Ranger Kathryn's Arches

February 1, 2011

Daring to dream in a different color

It was New Year’s Eve. I sat contemplatively, poised to file away the 2010 calendar and open the blank 2011 one. Restlessness filled every cell of my being as I lingered over thoughts of the past year’s exceptional desert adventures as a park ranger in Utah.

Nothing but a long string of question marks lay ahead. I was finding many doors closed with the Park Service due to budget cuts and hiring changes. A gnawing fear of finding myself summering in southern Minnesota farm country, instead of in vast and glorious national parks, nibbled at my gut. I would do almost anything to get back out west.

A former colleague had recently posted on her Facebook page an internship opening that I couldn’t shake. She needed someone to live at Arches National Park during the raptor breeding season and hike daily into the backcountry to monitor nests of hawks, owls, and other birds of prey. A Great Blue Heron rookery on the Colorado River would also be observed regularly for nesting and fledging data, and there would be a Breeding Bird Census for songbirds carried out one morning a week.

To this amateur birdwatcher since 1977, it was a delicious-sounding opportunity. Birds, solitude, breathtaking scenery, interesting co-workers, and more than a few three-day weekends in the wilderness were in the attractive mix. Why wasn’t I leaping at the chance?! What could possibly be holding me back?!? I sighed and slumped back in my chair, finally becoming aware of the root of my dilemma.

I wouldn’t get to wear my beloved park ranger uniform.

The green and gray symbolizes everything wondrous and wonderful in the past two seasons. This job’s uniform would be the brown and khaki of an intern with the Student Conservation Association. Would I be willing to make the swap?

Could I dream in a different color?

Volunteering in Arches National Park -- April, 2010


  1. Uniform aside, just think Kathryn; to access those nests you’re gonna need your new rappelling and pack rafting skills!

    Comment by Ed Oak — February 2, 2011 @ 9:29 am | Reply

    • Yup. And a whole lot more — like learning to use a GPS for the first time. Holy cow.

      Comment by kath56ryn — February 2, 2011 @ 6:43 pm | Reply

  2. Couldn’t you just wear that dress you had on in a picture from a post last year? Just a thought, but I want credit, if you go with the idea. 🙂

    Comment by Allen Gislason — February 2, 2011 @ 9:30 am | Reply

    • See how many reasons you can list for NOT wearing a dancing dress whist hiking in the desert wilderness. Try for at least a half dozen. But, yes, I shall surely give you credit for this idea…

      Comment by kath56ryn — February 2, 2011 @ 6:45 pm | Reply

  3. sounds to me like you really don’t have a uniform reason not to go. I tip my hat (non-ranger) to you…. Just think, if you take this opportunity intern, you will be rewarded!!!

    Comment by john — February 2, 2011 @ 2:03 pm | Reply

    • Stay tuned for next installments, which bring closure. I’m thinking the rewards will be innumerable…

      Comment by kath56ryn — February 2, 2011 @ 6:47 pm | Reply

  4. OMG Kathryn,

    I can’t believe my ears. You are going to learn to use a GPS? Think of what you could do. Keep track of your miles hiked, to the 1/100 of a mile. Elevation changes. Average walking speed. Time stopped. Time moving. Get a good one…..

    Comment by john — February 3, 2011 @ 8:52 am | Reply

    • Mom would be so happy to know her daughter has a GPS with her.

      Comment by kath56ryn — February 3, 2011 @ 12:21 pm | Reply

  5. spare batteries……….. very important to remember these.

    Comment by john — February 4, 2011 @ 2:17 pm | Reply

  6. If you learn GPS,maybe I won’t have to track you up the wrong fork. That takes all the fun out of it.

    Comment by Bill — February 4, 2011 @ 5:40 pm | Reply

    • That takes only SOME of the fun out of it, Bill. I can think of countless other silly mistakes I can make in the wilderness, even with a GPS. And spare batteries. And, BTW, the “wrong fork” story still gets re-told as a classic Kathryn adventure, complete with suspense and “what ifs.” Keeps me humble.

      Comment by kath56ryn — February 7, 2011 @ 7:27 am | Reply

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