IMG_1077“Living the dream”, that’s how Jess Nimmo, aka ‘Nemo’, describes her Stone Masonry Apprenticeship at the Steger Wilderness Center. Before arriving here, Jess, who hails from North Branch, lived in Des Moines and Arizona, where she worked construction and went to school for welding. Coming up to the Steger Wilderness Center allowed her to obtain new skills in the trades while experiencing a wilderness setting. She said this is something she has always wanted to do – to live simply and locally, in a self-sustaining community. As she puts it, this kind of living makes it easier to keep a clear mind and live in peace. Because of her deep admiration for what Will has accomplished and the way he chooses to live, Jess hopes she can stay on as a Resident after her Apprenticeship. She has demonstrated the positive attitude and work ethic to make the move, but sadly there may not be enough funding to keep her longer.

Hometown? Occupation? Other background info?
North Branch. Worked at a Custom Finishing industries. 24 years old. School for welding. Moved up here from Arizona a month ago. Two years in AZ. 1 year in Des Moines working construction.

Do you have a nickname? What’s the story behind your nickname?
Nemo. Derived from movie and similarity with her last name.


What was your first impression of Will?

Thinks he’s crazy in a good way. Pretty insane for someone to do expeditions he has and build the Steger Wilderness Center. Great admiration for his accomplishments and for the way he chooses to live. “I think he’s living the dream”

What are some strengths you bring to the group?
Good at mediating situations – interpersonal skills and communication. Cheerful disposition – generally a happy person. Get along well with others. Avoid negativity especially in the work place.

What do you hope to gain or what are you looking forward to this summer at the Center?
Obtaining new skills, both in the trades and in wilderness survival. Even though this is not roughing it, there are a lot of conveniences that we learn to live without. Working as a close knit team and producing quality products. Always wanted to do something like this; wants to stay here the rest of the summer, even as long as I can. Living in a commune in the middle of nowhere has long been a topic of conversation with my friends. Keeping it simple and local makes it easier to keep a clear mind and live in peace.

Tell me about some of the interns, residents workers and apprentices
Everyone here works really well as a team. Instinctively they know what needs to be done. Mutual respect for the most part. No one is fighting over responsibilities or spewing negativity.

Tell me about a memorable moment you’ve experienced so far at the center
Fishing for the first time in 10 years. Finishing the wall was an amazing sense of accomplishment; taking pride in this accomplishment, adding to the beauty and grandeur of this place

What has been the most challenging thing for you so far?
Bathing in the lake because the water is so cold

What are some things you miss?
Hot showers, even though sauna is amazing. My family and pets.

What do you wish everyone knew about the center?
That people knew about it in general – the amazing work it does as a non profit. “I’ve got a whole handful of friends who would love to be a part of what we have here. It is really living the dream, as far as I’m concerned”

Favorite dishes to eat or cook so far?
Amanda’s hot Ham and cheese sandwiches

What do you enjoy doing during your free time?
Hiking, fishing, hanging out by the fire, listening to live music, conversing with everyone.

Fun fact about yourself?
Love adventure

3 words to describe you.
Adventurous, Spontaneous, Considerate