Back home on Mt Spokane in eastern Washington, Carrie Copeland was the black-sheep braniac and punk-rocker in a family of rodeo riders. But when she crossed the state for college in Bellingham, she got hooked on outdoor activities: hiking, biking, and rock climbing. "I studied biochem, but I hated being indoors," says Copeland, who switched to environmental education and spent summers teaching at an adventure camp on Orcas Island. After graduation in 1997, she was hired as a crew leader by Eugene's Northwest Youth Corps. "I was shocked at how hard it was to build trails," she admits. "But the kids walked away with self-confidence, a love of nature, and a wad of cash." Founded in 1984, NYC employs teenagers from around the US on conservation projects for the BLM, the Forest Service, and parks throughout the West. As many as 40 crews of 10 workers each are in the field during the peak summer season. After eight years with NYC, most recently as field director, and now married to NYC administrator Jeff Parker, Copeland retired last month to devote more time to her nine-month-old son Owen and to nursing-school studies at LCC.