May 14-23, 2017
Every year after a six month vacation I return to my seasonal job as a Park Ranger and have forgotten how much time 40 hours a week cuts into life. I’ve been busy and rather negletful of keeping up with the blog, or taking photos. Should be back into the swing soon now that the North Rim is open and I have a daily schedule to keep. So here’s a little catchup.
Everyone worked Sunday to get the last minute things ready for opening the North Rim Monday, May 15th. It was touch and go this spring to meet that long upheld date due to priority repairs on 300 feet of broken waterpipe. Hats off to those folks for finishing two weeks earlier than projected.
I had opening day off so missed that first big rush. I was partly disappointed but also relieved. On the drive out of the park Monday morning the line at the entrance station didn’t look terribly long for an opening day. Yet I heard there was a 45 minute wait at the entrance station at one point.
Even though it’s a long 1 1/2 hour drive to Kanab I love to see the changes over time, seasons, and life zones. Ponderosa Pine and Aspen forest border meadows so perfect visitors often ask who mows them. During some Springs, out of the last nine I’ve seen, the meadows have been buried in white and now only a few patches remain in the forest’s shade.
Ten miles of the drive along SR67 winds through an obvious burn from the 2006 Warm Fire where a new forest returns to life. Young aspen cluster together under the remains of burned, weathered, and broken trunks, less seen every year as they topple to create a new generation of soil. I look for condors here in this open area where they could see to the ground for a possible meal. Some of the twisted and contorted tops of these snags fool me into seeing a bird perched. Plus there’s the view across the Marble Platform edged by the Vermilion Cliffs to the north and Echo Cliffs to the east. On a clear day, Navajo Mountain towers high at 100 miles away. But no time to stop this day.
After 45 minutes to Jacob Lake the pine forest thickens before descending off the Kaibab Plateau through junipers and pinyon pines as the elevation drops 3000 feet. Sage Flats stretches about 10 miles looking like it dead ends at the walls of the Vermilion Cliffs where Kanab lies nestled at the cliff’s feet.
I left my sickly PC in the competent hands of the “Old Geezer”, Jack, and hoped he could bring it back to life or at least save the data and photos I was behind backing up to external drives. Then went to lunch at my favorite Mexican restaurant, Escobars, where Marie always remembers what I’ve ordered before. Chili Rellenos with rice and beans for lunch and an extra chili to go. Picked up a few groceries and headed back home for a reverse of the amazing drive to town.
Laundry day on Tuesday. The building that houses washers, dryers, and showers was a pigpen. Really wondered if my clothes would be cleaner afterwards. Plus one dryer was wonky so took three hours to do three loads. Laundry is one of those chores that is way far down my list. But at least I could walk to the rim and enjoy a peak into Transept Canyon.
Wednesday afternoon my friend Bernie topped out of the canyon and we spent the afternoon talking away. He is on a through hike from Mexico to Canada joining several long trails with some bush-waking along the way. Not his first long haul. Girlfriend Stacey and he have spent many summers hiking long trails like the Pacific Crest, Appalachian, Georgia, Florida, and Arizona trails. Care packages arrived on time with food, a new backpack, and a surprise new camera to replace the one that died along the way.
Thursday was my Monday, and felt like my opening day. Opened the visitor center and gave the 10am geology talk. I actually remembered it. My first day in uniform, thank goodness my 15 year old Italian Vasques still take a shine. (One polished and one not.) The National Park Service requires a polishable leather boot or shoe. Women’s boots like that are not easy to find. I’m going to order Italian made Scarpa boots online and hope they fit. The old Vasques have been resoled twice yet show their years of wear.
Geology talk again Friday. Bernie hit the Arizona trail on his journey north. Visitors stopped some people from carving their names in the rocks along the Bright Angel Point trail. Unfortunately they didn’t get a photo and the culprits weren’t caught. Law Enforcement went looking and said the damage wasn’t deep so could be rubbed out. More visitors stopped a man from flying a drone on the same trail. Thanks to the people visiting national parks for helping us out. We can’t be everywhere at once.
I have mice in the RV. Came home for lunch and this furry varmint was huddled in the middle of the living room rug and not in a hurry to move even as I came closer. Not a good sign. I actually caught it wearing gloves with a towel and threw it outside. I have since caught three more in the awful deadly traps. Don’t like to do that but they should stay outside.
Saturday morning I again opened the visitor center and had the rest of the afternoon to work in the office. I wasted a lot of time with lousy computers and old software trying to make signs for my evening and campfire programs. Not quite there yet as they are difficult to read. Plus chipmunk babies were removed from our prop cupboard along with many other things like the felt condor to show size and markings plus the images shared for our condor talk. So I had to find, print and laminate more photos.
Then Sunday I presented my first condor talk of the season, 4:30pm at the campground amphitheater, for seven visitors. Among them, an awesome family of four living full time in a RV, home schooling, and working on the road. The really cool two children finished their Junior Ranger books and I swore them in and gave them badges. Starting with the dad, they all gave me hugs before continuing their journey. This kind of interaction is the best part of my job.
Monday’s my Friday. I opened the visitor center and worked it two hours with a steady flow of visitors mostly asking, “I just got here, what do I do?” After orientation on the park map I send them on their, hopefully, happy way. Many rim to rim hikers checked in to make sure potable water was on along the trail. Problem with that is that a rock can fall at any time and take out water pipe so it’s good to carry purification or filtration options. After a few more hours in the office I roved for a couple hours along the rim, my happy place.
Back to Kanab on Tuesday to retrieve my healthy PC. It needed a bit of cleaning up both inside and out. Then joined Bill for lunch at the new (opened in September) Peekaboo Canyon Wood Fired Kitchen which was delicious but touristy expense. Outdoor seating is dog friendly. Then a few more groceries for myself and others and back home along that beautiful drive once again.
I’ve taken hardly any photos of the canyon. Or barely any at all. While working I’m usually at the rim during the middle of the day when the light is worst for making photos. After work, I’m tired so haven’t even seen sunset over the canyon yet. Been feeling in a slump photo wise. My small Nikon Coolpix is acting up and of course out of warranty. Many of these photos were taken with a Sony PowerShot Bernie left behind and my phone. Plus I realize the tripod needs to be used with my big Nikon for quality shots and it’s heavy and I’m lazy. I’m going to work on that.
Don’t get me wrong, I do love my job, for six months of the year, but 40 hours a week sure does cut into life and free to choose where to travel.
Think I’m caught up now.
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