Ranger Kathryn's Arches

March 22, 2010

In which I give my first real Guided Walk

Sara's marketing scheme is not subtle. It's also not NPS-approved.

Sara’s eyes twinkled as she pointed toward the TODAY’S ACTIVITIES board by the Visitor Center desk. Her personal mission was to get folks to come to my guided walk, and she is a “get ‘er done” type gal so she took matters into her own hands. (See photograph. Very amusing!) It certainly was effective. I’ve had two rained out, one with nobody showing up, and one with just one sweet couple. We were about to witness the Power of Advertising.

Typical attendance at a guided walk, especially on a weekday, might be 4 to 12 people. Permanent Ranger Rob has had a career high of 17.

Today: THIRTY-FOUR!!! It was a HUGE group, and I was breathless with excitement. I would have to be at the top of my game, as well as manage large-group logistics. Not to mention living up to the expectations Sara had set. In addition, I was being observed by a coach/trainer to help me improve my talk.

A good ranger positions her audience's backs to the sun

I gathered the crowd at my favorite overlook and whispered a silent prayer for clear thinking and good communication skills. Taking a deep breath, I welcomed them all, introduced myself, gave the ground rules, energetically set the stage for what mysteries we would be addressing, and launched out. There was no going back. It was full throttle from 11:30 to 12:30.

Park interpretation is one part factual knowledge, one part story-telling, one part entertainment, and a whole lot of knowing how to read your audience. This one was extremely diverse in age, interest, and background; it was energizing to discover that I had the tools to reach the whole spectrum, from shy preschooler to grouchy know-it-all retiree. They posed for a picture at the conclusion and then gave me the sweetest round of applause.

To Be Continued…

March 6, 2010

Preparing a guided walk

Filed under: 1 — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 8:01 am
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Park Avenue, looking north from canyon bottom

“Conducted activities,” they are called. It’s when a ranger gets some quality interaction with visitors, rather than merely telling them where the bathrooms are and to please drink plenty of water. My first conducted activity is to be a guided walk, and I was asked to choose my location.

Easy.

Handsome east wall of Park Avenue

Park Avenue has been my favorite spot in the park ever since my first day here last June. It is the only major visitor spot I would call “intimate.” Is that a stretch in your mind, to think that a 3/4-mile-long canyon with massive sandstone walls and an arch hiding at either end could be called intimate?

I’ve walked that stretch three times in the past week, looking for clues, illustrations, specimens, and insights. Slowly, deliberately, intentionally, I’ve made myself see things that I hiked right by before. That juniper tree that must be 500 years old… the biological soil crust growing near the trail… the seven-foot arch standing six inches from a cliff wall… the rivulets of water that have eroded the ledgy lower layers… and the massive, aloof, Easter-Island-ish face hidden high in the Entrada sandstone. Queen Nefertiti watches solemnly from the other wall, while the realistic formation called The Popsicle taunts hikers in the hot months.

I want that canyon to tell its story while I merely turn the pages for the visitors.

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