Hey everybody! My name is Victor DeSimone, and I am a junior Environmental Studies major at Seattle University. At 19, I am currently the baby of the In My Backyard crew. When I’m not working with my awesome fellow interns at Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park, you can find me with my hands deep in the dirt at City Soil Farm, fumbling across the frets of a mandolin, or clinging desperately to rock wherever I can find some. I am extremely passionate about living sustainably, especially when it comes to food and the outdoors, and I believe firmly that, in order to inspire sustainable living, we need to first foster a sense of wonder and stewardship for the natural world. Our National Parks have the potential to do this better than almost anything else for the people that experience them. I am excited to be able to work with In My Backyard this summer in order to expand access to these amazing natural resources to urban youth communities that might not otherwise get the chance to experience them.
Where are you from?
I am originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but I was adopted by the Pacific Northwest when I moved to Portland, Oregon as a high school freshman.
What are you looking forward to most as a summer IMBY intern?
I am really excited to connect with National Parks Service ecologists to see how their work studying forest ecosystems could teach us how to sustainably grow food in a way that works with our natural surroundings, rather than trying to manipulate them.
Top 3 biggest adventures?
Working on reforestation projects in Bahia de Caraquez, Ecuador. I got to experience the stunning beauty of Ecuador’s mangroves and tropical dry forests while working to restore these incredible ecosystems. This adventure made such an impression on me that I will be returning to Ecuador again this spring break to continue the reforestation work!
Cave diving in Mexico. On a trip to the Yucatan with my family, I got the chance to cool off from a hot day exploring Mayan ruins by snorkeling in an underground cave system. I’ll never forget seeing the glow of tiny bioluminescent shrimp in the seemingly bottomless depths.
My first trip to the Pacific Northwest. This list could not be complete without my first trip to Oregon and Washington with my family. If it hadn’t been for the awesome experiences I had at Mt. Hood, Crater Lake, and countless more amazing places, I would never have ended up where I am today.
What’s the strangest food you have ever tried?
In Ecuador, I ate live termites. They tasted like carrots!
If you were stranded on an island, what three items would you bring with you?
Knife- For the utilitarian in me. A knife would come in handy for all sorts of things!
A metal pot- On the practical side, I could boil and purify water in it. On the more fun side, I could use it to cook island delicacies of my own creation!
My mandolin- Endless entertainment and an outlet for creative expression; aside from actually being rescued, I can’t think of a better way to brighten up my days as a castaway.
What’s your dream destination and why?
One day in the not too distant future, I would love to trek down the western coast of South America! The Andes are one of the coolest mountain ranges in the world, and Chile and Peru have an awesome coastline and rich, diverse indigenous cultures. Machu Picchu is also way up on my bucket list, and I’d love to be able to geek out on Chile’s incredible political history.
What did you want to be growing up?
I changed my mind a lot about what I wanted to be, but when I was about 7 or 8 years old, I was in love with dinosaurs, and I was sure that I would grow up to be a paleontologist. I would always dream of going on archaeological digs in faraway places to discover new dinosaur fossils that no one else had ever seen before.
If you could go on a road trip with anyone (dead or alive), who would you chose and where would you go?
I’m really split on this one between a road trip through the British Isles with J.R.R. Tolkien, and a canoe trip through the South Pacific with one of the legendary Polynesian navigators who use only the stars, winds, and ocean currents to find their way. Either one seems like it would be an amazing experience, although each for its own reasons.
What is your favorite memory of your backyard?
The Columbia River Gorge was my backyard during high school. One day this past winter break, driving by myself through the Gorge, I was struck by the smooth, buttery-yellow light playing across the surface of the river and up the high, sloping walls of the Gorge. It was so beautiful that I had to pull over to the side of the road and walk down to the bank of the river, where I just sat and watched for half an hour in silence. That road through the Gorge is one that I had taken many times in the past five years, but at that moment I felt like I was discovering a new side to an old friend. That unpredictability is one of the things I love best about the outdoors.
What is one goal you would like to accomplish in your lifetime?
I hope that throughout my life, I am able to assist underserved communities in developing their own self-sustaining, healthy food systems that connect them both to their food and to nature.