Ranger Kathryn's Arches

February 28, 2012

Fresh faces, fresh ideas

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 5:06 pm
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From my front door: Sun bursts through at day's end after snowstorm. Unretouched colors. Four vehicles in ranger housing means people are coming back!

It’s that magical time of year when new seasonal staff arrive at parks around here. After the halcyon days of winter, where the few remaining rangers begin to be able to finish one another’s sentences or (heaven forbid) think one another’s thoughts, the influx of new blood is welcomed. They bring with them new ideas, new perspectives, new ways of seeing the too-familiar. Even if it’s only directions to find our bathrooms outside, it’s refreshing.

This winter I was delegated the responsibility to interview and hire our three student interns supplied by the Student Conservation Association. My boss did the same for the seasonal park rangers. Together we tried to select people we thought would not only do a good job, but would adapt well to an isolated living/working situation and who would complement the mix of staff already here. With a clan as small as ours, it takes only one bad apple to make things miserable for us all; we ask candidates lots of questions to try to get a whole picture of who they are and how they’ll fit.

And now they’re here. It looks to be a particularly engaging, intelligent, passionate, well-fitting group with lots of energy. My next use of the word “halcyon” to describe our days here may be nine months hence…

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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

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