I have the best job ever, my office is the Grand Canyon, and the season is almost over. Winter’s on its way here at the North Rim of Grand Canyon where I’m a seasonal National Park Ranger. This was the first summer at the canyon for me but not the last. I really can’t see myself ever getting tired of looking into the Grand Canyon. It changes subtly every minute, no every second, as the light and shadows play hide and seek in and out of crevices.
This morning I worked the earliest shift, starting at 6:30 roving around the Grand Lodge area and Bright Angel Point trail. Roving means I take a walk, check out the view, and chat with visitors trying to answer their numerous questions about anything from geology to birds, trails to weather, and how far is it to…. This job is impossible to beat. I get paid to learn, share, meet people from around the world and live, breath, eat, sleep, play and work at one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Grand Canyon National Park. Wow!
I’m not a morning person—or typically late night either—so getting up at 4:30am was a struggle. It felt cold outside the covers and Carson, my dog, slept on while I made my ritual morning double-almond-mocha-breve which I like to enjoy for a quiet hour as I write in my journal and listen to NPR. No fashion statement, wardrobe of the day includes the historic Ranger uniform complete with badge and name tag. I’ll add the iconic “flat top” hat once on duty. My toughest choice is what jewelry to wear. I feel naked without some jewelry. Yet I’m still not happy about the early hour, until…
I step out of my truck and the golden sun rays strike the clusters of needles and corky trunks of this Ponderosa Pine forest. It’s magic. And I haven’t even looked into the canyon yet. So I hurriedly done my hat, zip up both layers of OD-green, grab my backpack and skip 50 yards to the rim of Roaring Springs Canyon to be bathed in the warmth of another sunrise. I’ve heard it said that Rangers get paid in sunsets, yet sunrises are like overtime.
And so I move on to my next duty of the day, a nature walk, leading 11 enthusiastic visitors through the forest for an hour and a half. I talked about the various natural communities that can be experienced, a desert and riparian by hiking into the bottom of the mile deep canyon—14 miles from the north rim—meadows driven through on the way into the park. We got to know the Ponderosa Pine by touch and smell, and yes, there was a little tree hugging going on as well. What a contrast between rough textured bark and its sweet aroma that some describe as vanilla or butterscotch. We also searched for fossils in a rock pile along the trail while enjoying the gentle rattle of leaves from the now golden Quaking Aspen. A delightful morning so far, yet just a little sad, as this is the last nature walk I’ll lead this season.
Then on to the visitor center for awhile. I remembered to bring Shirley’s birthday present, only five days late. I made her a necklace with jasper, serpentine and seed beads over the weekend and my days off. She loves it and instantly put it on. Shirley also makes beautiful jewelry and we’ve been working on a bead trade most of the summer. Guess we better wrap it up, as my season is almost over.
I finished my work day talking about how the endangered California condor has faced many threats yet defied extinction and is on the way to recovery because people cared. And the people there did care. In fact just about everybody who comes to the canyon does care, and they appreciate what a beautiful, beyond words place, Grand Canyon is. This was the last condor talk I’ll give this season.
Yet because I too care and love this amazing place I will return and continue learning about the condors plus the geology, plants and animals, and the cultural history which abounds here. Am I a little sad that my season ends Oct 15th, you bet. But the canyon isn’t going anywhere so I’ll return to the best job ever next summer. And I do look forward to my off season, when I move my RV further south for the winter.
Welcome to my summer world.
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