Monday, November 23, 2009

When I graduated from college I wanted to work with the NPS. Back then it wasn't that easy to get into a permanent position with them. So I did the next best thing: I became a volunteer ranger with the Student Conservation Association (SCA).

I spent the summer of 1991 at the South Rim at Grand Canyon National Park as a volunteer Interpretive Ranger. They paid my way out there, paid for uniforms, housing at the Canyon, and a $90 weekly stipend for food. What a deal! (I'd still be doing it if I were single and by myself.)

As a volunteer ranger I did the same job GS-5 rangers did. A typical day was never typical. I would spend a few hours at the front desk answering questions, conduct a tour, do trail patrol, conduct research for tours, and maybe some fire tower duty. I immersed myself in the natural and regional history of the canyon, then fed it to tourists in a language they'd understand.

I shared a trailer with 2 NPS firefighters who had marvelous senses of humor. I met Smoke Jumpers and backcountry rangers -both groups whom I admire. I even worked with 2 other VA Tech Hokies! (What are the odds of that?)

I LOVED living at the Canyon. You could smell the rain 2-3 days before the storms hit, or grazed us as they usually did. I would hear elk in the morning and coyotes at night. The ravens were amazing aerial show-offs and the ponderosa trees smelled like orange and vanilla. And, of course, the view was always stunning.

On my days off I would go to the Navajo Territory and eat fry bread or drive down to Flag(staff) and shop. The drive down to Flag took 1 and 1/2 hours, but I got to go through the mountains and past the nicest stretch of quaking aspen trees.

I hated to leave.

The next summer I worked for SCA again as a volunteer stream surveyor for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) in Roseburg, Oregon. But that's another post.

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