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

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Only Constant

It is easy to get lost in the Grand Canyon. Not just lost of your physical location, but lost in your own thoughts, and lost in time.

The allure of entering the canyon is intimidating and exhilerating. One can do everything in their power to make sure that they are prepared. Water, check. Compass and map, check. Food, (oh wait we dont have to carry food at this park...the mules do that for us) check! Snacks just in case I become ravenous, check. Camera, check. Comfortable shoes, change of clothes, rain coat, check , check, and check. The canyon wonderer is as prepared as can be....for the expected and maybe some of the unexpected. But what the canyon will throw at you might be something that can't be prepared for ...but maybe it is suppose to prepare you.

A place of this size and this much wonder causes you to look at the world from a different angle. And with the steep trail and various vantage points there are plenty of angles to choose from. As you desend from above you start to notice that the trail changes...from red powder to yellow rock to green shale. Tiny seashells and corals peek out from the Kaibab limestone 7,000 feet above sea level. This is a place where no ocean should least for now. What took shallow seas millions of years to create I am crossing in just hours. And these crumbly layers of green, yellow, and red did not stand a chance against the powerful river below... ripping its way through the rock in a blink of an eye (that is if you compare it to my hike), 5 million years. Given enough time nothing is more changable than rock.

Keeping an eye on the south rim is hard. Shifting back an forth, switchback to switchback all directions seem blurred. The only thing you know for certain is that you are standing on the south side of the river. Many might look and say golly...that sure is a lot of rock. Surely they are right there is a lot of exposure. I admit the rocks are what I saw when I first glanced at it. But the canyon has away of changing views and as I stare down to the river and then up and down the canyon walls I think, " That there is a lot of space where rocks used to be." Trillions of tons of sediment were removed from this area. Sure makes my 5'7'' self feel pretty insignificant.

The changes that have occured here are so measurable that they can be seen, traced, back and relived through science and imagery. You can feel the power of the Colorado River as you sink your hands into the icy water and let the sand, newly grinded at the bottom, slip through your fingers. Life has adapted in the canyon and rocks have fallen from the top and into place somewhere along the way. Different levels hold a unique power over the landscape and it all comes together to form an ever changing wonder. Sitting among it all we can all become a part of the canyon because we are alive and can are here. Soon however, we like the rock, will be reshaped by something else. When we do become lost in thought and long for stability in an ever evolving universe we can be certain of one thing. The only constant here is change.