It might seem strange that a park ranger is making a New Year's resolution to spend more time in nature, but my job involves a lot more sitting in my office than you might think. Yes, I do have an office of my own—but my tiny space was originally a storage closet, and doesn't have any windows. The beautiful Badlands are right outside, but I can't see them.
The isolating effect of working in my closet is stronger in winter, of course, when I go to work just after sunrise and return home after the sun has already gone down. I get very little natural light. Yesterday, it started snowing, and I didn't know about it for three hours. If a fireball were headed for the Earth and everyone looked to the skies, screaming in terror, I would still be tapping away at my workstation, oblivious to my impending doom.
I feel as though I only just arrived in Yellowstone, yet here I am, packing and cleaning, getting ready to move again. Picking up and relocating frequently is the lot of the seasonal park ranger, and there are things I like about it. I never get bored with the inherently repetitive aspects of my job, for instance, and I welcome the chance to delve into a new homelandscape every six months or so. But staying put for two years of graduate school in Vermont spoiled me with “normal” life: I got to taste the joy of immersing myself more deeply in a place. To many of you, who may have spent your entire lives in one place, two years without moving may not sound like much. But for an itinerant park ranger, not having to move three or four times during that period was a heavenly taste of what it’s like to settle somewhere. Read more
Old Faithful erupted behind me as I pedaled away from the visitor center and headed down basin, getting ready to lead the last ranger walk of the day. Though it’s officially known as the Geyser Discovery Stroll, we all refer to the 5:30 program as the Castle walk, named after the geyser where we assemble. I rode slowly, meandering among clusters of visitors on foot, and headed up the little hill towards Castle. I was a little surprised that no one was waiting on the path alongside its massive, twelve-foot-high cone—not only was it almost time for a popular ranger-led program, but in about twenty minutes we would enter the eruption window, that two-hour period during which Castle was predicted to erupt. Since Castle erupts only about once every fourteen hours, it always attracts a crowd when it’s due. Read more