Sunday, June 17, 2012

Leave No Trace: Day 3

On the river, waking up was achieved one of two ways. Either you were slowly awakened by the gentle rush of water and the light of day slowly creeping in, or if you played to hard the day before your are awkened to a yell at 4:45 am. "COFFFFFFFEEEEEE!" Both equally satistying by the end of the trip. You stumble out of your sleeping bag grab your mug (make sure nothing has crawled into it), shake the sand out of your hair and make your way to the "kitchen" near the water. Kitchen is always close to the water. Any liquid waste here is placed in the river. The solution to pollution in dilution. So when your fellow female companion is in the water up to her waste only you know exactly what is going on and you just look the other way. Any solid waste has to be packed out. Use your imagination. It is amazing that a river corridor that is used by 30,000 to 40,000 people per year looks almost untouched. Thank goodness for 'Leave No Trace'ethics. Aboard the S-Rig today I place myself in a small section in the rear known as the Tea Room. Not as much splashing back here but you find a sense of freedom in the amout of space you have to move around and when the water is calm some enjoyed sitting on the edge rodeo style on the pontoons. This was a big day for many. The anticipation to see Elves Chasm and Deer Creek had been building. The easiest access to these points is via the river. To hike from the rim they are backpacking trips and in some places ropes are required to drop down in. Even though these are highly sought after places only a small percentage of canyon visitors see them due to location. It had been 2 river days for us and a 9 mile hike to get to the boat...and that is the easiest way. Countless times I have been shown pictures of these places by tourists and asked, "How do I visit?" And I have to say, "Ain't going to happen today, and definetly not in those shoes." Elves Chasm is said to be one of the most beautiful spots in Grand Canyon. The charming grotto is less than a quarter mile from the river. A delicate waterfall trickles around huge boulders into a pool in this shady canyon of ferns and mosses. It is possible to swim across the pool and pop into the cave behind the falls. And if you are cautious and careful you can climb to the top and jump off. Checking to pool depth first of course. Deer Creek is a spring-fed stream that flows through the western Grand Canyon to the Colorado River. The series of springs provide a continuous base flow to Deer Creek, making it a vital water source for wildlife. During periods of intense rainfall, Deer Creek can experience severe flash flooding. In the final half mile above the Colorado River, Deer Creek flows through a narrow slot canyon before plunging over a 150 feet into the Colorado River. The waterfall is named Deer Creek Falls. Its is visible from your boat and an easy stopping point for commercial trips. The challenge, it seems, is to expose people to this astonishing beauty before we destroy it, but not let the crowds and the commercial exploitation of tourists destroy it in the very process of showing people what we have to lose. Places like Elves Chasm and Deer Creek Falls are frequently visited and are in danger of becoming places that have visible scars. Our trip leader Dave took us up to an overlook above Deer Creek Falls to witness a number of social trails that have been created by thousands of commercial river trips over the years. Can we ever really leave no trace?

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gravity Works: Day 2

We woke at 5 am in the bunkhouse after a night of conversation and scorpion hunting. We had walked through the cabin that night a little more couciously after watching about a half dozen scorions scurry about underneath a blacklight next to the mule corral. It was still very warm and those that were up early made coffee and started breakfast. Repacking our belongings tighttly into our duffles we made our way down to Boat Beach just in time to watch the crew from the upper half of the river unload the dry bags. All of our things were packed into individual dry packs that closed tightly so that no moisture would enter. We were told that these would all need to be strapped down, including waterbottles, hats, and any other loose items. Apperently gravitiy works well here on the river but loose items might take a while to catch on to the trend.

Interpreters represent and dominate a good portion of this excusion.

Coming through the rapid.

We came across the Ross Wheeler boat that has been left on the bank of the Colorado River since 1915 just above Bass Rapid. In 1914 Bert Loper built the boat Ross Wheeler for an ill-fated trip with sometime associate Charlie Russell, and named it after a friend who had recently been murdered. Somehow Russell took the iron-clad boat away from a Loper acquaintance in Green River, Utah who was acting as the boat’s guardian. The Russell party, after many a momentous event into the next year, ran the Ross Wheeler into the Grand Canyon to River Mile 108, walked out the Bass Trail, and left “the Ross Wheeler rocking gently at the margin of the river…” Deciding that the Ross Wheeler might come in handy some day, John Waltenberg, William Bass’ occasional employee and partner, winched it up the bank out of reach of floods. it is a piece of history that has remained here on sight but has been a controversy over whether or not to bring it up to the rim for all to see. After a journey battling gravity and water in Grand Canyon it has meaning and emotional value being left exactly where it was abandoned. had I have gazed upn this vessel in a museum I don't believe it would not have moved me in the same way.

Gravity and time has made its mark on this part of northern Arizona. Pieces of rock, sand, dirt and debris have been broken down my water and time and have used gravity as a vehicle to the Colorado River. Because if this arid desert environment and water and debris moving in such a fashion we are rewarded with magnificent side canyons, natural , dams and waterfalls. Shinumo Creek and falls is just a stort hike up creek from the river. Parking the boats below, we decided to take the stroll and cool off. Upon reaching camp we had been wetted, dryed, sweating, shivering, and thirsty all within 5 minute intervals. All elements collide at the bottom of a rapid into the perfect storm of canyon experiences. That night we nursed blisters, sunburns, fire ant bites, and admired chaco tans. Our first complete river day behind us we redied ourselves for another. When you fall it is a rush. when you come face to face with forces larger than you, you are along for the ride. Its is so hard to have negative thoughts about wild places like Grand Canyon. Maybe its because you can not control them...just like gravity or water. You can only invest your energy in the present moment and enjoy. Keep calm and carry on.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Richest People on Earth: River Trip Day 1

I woke early at sunrise on May 20th, chugged a quick cup of coffee, toasted some bread, threw some last minute items in my back pack and headed out the door toward River Operations. Less than a week ago I had no idea that I would be taking this journey. It is one that most visitors wait years to get permtis for and will often pay loads of money to experience. I greeted 18 other trip participants as we set our duffles down so that they could be picked up by the mules and be hauled down to the bottom of Grand Canyon. Some individuals were park staff that I was familar with, both coworkers and aquaintances. About half were new faces that would eventually become the faces of people I know to be friends. After a quick briefing we traveled to the Bright Angel Trailhead to begin the 9.5 mile hike to Phantom Ranch. The next day we would leave the trail crew bunkhouse and load rafts to begin a 4 day adventure on the Colorado River. The anticipation was what made this hike so much different that any other decent into the canyon. Chatter of potential hikes, visions, and rapids were flowing like water. The All-Employee River Trip had begun! Many have asked me,"How is it that you get to raft the Colorado River and get paid to do it?" This is a special opportunity that has been provided for the past 3 years. Each year permanent employees can submit an application to be incuded in the annual river trip. On the river, the experiences you gain are set apart from any other. Its is a chance to see remote areas of the park that we are helping to protect. Employees on board can learn from one another and gain an insight on just what it takes to run the park and preserve the mission. Approx. 40 employees run the river each year on this trip. 20 on the upper half and 20 on the lower half. I was heading for the lower half.
Our journey starts from Phantom Ranch. As you leave from Grand Canyon village via the Bright Angel Trail, Phantom is the destination. The Boats would be pulled out at Diamond Creek on the Hualapai Indian Reservation.
Packed in our packs were solar viewers. Not only was this the start of the river trip but it was also an Annular Eclipse. The moon would be visible traveling directly in front of the sun and was best seen this time around in the southwest. Stationed on the rim were rangers, visitors, scientists and not to mention N.A.S.A waiting eagarly with excitement. I have hiked the canyon many times but never with this much to look forward to. Many of us know the Bright Angel Trail very well and others had never touched it. Dressed in civilian clothes and enjoying the warm clear morning is throughly enjoyable, however, it is hard for some of us to turn the "ranger" off when we are hiking a trail with a group of people. Interpreters tend to show everyone the various fossils, pictographs, caves, and archeological sights along the way. Needless to say we took our time getting to the bottom and I was glad for that too because it was 104 degrees at Phantom Ranch when we arrived. After a quick dip in the creek we started to scope out a place to successfully see the eclipse. The bottom of a large hole did not seem optimal for getting a clear view of the sky. A 1/2 mile away from the bunkhouse was the silver bridge that we had used to cross the river earlier. It is suspended over the Colorado River just before Pipe Creek Rapid. The V-shpae of the canyon seemed promising for a sunset we could see and of course the moon as well. As soon as we arrive we whipped out the solar viewers and took a look. Sure enough there was the moon slowly making its way across, turning the sun into a cresent shape. Many more began to join the 5 of us standing awkardly in the middle of the 300 foot long bridge. Other members of our group who had not made the walk out have given us some extra soloar viewers. As curious bystanders wondered what we were using we started to offer them the extras and chatting. Finally after not using selective language, someone piped up, "Are you guys Rangers?"....busted. Many off-duty park employees will go to great lengths to keep their identity hidden, however this experience made the viewing that much more meaningful. We had all been drawn to the inner canyon for something...a river trip, adventure, hiking, camping, natural soundscapes, etc. But we were all sharing the same one together here in the middle of a bridge at the bottom of Grand Canyon. An experience that does not come around very often.
A coworker of mine placed his viewer up to the camera to capture the pivitol moments. Photos by: T.Karlovetz
Full eclipse. The "ring of fire" lasted only about 60 seconds before wanning the other way. I took my solar viewer down away from my face after the full eclipse to stare out over the river and the low erie light that had come over the canyon walls. Still light but shadows danced at strange angles when the moon blocked most of the sun's light. I looked at the group still in awe over the rare experience and turned to glace at pipe creek rapid. A rapid that we would be running in the morning hours. We stood there and felt like royalty. Suspended above a powerful river in the light of a full eclipse I began to wonder if we were the only ones to have an experience equal to this one on this night. And tomorrow we would embark on a rare journey to discover hidden secrets inside this emense chasm. I am often asked what the pay is like being a Ranger. The most popular answer is, " Well we get paid in rainbows and sunsets." (and sometimes eclipses and rapids). I like to think of wealth as not having any monetary value. You can not ever completely purchase an expereince. You must seek it and embrace it. All of us standing on that bridge as the sun set were at that moment the richest on earth.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Starting a Life

Holy shit! Everyone, I am sorry. I did not realize it had been so long since my last post. Everything has been much of a whirlwind since I moved to Arizona. One thing after another kept changing,becoming difficult, getting better, getting great, and then challenging again, and now fantastic. Pheww.
When I first arrived in March and even through April one thing after another kept holding me back form living the care free life of a park interpreter that I was striving for. Everything from housing, to paperwork, to mispelled name (go figure), to payroll mixups kept the spring very stressful. I was beginging to wonder, is this the universe's way of telling me I really shouldn't be at Grand Canyon. But I hung in there out of spite...just kidding. None the less I was here at an amazing place that gives interepreters unlimited opportunities to reach for new experiences.

Never have I had the opportunity to develop so many amazing programs and gain experience in a big yet challenging park. When I first arrived and I was told I was going to be giving 14 different programs within the next month. "Say what?" But with my head spinning I dove in the best that I could, put on the green, gray, and straw hat and tried to blend in. (Good thing our uniforms are camoflage in color) But too bad the canyon in red. Oopps this means I have to actually know stuff...

Anyhow the one thing I picked up on quickly is that there are a lot of employees here. Many rangers are very well known in their field and have connections all over the country. It was then that I realized that I was in the heart of the interpretation field. And I get to work with these people! I worked my ass off....literally from hard work, researching,and hiking I am 30 lbs lighter and a whole lot wiser. My public programs went from good to great. Spending over 40 off work hours on my evening program alone. This paid off in more ways than one. My audiences seem so much more intriqued than ever before and If I can leave work everyday with a smile on my face I consider myself a winner in the game of life.

I thought I was dreaming when the Deputy Chief of Interpretation called me in to chat. She told me that they were very pleased with my work here at Grand Canyon and as if I was interested in sticking around. "We want you here." I believe were the exact words. To make a long story short, paperwork was completed and I was hired as a SCEP here at Grand Canyon. For those of you who don't know what SCEP is it is a way for parks to hire folks non competetively if you are a student. So once I finish my degree,(which I hope will be soon)I finish as a GS 5/7/9 Park Ranger with 120 day status to be hired non-competetively in any park. Time to start looking ahead I guess.

So for now I am happily settled into a lovely new 2 bedroom apartment and am actually starting to collect more belongings than will fit into my car. I also have been starting to collect plants...not by choice. I have many male friends that have been jokingly giving me these lovely potted companions saying that if I can keep these alive for a while then I can think about getting a dog. Thank guys, you all are great for my self esteem :O. The next time I move I will get a moving truck! Its the little things in life...

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Innocent Visitor

So, I told this innocent visitor that I would include him in my blog and it turned into a whole story...(most of it true). I have a dear friend that I spent a summer in Glacier with named Jake. Jake is a happy, nomadic traveler who absolutely insists on enjoying life. He his currently in Alaska chasing caribou and bears.

One day I get a message from someone I have never heard of before named Bill. He tells me that he is good friends with Jake and has always wanted to visit Grand Canyon. As fate would have it he was traveling from Washington DC to the park within the next two days. Jake had given him my information saying, "Oh, I have a friend that works there." So of course being the nice person that I am I agreed to give him some tips and get him oriented.

This started with a phone call to the headquarters desk. "Hi Addie, this is Bill, Jakes friend." I gathered information in my head so that I wouid have suggestions for him. Bill then said, "I driving up from Phoenix right now and thinnk Im going to stay at Mather Campround tonight and at Phantom Ranch tomorrow night becasue I do want to hike to the bottom. What do you think...sound like a good idea?" My response was, "That sounds terrific but you can't do any of that."

Mather Campground ususally books up early and you need a permit to hike to the bottom and camp and thats if you can find an opening. Phantom Ranch can book up as early as 13 months in advance. Im starting to wonder what kind of individual jake sent to me looking for help. Bill arrives at Headquarters while I'm still working and help him get a feel for what he wants to do. He did say that he wanted to do a hike down to the bottom. I was a little skeptical especially when he told me he had just purchased all of his gear from REI in Phoenix before driving up. Since hiking to the bottom and back in not recommended there was no way I was going to suggest that someone coming from sea level to attempt it either. But determind to hike I told him that Chrisitine and I were hiking the Tonto Loop the next day and he was welcome to tag along (insert evil laugh).

Getting ready to hike I look at Bill...he is wearing brand new Keens (sandals). I asked if he had sneakers byt he said no and that these were comfortable. I could see multiple blisters in his future. The loop that we took starts from the South Kaibab Trailhead, decends 5 miles, meets up with the Tonto trail. We were going to follow the Tonto for about 4.5 miles and then we planned to come up Bright Angel Trail from Indian Garden. 15 miles total. This was not Bill's hike to the river as he had dreamed of but a close second that I though he could do...probably.

I told Jake where we were going and he replied with, " Oh dear...hahahaha. He's going to die!" This did not instill much confidence. We left around 7:30 and drove Christine's car to the Bright Angel Trailhead and then all rode in my car to South Kaibab and just planned to take Christines car in order to pick my car up when we got out that afternoon. We started down the trail, filling Bills head with the idea that he was now one of the elite 5% that ventures into the canyon.

We were crusin and made it down to Tip Off point where we were going to meet the Tonto trail in just over 2 hours. We continuously stopped to take pictures (mostly Bill) but made good time. It was here that Bill had to nurse the first of his blisters. his sandals were stained red as he dumped the rocks out of his shoes. I think the pain started to set in about half way across the tonto trail so we kept glancing back to make sure that he was still with us.

Christine on the Tonto Trail (west)

Looking down on the inner gorge

By the time we reached Indian Garden at 1 pm we only had about 4.5 miles to hike out. But this last stretch I new was going to be the worst as I watch Bill rub his feet. We stopped for a leisurly lunch giving feet and blisters time to breath and rest. Heading up the trail Bill starts to slow. The elevation was not really apparent until now. Usually coming up I can top out in a couple of hours but we took our time and waited at the rest houses for a bit and we would eventually see Bill making his was up slowly stopping a resting frequently. He kept saying that he didnt think he had ever been this out of breath. The true canyon experience right there! Canyon cough and all.

At one point Christine and I got a good distance ahead and stopped at 1.5 mile rest house. It was then she suddenly stopped looked off and said, "OH NO!" I though that she had seen someone fall or looked over and saw Bill down below panting on the ground crawling. That would have made the story more intersting but no...She had come to the sickening realization that the keys to her vehicle that we planned on driving out were sitting on the passengerseat of my car all the way back at the South Kaibab trailhead.

So up the trail we ran topping out at about 5. We called Kristi to pick us up and drive us to my car. She agreed after snickering and giving us a hard time. After the retrieval we waited back at the trailhead for Bill who made the epic climb out of the canyon at 6:30. Tired, in pain, and sporting the "canyon shuffle" he triumphed in sandals and said that it was amazing but "dang!" I could help smiling and finding the situation humorous but I was also impressed and shock that he succeed with the gear that he had. It was now time for beer and homemade mac n cheese.

I guess the moral of this story is if you pawn your friends off on me. This is what I will do to them.
Bill if you end up reading this somehow I know you wont take any of this personally. I know this because of all of the "thats what she said" comments you threw at us for 9 trully are Jakes friend.

Cactus Flowers in bloom

Monday, May 9, 2011

In a Nutshell

Well, the past month and a half has been a wonderful whirlwind of exciting things, new faces, and great experiences. Now that I have turned in my final project for the semester (Huzzah!) I have time for much more exciting things like updating my blog for the approx. 3 people who actually follow it...just kidding, im sure there are others. I like to at least assume my family does follow on occassion.

The band went nuts when a few of us grabbed the blow-up aliens and started dancing with them.

Intrigued by the fact that I get to poke my way around a new small city, we have ventured down to Flagstaff twice so far. Of course we enjoyed the brewery and venturing downtown but what is always the most fun is finding the quirkiest places after dark to go enjoy a beer. And what did we manage to find? Alien dancing! The band performed a handful of unique covers and were dressed from head to toe in alien attire complete with green lights that would dance around on your face while moving around. Sometime you could not tell who the person next to you was unless these green spots reflected at the right angle. This one was by far my favorite since I do not enjoy the huge/loud/crowded club scene at all. It was small, fun and oddly amazing.

Kim trying to dance quickly and blur the lights...

Martha (future sister-in-law) came to visit this month too. She had a very successfull interview for a math position at Show Low High School and will be moving there come July. We spent 2 days playing tourist. I am looking forward to having both her and Sam here in the same state.

Martha getting sworn in as a junior ranger with Ranger Ally.

In other news, I have recently purchased my first acoustic guitar. Now dont let that fool anyone. I currently have extremely minimal guitar skills. I think the last lesson I had was middle school...but never fear I am learning. I try and pick it up at least once everyday and pick away at it. I can even play a song, however primitively. The ulitimate goal here is to get really good, take my guitar out to the bonfire and play. Maybe even take it out toward the rim and let people throw coins;)...or tomatoes if I start singing.
Gennerally speaking, I like to think of myself as an artist. I try to find creativity in almost everything I do. Interpretation is an art and so is enjoying unique things and finding different ways to do the day to day activities. Sorry this one is short and sweet but basically (in a nutshell) this is a handfull of my lifes activities as of recently. More stories to come shortly as I figure out new ways to tell them. Adios.

Monday, April 25, 2011


This place, just as its name suggests, is grand. Not just the canyon itself but everything else seems to be blown up to a larger scale. Visitors, junior rangers, the variety of programs, the pace of things, the community...etc. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The experience has been unique and will give me skills and experience that I have neverhad before.

One of my coworkers looked at me while clossing the visitor center on Saturday and said, "Well, you have survived Easter weekend." Apparently, as I learn later, this is the busiest time of the year. I would have thought Fourth of July. However, we have the same amount of people in July but more staff to deal with the masses. Just This was Saturday....morning meeting, visitor center, unexpected medical(woman passed out and vomitting)in front of the visitor to my mather point back to the visitor center...over 50 junior rangers on the afternoon...close...phewww. Thank goodness for medical and radio training. It is the pace that I will have to keep up with, but your day goes by quickly.

Junior rangers are out in full force. I swear in 25 of them on average after each porch talk. That one was difficult. You must find a topic that you can get into for 15 minutes but one that is able to entertain and audience under the age of 10. I think this one I have the most fun doing. We talk about adventures...and how we learn from our own and remember things from the past. There were many great adventures at Grand Canyon. All of which teach us something. This place is still a mystery but we do not have to know everything about it to appreciate it. Those adventures in history gave us our knowledge of geology, the map of the grand canyon, and our knowledge of the wilderness. We can learn from own own new adventures as well as learn from those who came before us.

This park is a new adventure and deffinetly a different kind of animal. But I am loving the ride. I find myself trying new things and looking back and saying, "Did I relly just do that?" A girl who used shy and reserved...hardly stood up for herself... and was uncertain of the things that were not familar now finds herself talking to hundreds of people at a time, turning strangers into great friends, and grabbing hold of new opportunities. As the rocks break down...character bulds up here. You can see it on the faces of both employee and visitor.Its not that I have found myself or didn't know who I was...I knew that already. I think when you have new adventures you go out on a limb and it all comes flooding back. Sometimes we just need to be reminded.

"Sometimes you need to go out on a limb...because after all, that is where the fruit is." ~ Will Rogers