Cleaning Up Someone Else’s Mess…

After the all-park safety meeting and baked potato lunch (the L.E. rangers and staff DID come through!), I went with a couple of willing (er… “we feel sorry for Jen”) coworkers and looked at the crap left behind by my old boss. Then we loaded the office van that I drove up to Longmire, and schlepped as much of this garbage back to the Ed center as possible.

Now, I can be sentimental too, but save everything? Not a chance. Anne went beyond being a packrat. Her office was so scary that no one ever went in it or crossed her about it. And she guarded that office like it was a top-secret laboratory. She was successful at keeping all park leadership away. She was so nasty to people that everyone just steered clear of her. Here’s a tiny glimpse of what I found:

  1. Stacks of flyers from 2004, from a local organization that we used to partner with, announcing their programs and workshops for that summer. All completely out of date and useless. (went directly into recycling bin). There were four other such BOXES full to their tops of equally useless flyers, handouts and miscellaneous paperwork.
  2. A check the office received in July 2008. Never been deposited or cashed. We found this check with its order form. Apparently, the materials ordered by this teacher were actually sent to her. In the next folder below it, we found the “account procedures” for this curriculum product/sales. And people wonder why my former boss had budgeting issues. Maybe if she’d deposited the checks she received…
  3. A brand new digital video camera. This piece, I recognized. Back in April, our Division Chief and I tried to make this camera work in order to record a program that we did for the local elementary school. Neither of us could make it work – even after reading the manual. Another coworker’s teenaged son couldn’t make it work – he declared it broken. So my boss said she’d find the receipt from the purchase and deal with it. (We need a working video camera.) Guess what? I found the camera and parts, just as I had left them, shoved into the very back of a file cabinet drawer, behind lots of other out-of-date paperwork. Nothing had been done about it. Go figure.
  4. Books from the park’s library that were never returned. I’m sure the Curatorial staff will love that.
  5. 2 boxes of ‘camping supplies’ – including canned goods that have now been damagesd (cans are rusting/leaking – why were these bought in the first place??) – that Anne paid for. Hand trowels, avalanche beacons, space blankets, etc. Of course, none of the packaging was ever opened at all. Anne was a shopper, but she rarely gave programs – and because we work with SCHOOL CLASSES on field trips, we never house kids over night here nor do we camp with them. In fact, the overnight programs in the summertime are handled through the volunteer office and NOT the education program.

And yet, no one ever held her accountable. They let her go her own way and do her own thing. Because she was mean and nasty. Within the first month of my arrival, two of the men I work with in the park warned me: Anne was abusive to her former interns and that I was just the next victim in a long string of people to move through this office. The intern before me quit after only 2 weeks. I was told to get my game face on or just leave. Life wasn’t worth putting up with her.

I have survived. I look at the mess she left behind. Both the physical piles of crap, and the years of hurt employees, disgruntled community partners and a budget that is really screwed up.

And now, she is someone else’s problem. She got a promotion of sorts. Not through this park, mind you. But some poor, desperate sap (‘superintendent’) in another park didn’t do his homework. She was hired to be the Division Chief for Interpretation and Education elsewhere in the country, but no one at that park contacted this park for a reference. The reference that was called was honest about Anne (I have a coworker/friend who did some digging on her own time to figure this out), but she was still hired anyway.

God help them.

I feel stuck and frustrated – as an intern, I have very little power here. I hear “It’s not your job,” more often than I can stand. And there are some folks who are so concerned about seeming “nice” to everyone (politicians!) that they will find a way to sweep most of this under the rug and just be thankful that she’s not their problem any more. But we have so many opportunities here. I’m just afraid that we still won’t be living up to our program’s potential.

A few of you know that I spent lots of time visiting various National Parks as a kid. My family did a lot of road-tripping during the summers. These places mean something to me. We need to protect, care for, and enjoy these amazing places.

Last week, it was mentioned in a meeting by our Acting Superintendent that Mount Rainier National Park cares for roughly $700 million dollars’ worth of resources, artifacts and public assets. Things all owned jointly by all U.S. citizens. We carry forward each year a maintenance backlog of about $150 million dollars. Work that we can’t get done. Most of the iconic National Parks are in a similar situation.

Recently, Ken Burns did the NPS a huge publicity favor. But we can’t let it stop there. The NPS is one of the more sought-after agencies to work for in the entire United States. Recently, in this park, we advertised for 2 entry-level permanent interpretation staff positions that are currently vacant. Guess how many applications we received? 560. Yes, FIVE HUNDRED AND SIXTY. For two openings at the GS-5 level.

Please, if you’ve had a great time in one of our amazing parks, please help us. Get involved and volunteer. Every year, the National Park Service RELIES on volunteers. Measured only in hours of labor, we get nearly as much work done by volunteers as we do by park staff. We have a lot of people in the Park Service who love our parks, love what they do, and do their best with the extremely limited financial resources we are given. But these are our parks; we all need to pitch in to support the places we love.

I could go down a rabbit hole and discuss the problems faced by the National Park Service – both internal problems and external factors that cause us problems (some of which we obviously have no control over). We need to expect more from our public leaders and from ourselves.

There’s a lot of talk recently about the relevance of our National Parks. Read the Second Century Commission’s reports about our parks (organized by one of the non-profit organizations that support us) and find a way to help. If you’ve enjoyed the parks, consider giving back. Or paying it forward.


To-Do List

I make lists endlessly. Sometimes I actually get through half of the things I note that I must do. That’s a good day. But I’m going to try to be better. Will someone please hold me accountable?! The following are not in priority order, as about half of them will get done tomorrow either way.

  1. get up early enough to not rush around in the morning
  2. breakfast AT HOME, including vitamins
  3. clean off desk in office
  4. pick up boxes of junk (“paperwork”) from former supervisor’s office at Longmire (there is someone waiting to move into that office)
  5. pick up office supplies at park warehouse
  6. park-wide safety meeting
  7. Spudfest lunch (I’m going to enjoy watching the Law Enforcement Rangers make me a baked potato for lunch)
  8. highlight the important parts of the paperwork I’ve sorted so far for Division Chief
  9. walk after work with coworker for exercise
  10. look for more chanterelles on the way home from the office
  11. use up excess sourdough starter: bread and pancakes
  12. bake bagels*
  13. Knitting projects that need progress:

  • doggie sweaters
  • brown socks
  • Christmas dishcloths
  • silk lace scarf

*At some point next week, I get to contribute to snacks at HQ. Mini bagels and cream cheese are my choice, as I don’t have to go to the store between now and then. I’ve got the ingredients at home and the weather is supposed to be lousy this weekend.

A Realization

Anyone who knows me knows that I love botany, environmental sciences, and even a bit of math now and then.

I’m convinced that I didn’t learn anything (or at least retain anything) in those Western Civ. classes forced on me in high school and college. Did I hate social studies? Hate might be too strong of a word, but I rarely found anything to hold my attention. Seriously, Western Civ. was just an expensive form of Benedryl for me – it really did nothing but put me to sleep. And it never helped with sinus-related headaches.

But I have found something to help me overcome my apathy towards history: vintage textiles. No, I’m not talking about poodle skirts and saddle shoes. My interest lies in the handmade lace and garments from the 1700s and 1800s. I think I’m just seeing the tip of the proverbial iceberg on this topic; it’s lead me to so many related topics: womens’ issues, science of the day, international relations, class and social hierarchies, etc. etc.

Of course, for me, this involves actually making the lace too. I just received the latest copy of Interweave’s Piecework magazine. I’ve now started on a piece of broomstick lace. Not the oldest of techniques, but intriguing and something I’ve never tried.

I blame it on Jane Austen. I hated literature classes too. But I could never put her books down. The stories and characters were just too good.

ETA: If you’re googling “Broomstick Lace”, ignore the modern versions made with worsted weight yarn. They seem like something tacky from the 1970’s. (Sorry, just my opinion.) Look at Piecework for the traditional techniques and materials that interest me. The bag on the cover is my inspiration.


As I write this, I’m sitting on the porch at Whittaker’s Bunkhouse in Ashford. This is the home of the coffee shop that I usually steal WIFI from, while drinking a coffee (not stolen). However, it is closed right now. But they told me I could just sit on the porch and use the WIFI, since the hotel part is actually open.

So I’ve got this great view today. Big-leaf maples that are bright yellow, dropping leaves on the lawn while the sun pokes between high, patchy clouds. There actually is some blue sky today too. A perfect fall afternoon. It’s beautiful. I wish my camera could capture this scene. (Is the skill in the camera or the photographer? In my case, the former.)

I’ve been reading blogs during my down times at work (this is our slow season). Between The Twisted Road of Life, MountainMama, and Throwback at Trapper Creek, I’ve been inspired by people’s stories and actions.

Here at a National Park, I’m often surrounded by awe-inspiring scenery. Within the National Park Service, we care for America’s stories. All inspiring in different ways. I have so many thoughts on this. Hopefully, this week, I’ll get a chance to put pen to paper and write out some of my thoughts.

True to what Mountain Mama said in her blog on Friday, if she is planning on ‘paying it forward’, if anyone wants to post a little story (in the comments section of this post) about how they’ve been inspired by an experience in a National Park, I’ll get them a little goodie from the park. 🙂

Landslides, Power Outages, and Being Prepared

Today about 1 p.m., we lost power here at the park. Longmire and TWoods (park HQ) were affected, but interestingly, the Nisqually entrance station (about halfway between Longmire and TWoods) had power.

Since most of my office work today and tomorrow requires a computer, I was stuck for a while. So I finished up putting together some of the mail – mostly requests from individual students, wanting park info. for their research projects. I have a standard set of brochures that we mail out, unless we get a unique request.

So anyway, I got the mail together and walked over to the HQ building to drop it off. Of course, they were without power, and many of them were in the same boat as me: budget and HR folks need computers too. So I was talking to my friend Mika. It occurred to me that my entire kitchen is electric. I couldn’t cook dinner if the power didn’t come back up. Raw veggies for dinner. Ok, so I like raw veggies, but on a cold, stormy night like we’re going to have, I prefer hot soup or something. Anyway, Mika and I decided to pool our food and do steaks on their grill. Her husband will be happy with that decision!

This lead me to think about another disaster that happened this weekend: a landslide east of here near Naches. A few people were evacuated, a road closed, etc. The pictures are cool, but really, this was a relatively small slide for our area. The POTENTIAL for the area around Mount Rainier is tremendous as this mountain holds more snow and glaciers (and thus, more water) than just about any other mountain in the Lower 48 states. Warm temperatures plus 30+ square miles of melting ice and snow = flooding like you wouldn’t believe.

I really should have more canned tuna in my apartment. And candles. And gas for the ol’ Coleman stove.

Obviously, we have the power back on…


The colors of the leaves are changing. Fall is just stunning the mountains. In the picture above, blueberries cover the subalpine slopes of Paradise with red and yellow leaves. Still plenty of berries to pick! The Vine Maples out here in Mount Rainier National Park are also absolutely bright red. I haven’t lived in an area with so many maples for several years now. I’d forgotten how red those trees can get.

The chills in the area speak of winter and snow – but we’ve already had several snows up in the high country. Now if we can just get the snow to stick around a bit…

Busy Week; Weekend with the "Kids"

We’ve had some very full days this week here in the Ed office. Monday was an office day, 54 8th graders on Tuesday (+parents and teachers), and 52 8th graders on Wednesday (+parents and teachers). Yesterday afternoon/evening was spent driving to Tacoma, talking to teachers at Educators’ Night At The Museum [of Glass, which is cool – I love watching glass-blowing!], and driving back to Rainier. We are awaiting 2 classes of 8th-9th graders right now; we’ll be discussing the subalpine ecosystems with them at Paradise and then (I think) helping them collect water samples from the Nisqually River near Longmire.

Tomorrow, I’m sleeping all day.

Not quite.

This weekend I’m house- and dog-sitting again for the Wysong Kids. 9 Alaskan Huskies. Beautiful animals! Last night, fairly late, an elk budgled for maybe 3-4 seconds, and that sent the dogs to howling. It was quite the concert.

The clouds are hanging low over the Nisqually River and valley this morning, but driving in I saw signs that it’s clear and sunny up higher. I’m hoping for nice weather today!