Ranger Kathryn's Arches

July 2, 2009

Into the Field I Go

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:17 pm


Sunset at Devil's Garden Campground

Sunset at Devil's Garden Campground. There must be a myth about a breast being turned into stone, or some such explanation.

I don’t write as much about my work days as I might, but there is a certain banality to daily work that doesn’t lend itself to blogging.  How many ways can you answer (with a sincere smile) the same question in one morning?  Yes, you can see the whole park from your car, of course.  No, why would anyone want to get out and walk? etc etc.  I have a good answer for the next dude who says, “What can I see in one hour?”  I will take him to the park map, patiently explain that he must drive up the mountain exactly two miles to the Park Avenue viewpoint, get out of his car, walk fifty steps to the sign, and then have a good cry at all the things he is NOT going to see.


But tomorrow there is a change-up in the schedule for me.  After a morning customizing tourists’ too-short visits from the Big Desk in the Visitor Center, I have my first afternoon in the field.  I carry some props with me for teaching arch formation, cryptobiotic soil crust, and other cool things, a small folding table, and a portable sandwich board that says “Ask me about…”  Then I head to a popular viewpoint or trailhead and rope people in, like a circus barker, with my sparkling personality and undying enthusiasm and cool props.  I have a clicker counter device in my pocket, since the NPS always wants to know how many people we are reaching.  So, my job is to put on a show — and since I will wear my ranger hat and badge, it is easy to get customers.  

People treat me totally differently when I am out of uniform.  Coming out of the park this evening, I encountered a pick-up truck illegally parked at the entrance.  It’s owner was photographing the sign.  There are six empty parking spots right past the official sign, but he decided he could just pull over on the shoulder and get out and snap a shot.  I was driving by in Olive (in play clothes) and stopped and said, “Sir, I am a park ranger.  Would you mind moving your vehicle to a parking spot?  You are in a dangerous place.”  He looked at me, pondering what to say, and then gave a half-hearted “…oka-a-a-ay…” so I drove on.  Looking in my rear view mirror, the man had simply angled the truck nose-in, about eight feet further up!  Six empty parking spots!  Had I been wearing my uniform, he would have jumped up and re-parked his truck.  Maybe.

Lee (“He Who Knows All & Tells Most”) gave me a crash course in field expectations.  Take a radio.  Know how to use said radio.  (Crash course duly given in eight minutes.)  Take spare battery.  Make sure it is charged.  Take aforementioned props, folding table, sandwich board, enough water for several hours, and take the right car from the six-car fleet.  If its gas tank is 1/4 or less, go to the Shell station in town afterward and fill it.  (Magic payment instructions duly noted.  Receipts go here.)  Never mind that the Shell is the most expensive gas station in Moab, the government says you must go to the nearest gas station to fill.

Can’t wait.  It is a trade-off, tomorrow; I am missing taking my little multi-cultural center children on a field trip to Canyonlands N.P., which would have been a blast.  But I don’t make the schedule; I just follow it.  And, as far out as I can see, every day looks like fun.

1 Comment »

  1. I was going to work out the “Myth of the Breast Turned to Stone” but realized I would have to be at the top of my game to pull that one off – which I’m not at the moment. Maybe later . . .

    Comment by D — July 4, 2009 @ 6:36 pm | Reply

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