Ranger Kathryn's Arches

December 18, 2011

The winter NPS uniform

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 2:12 am
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I pulled the gray felt hat out of its protective Stratton box, admiring the familiar dimpled shape and outrageously flat brim. Pushing it onto my head, breathing “please please fit, please,” I was relieved to find that it almost did. Tight, but workable if one doesn’t mind a sunken red impression striped across one’s forehead. Perhaps I’ll locate a colleague with a hat stretcher.

Sliding the embossed ‘USNPS’ hat band from my summer straw hat onto the winter hat, the ensemble was complete and I could walk to work for my first day ever in the winter park ranger uniform. Dripping with professionalism, it’s a much smarter look than the breezy summer uniform. The heavier pants drape beautifully. The tapered winter-weight shirt is finished off with mandatory green tie and arrowhead tie tack — a novelty for this woman whose off-duty wardrobe choices favor femininity over androgyny.

Mt Tukuhnikivatz, bedecked in a fresh garment of shimmering white, greeted me above the morning fog as I approached the Visitor Center and took a deep breath of chilly mesa air. The day brimmed with promise.

August 20, 2011

First Days Back in Rangerdom

I’m back to work as a national park ranger at Arches NP… and loving every minute.

Ranger Bobby and Ranger Kathryn hamming it up last year

Carefully pinning my nameplate above the right pocket and my glorious bison badge above the left, I made certain no wrinkles marred the perfect drape of the gray uniform shirt. I had hung the green trousers, laid out the Sequoia belt and requisite brown socks, checked that the shoes were polished to our chief’s satisfaction, and gone to bed. Getting dressed in the morning would be such a treat.

My first visitor contact was with a French family whose sons had completed our Junior Ranger program. Their 5-year-old had asked his mother to translate “Do you want to be my friend?” and my heart melted into a puddle of liquid joy. Do you think he understood my taking his little hands and saying “Oui! Oui!”?

What is it about the ranger “look” that causes total strangers of all ages to want to be your friend? It is a privilege to wear a uniform that has earned such universal respect.

My co-worker’s first contact that day was a young man who leaned in and said conspiratorially, “My girlfriend is in the bathroom. Can you tell me a quiet place where I can propose to her?” Oh, we know ALL the good spots… and it makes us smile for hours, thinking of what’s happening way out at Tower Arch.

National parks — amazing places!

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