Mr. Lauridsen may be the only internationally recognized composer who worked on a hotshot crew and as a fire lookout for the Forest Service.
A native of the Pacific Northwest, Lauridsen worked as a Forest Service firefighter and lookout (on an isolated tower near Mt. St. Helens) before traveling south to study composition at the University of Southern California with Ingolf Dahl, Halsey Stevens, Robert Linn, and Harold Owen  He began teaching at USC in 1967 and has been on their faculty ever since. (Wikipedia here)
I believe I read somewhere that his father was also a Forest Service employee.
Referring to Lauridsen’s sacred music, the musicologist and conductor Nick Strimple said he was “the only American composer in history who can be called a mystic, (whose) probing, serene work contains an elusive and indefinable ingredient which leaves the impression that all the questions have been answered ..
And from this article in the Salt Lake Tribune:
It was in the process of making the documentary, which premiered in 2012, that Stillwater discovered the roots of Lauridsen’s inspiration: solitude, being in nature, silence. “It is out of that deep, peaceful beauty of nature where he lives part of his life, that this gorgeous music is heard inside of his being and then comes out,” the filmmaker said.
“I believe that anyone who has some relationship to nature, and the beauty of nature, the silence of nature — who has some relationship to music more in the classical style — will discover a new musical friend, companion and treasure in meeting Lauridsen’s music. It’s a wonderful discovery to make for somebody who doesn’t know anything about him.”
Here is a video of Lauridsen talking about his hotshot and fire lookout experience.
Sometimes I think I can hear the Pacific Northwest, wet dripping from Douglas fir, gray skies, in his music.. my favorites are available on Youtube:
O Magnum Mysterium
And Soneto de la Noche, set to the beautiful Neruda poem that you can find translated here.