wide-open field lined with trees. Because of its beauty and its important featuring in my childhood, I feel it is the best place on Earth.  

A large white house with a porch covered in vines in a green field
The St. Gaudens estate in Cornish, New Hampshire (photo sourced from National Parks

Connie Colton (Land Protection and Stewardship Coordinator)  

The best place I’ve been on Earth is the trail up to Mount Isolation in Northern NH. I hiked it with my husband and my daughter in April of last year for my daughter’s birthday. There was still snow on the ground and we bushwacked a trail to a part of the trail that is only accessible in winter. At the end, there is a large open glade surrounded by birch trees. We sat there in the sun for a picnic lunch. It was so quiet and secluded there, it felt like we were the only people to have ever been there. To this day, it is the only place I have ever heard the sound a bird’s wings make when it goes flying by.  

A snowy field with birch trees around the borders
The Colton family picnic spot on Mt Isolation

Dave Anderson (Senior Director of Education)  

My favorite place to go on Earth is on the coast of Maine called Seawall Beach on the other side of Morse Mountain. The only way to reach the beach is to hike a little over a mile over the top of Morse to the ocean. It’s an undeveloped beach and because of this and the hike it takes to get there, most people don’t want to go there at all. It makes for the most secluded and peaceful places I’ve ever been. It is the Atlantic as it had been, back when explorers were first making their way into these parts, or even before that when indigenous tribes were the only ones to know of it. The waves are some of the biggest I’ve seen on the Northeast coast and the contrast of forest and cliffs is a steep one. I like to go there to watch the terns and gulls fishing off the shore and let the sound of the waves soothe my soul. When I used to go, I would wake up early in the monring to bike to the mountain, hike up the hill and then go for a swim to cool off in the waves. By 10 AM, I had already done a triathlon. Now, I look forward to bringing my grandchildren there, finding sand dollars with them and just appreciate the pristine landscape. In my opinion, it is the last best place on Earth.  

Laurel Swope-Brush (Land Steward and Volunteer Coordinator)  

A woman wearing a backpack sits on a rock in front of a large mountain
Laurel Swope-Brush in 2010 backpacking over Paintbrush Divide in the Teton Range.

I love Jackson Hole, Wyoming, specifically the Grand Teton National Park. There are so many reasons to love this place, from the amazing scenery, diverse wildlife, big open skies, huge mountains and plains, and the incredible geology that is still very much active. I love swimming in the cold glacial lakes and hiking on the dusty trails. You never know what you’re going to run into out there, like maybe a pika! These are cute furry little animals that are one of the few mammals that can survive their whole lives in the alpine zone. They are closely related to rabbits, which I guess they sort of look like. My favorite memory from my time spent in this beautiful area was working for AmeriCorps and driving a bus full of 5th graders into the park every morning and watching the mountains appear out of nowhere, rising up at you. It felt like a visual representation of the start of a new day.  

Ron Snow (Manager of Individual Giving)  


As a fisherman, most of my favorite places are based around how many fish there are to catch there. And based on the sheer volume of fish I saw and caught here, the Seychelles in the Indian Ocean are by far and away my favorite place on Earth. I’ve never seen so many tropical fish just swimming around the boat, so far from a coral reef where they usually like to hang out. We were fishing in one lagoon for bone fish, and as far as the eye could see, we were surrounded by a school of bone fish. Then we went to another lagoon where the tide was rolling in 12 feet high. We really had to pay attention to make sure we weren’t getting swept off the boat. Here, we fished for trevally fish which can get to be pretty big. I would say every other cast we were pulling in a fish. Later, our guide told us we were the second boat to ever come to the lagoon. I’ve never been anywhere like the Seychelles, so plentiful and beautiful, with crystal clear water and such diversity in wildlife.  

Maria Stewart (Senior Executive Assistant)  

I love Sandy Point Beach in Yarmouth, Maine where I used to live. There’s a sandbar there that we would go out on every day in the summer, walk out to the farthest point of the bar and just sit there. It felt like being in the middle of the ocean. I would bring my book and sit myself down to read. It is truly my happy place, somewhere I would go with my son and just enjoy the water and the ocean breeze. It represents a place of solitude, and the feeling of being totally connected to water. I felt like all of my worries were washed away with the tide.  

A young boy sits in a dead tree over looking the ocean
Maria Stewart

Cara Pearson (Membership Specialist)  

The best place I’ve ever been is Iguazu Falls in Argentina. I met my very good friend through a Pen Pal advertisement in the back of a magazine when I was young. She took me to see the falls when I came to visit her in Argentina. I was blown away by the contrast of the peaceful woods we hiked through and then the sudden appearance of the falls, coupled with the roaring rush of water. It’s like experiencing two different worlds in the same place.  

Carrie Deegan (Reservation Stewardship and Engagement Director) 

I did a week-long long-distance hike on the West Coast Trail on Vancouver Island with a friend from grad school in the late 90s. This is where I discovered my favorite place in the world. The trail runs right along the coast, alternating between coast and hemlock/cedar forests, before it dips back down to follow the beach. We camped every night on the beach, which was cold but unlike anything else I had experienced. For the five days we were hiking, we didn’t see another person on the trail.  

Matt Scaccia (Recreation and Community Relations Manager) 

A rocky shore with blue ocean waters
McClellan Park "It feels like you’re sitting on the edge of the world."

I used to live in Millbridge, Maine, right down the street from McClellan Park. It’s a small, unknown park along the coast and in the time I lived there, it became my favorite place in the world. It was a great place to go and sit and just think. The park is right at the mouth of the Narraguagus River where it empties into the ocean, and it’s a great vantage point to see out into the ocean or look up river towards town. It’s a a very sparse, very unpopulated area which makes it feel like you’re sitting on the edge of the world, completely alone. Surrounded by stunted spruce, blueberries, lichen and moss encrusted stone, I can watch the birds (cormorants, buffleheads, gulls, etc.) and just let myself get lost in the view of the ocean.  

Sarah Kryzaniak (Data Processor)  

My favorite place in the world is Eastport, Maine. My husband and I go there every September to camp in our favorite campground, Seaview Campground. Eastport is the furthest island north of Maine before you get to Canada. The people who live there have formed the most wonderful and welcoming community there. They live as simply as possible, surrounded by the oce

an, because truthfully there’s not much there. Everyone supports everyone there. The island itself has gorgeous hiking trails, my favorite being Shackford Head where you can walk high on the cliffs over the beach, as well as climb down to the rocky beach. The water is the deepest teal blue I’ve ever seen. The best part about Eastport is the annual pirate festival. Everyone in the town takes the day off of work and dresses up as a pirate for a massive town wide celebration and parade. It is the coolest thing ever. One year, my husband won pirate king and got to march at the front of the parade! The campground we stay at is beautiful, right on the water. Early in the morning, we wake up to watch the sunset with our coffee and our blankets. We love to watch the fishing boats heading out to work and sometimes, even whales! This place is so special to me because of the landscape, the people, and the memories I share with it. After all, it is where my husband and I got engaged. You can’t get much more special than that.  

Two people dressed as pirates stand in front of the ocean
Sarah Kryzaniak and her husband, Mark, in their pirate costumes, ready for the Eastport Pirate Festival.

Stacie Hernandez (Land Conservation Project Manager)  

I couldn’t pick between my two favorite places: Crystal Springs, Florida and Washington State. My grandparents lived in Crystal Springs while I was growing up and I have very fond childhood memories of going to visit them. When I think of it now, I remember the smell of the tropcis as we watched manatees swimming in the warm water.  

I used to live outside Seattle and fell in love with the state of Washington for its grand landscapes and diverse forests. It is such a different landscape from the forests of New Hampshire. It was a whole new ecosystem of species.  

Frank Allen (Building and Grounds Assistant)  

My favorite place I’ve been was Norway and the island of Svalbard, the most Northern populated community in the world. We started in Norway, traveling up the fjords. At one point, the captain took us up a fjord that was only 10 feet wider than the boat, and then had to execute a 180 degree turn. We were so close to the sides that passengers were able to lean over the side and rip leaves off the banks of the fjord. The first thing we saw on our way into Svalbard was a polar bear out on a kill. It is one of the most memorable experiences of my life.  

A large boat with National Geographic's logo on the side
Frank Allen

Steve Junkin (Field Forester)  

My favorite place on earth is Lake Titus, NY. My family had a camp on the lake for many years. This is the place where as a kid I would play in the outdoors. Fishing, swimming, boating and hiking. We no longer own the camp but I will forever remember the many wonderful summers spent there with family and friends. The impression its made on my life, undoubtedly forging my connection and appreciation of nature, will be enduring, which makes this spot all that much more special.    

A lake at sunset.
Steve Junkin

Brie Belisle (Regional Stewardship Manager) 

My favorite place is Wolfe’s Neck Farm in Freeport Maine. My first time there was to attend a Pastureland Ecology course with my last employer and since then, I have made it a tradition to go camping there every year. It's right on the Maine coast with beautiful pastures for their organic dairy cows. There’re walking trails, petting areas for kids, fishing, clamming, classes, events, and delicious blueberry milk! It’s a beautiful place to stay or visit! I particularly love this place because of their incredible work toward sustainably managing their pastures. By rotating their cows through pastures twice a day, the grass remains healthy and doubles as habitat for grassland birds. I am always recommending this farm to anyone with kids or for those passing through Freeport 

snowy field overlooking mountains
Gabe Roxby

Gabe Roxby (Field Forester)  

I ate lunch yesterday out in the field on the Mahoosuc Highlands Forest in Shelburne, New Hampshire after having spent the day walking the property. There was still some snow on the ground and just that morning, I had seen a moose, some wild turkey, heard a ruffled grouse drumming in the brush, and seen signs of snowshoe hare. Up in the higher elevations there were forests of rugged spruce with some snow left on the branches, towering over valleys of young hardwood forests. Though I have many favorite places in the world, I felt that this one was a good one for the moment. Who else can say they get to look at such a great view on their lunch break? 

Sophie Oehler (Communications Coordinator) 

After I graduated college, my best friend and I took all our savings and went on a backpacking trip in Europe. This is where I found my favorite place: Interlaken, Switzerland. Originally, we were supposed to spend a week in Cannes, France. But after a massive bout of homesickness, physical sickness and an AirBnB infested with mosquitos, we both decided we needed a taste of home. So we headed straight for the mountains. It was exactly what we needed. The best part of the trip was hiking in the Lauterbrunnen Valley. We took a cable car up to a ridge line and hiked along it, all the while staring at Jungfrau, or "The Top of Europe." It was the biggest mountain I had ever seen. Eating lunch in its shadow, listening to the goat bells ringing in the hillsides around us, and watching the paragliders leaping bravely into the valley, I felt like at any moment the backdrop would lift away and we would realize it had been fake all along. The only thing that made the whole adventure better was the vending machine full of local farmers' cheese on the hike back to the train through the valley. I think about that hike at least twice a day. The memories smell of pine forests, sound like the crunch of gravel under my boots, and taste of Swiss chocolate. 

Mountains overlooking a trail where people are walking
Jungfrau overlooking the Lauterbrunnen Valley, shot on film (Photo: Sophie Oehler)