It Happens to Us All

Today is the middle of my week, since I’m working Sunday through Thursday this week. Hump day.

I know there is a lot to do. My supervisor is gone this week for Spring Break with her own kids. She left me a detailed To-Do list. Which I actually appreciate, since I know what needs to be done, how to prioritize my time, how to schedule and structure my days. And I love crossing things off the list when I’ve completed them.

One thing that wasn’t on the list (although it’s on-going and is assumed) is the student mail we get. I really do enjoy reading some of these letters. Sometimes we get great questions or comments. Today’s favorite comment comes from a third grader in Illinois:

“We have to make a visitor center [for our school project], so I need any information, brochures and maps. I think it would be really great if you could send those things to me! I promise that I will take good care of the materials…. Also, could you tell me the favorite part of your job?”

But it’s hump day. The biggest ‘hurdle’ I’m feeling at the moment is lethargy. I really don’t want to stand up, go to my work table, and start stuffing envelopes for these students. I really just want to go back to bed.

Even after 2 cups of coffee. I just want to see my pillow. It’s just one of those days.

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The week in pictures.

Lesson #1 from this week – NEVER, under any circumstances, ever let go of your camera.

Exhibit #1: While judging a science fair at the local elementary school, some fourth graders thought it would be funny to balance a bird on my nose. Of course, my coworkers were near-at-hand with (my) camera.


Monday was my friend Chris’ birthday. He’s SO old. And Mika’s birthday was last Saturday, we had a double birthday party with food and sake on Monday night. Again, Ranger Jim stole my camera and this was the result: Chris and I couldn’t stop laughing. I never finished my food.

And here are the birthday kids: Chris and Mika.


And finally, here’s a shot of the blue socks that I mentioned earlier this week. The sock is actually nearly done; I just haven’t taken new pictures of the project.

Timing is Everything.

I really wanted to share with you all a pair of my current socks that are OTN. I don’t usually work with yarns that have a lot of cotton in them, but this yarn was a gift – and a beautiful bright blue. I found a pattern that fit it and it’s kept me busy the past few nights.

Alas, park terminal servers being what they are, I can’t get my machine to load pictures from a thumb drive. So the pictures of my beautiful blue in-progress socks are going to have to wait.

This weekend, I’m babysitting the doggies again. I’ve been told that Ivar has an owie on his paw and will get to sleep inside to stay dry. Ivar is the 90-lb. husky that is the size of a small horse. But he will feel very special. 🙂

Besides the general ramblings above, what really is on my mind? Jobs. Duh.

Today is supposed to be my day off. But I went in to pick up my reimbursement check and read my email.

And the east district ranger here, Christine (whose kitty I took of last week), asked if I was interrested in staying here at Rainier for the summer. She’s made it through her hiring cert, through all of the vets at that out-scored me (veterans get extra points – and offered jobs first, which many decline) and if I was interested, she’d offer me one of the east district interp positions.

So. The decision was basically made for me. Fawn is going to turn my internship to a regular GS5 position as of next Monday (3/29). Fawn’s seasonal (a vet) took the original job offer and then rejected it a few days later, so Fawn was stuck (once again) without a replacement for me. I will continue to work out of this office until the end of May, to help her out at a time when short-staffing is a serious problem. June 1, I will transfer duty stations to the East District and Ohanapecosh. I will be working with Rangers Tom and Bev over there. And rumor has it that Ranger Julia will be asked back to the GS7 position at Sunrise – or so we’re all hoping. 🙂 The team is shaping up. And I’ll be picking raspberries, blueberries and chanterelles again this summer and fall. 🙂

Whew. Timing really is everything.

Job Hunt Update

It can be said that National Park rangers migrate more than the animals we protect in our parks. My internship is complete here at Rainier, and I’m volunteering until:

1) My replacements are trained, and
2) I figure out where I’m going next.

So where am I going next? Good questions. Here’s the stats so far. I have interviewed so far for positions at:

  • Yosemite NP
  • Katmai NP

I have interviews in the next week for:

  • Great Basin NP
  • Grand Canyon NP
  • Western Arctic NP (region served by office in Kotzebue – Noatak, Kobuk Valley, etc.) – 2 positions
  • Curecanti NRA
  • Sequoia & Kings Canyon NPs – 2 positions

Yesterday, I was offered the campground ranger job at Yosemite. I accepted the offer, pending my other interviews. I also have to go through a second federal background check for the Yosemite job since I would be handling lots of $$$. So that will take a few weeks most likely. In the mean time, I’m going to see what the other parks offer me. The Yosemite job is a GS4, which is a grade lower than Katmai, Great Basin and Grand Canyon, and three grades lower than Sequoia-Kings Canyon. Plus it’s not really interp, which is what I really want (all the other jobs are interp-related).

How to Lose a "Conversation" with a Ranger

Yesterday was one of those days.

It was snowing at Paradise – and in the 30’s – and people were showing up to snowshoe in shorts and flip-flops.

I led the first showshoe hike. It was a good group, engaged and having a good time. And we had some good questions/comments at the desk in the JVC.

Until the late-ish afternoon.

I was cornered by a gentleman in his 60’s who needed to talk to someone. Generally, I love hearing people’s stories, adventures, and what keeps bringing them back to the park.

But not this guy. Because he said he hated hiking, hated camping, hated skiing and snowshoeing. In fact, he hated snow itself. But because he was active in the military, he “had” to bring his guys up here frequently over the past 20+ years for hikes and runs that were “incentives” for doing good. What a sucky job.

Of course, he was up here on this day being a tour guide for some friends for Texas – who were very nice – and fascinated by the snow. But he was determined to NOT enjoy himself.

Ok, so why wasn’t he talking to his friends? I’ve got a pretty good idea why.

He sidled up to the desk – which I was staffing alone at the time – and decided to tell me his career history, rank (etc.) in the military, and why he was a hiking expert for Mount Rainier. He knew which trail was the worst experience.

Now, those of you that have had any sort of customer service job know how this goes. You get to smile, nod, and be a captive audience.

But it gets worse.

It all started when he looked at me full-on and declared that I was 1/3 of his age. I laughed and said that, if that were true, he would be at least 105 years old. He rolled his eyes and continued the patronizing. He decided to tell me which trails to hike.

I think I was starting to lose it by this point. In my best-controlled authoritarian voice, I said roughly the following: “Sir, why do you think I haven’t hiked any of the trails in this park?”

He paused and looked at me sideways, didn’t answer, and kept on his lecture.

So I repeated my question.

This got him. He described how seasonal park employees get assigned to one small quadrant of the park and they never leave that quadrant. When they roves trails, they hike the same one mile stretch over and over, and then sit in an office the rest of the time.

At which point I told him that I wasn’t a seasonal employee.

Regardless of his inaccurate stereotype of seasonal rangers, he assumed things about me. Things that were not correct. I did NOT tell him I was an intern. I simply told the gentleman that I have been working in this park for more than a year.

He acted shocked and asked me what I do to keep myself busy at work.

I told him that, during the school year, my main duties involve working with schools, students and children that visit the park. I also substitute for the interpretive operations as they need people. In the summer, I work with our curriculum development projects and also interpretive operations.

“What’s interp? Oh, you mean the rangers that work in visitor centers.” Yeah, that’s it.

“So where do the seasonals work?”

“Right here, sir. You see, in the summer time, we have far more people visiting the park. In fact, the entire park is accessible (as opposed to winter time when some of the roads aren’t plowed and the east side of the park is basically closed and/or inaccessible). So we have a much larger park staff in the summer.”

“So what do the seasonals do in the winter?”

“Sir, they only work during the busy season. They aren’t here in the winter. That’s why they’re called seasonals.”

At this point, a co-worker returned to the desk and about snorted out his coffee.

After a few more minutes of this, the phone rang. Ranger Casey purposely didn’t answer it and walked away, so I could hopefully answer it, thus getting away from my special park visitor.

Well, clearly, this man wasn’t mad at my responses. He kept coming back for more. Through three more phone calls.

He also tried to tell me how to out-run bears.

The problem was that he described running away from brown bears in Alaska (where he was apparently stationed for several years). Given that brown bears can run 30-35 miles per hour, I think the man was slightly off-balance. Can YOU run a 2-minute mile?

He then told me more stories that clearly showed me he didn’t know how to behave around our country’s large mammals.

Word to the Wise: Just don’t tell rangers things like that. And please, don’t tell us about your perfect knowledge of bear biology when you can’t tell the difference between black and brown bears.

Rangers remember things like this. It’s where we get the stories that go into books like this.

At the end of the day, as we were driving back down the hill, Casey said that he was glad I had to deal with the special 3-star general. Casey is ex-military himself, and suggested this man needed someone to stand up to him. Mr. General was used to only getting “Yes sir!”s and “How high must I jump, sir?!”s. And to have it be a woman to stand up to him was even better for him. Casey would have told him where to go.

God I’m good. 😉

Thoughts

I wrote earlier about my ‘blankie’. (Hey, I work around kids a lot. They rub off.)

Anyway, I just read this article from the National Parks Traveler website:

Reader Participation Day: If Cost Were No Object, Which National Park Would You Visit?

Notice anything about the answers? Yes indeed, a large portion of the comments include a park in Alaska. Would I be crazy NOT to take a job offer from Katmai?!

I asked for, and got a response about, a typical day’s schedule for the rangers up at Brooks Camp. It really wasn’t as bad as I expected. I would get more exercise up there than I do here (and thus hopefully lose a bit of weight 🙂 ). But it doesn’t sound terrible. Hectic, but not impossible. I feel a bit better about the job now. The remoteness is still a hang-up though.