~ because not all who wander are lost ~

Monday, March 21, 2011

Needles Internship

It's been almost a month now, so I think it's just about time to finally post something about my current life. I took a semester off from school to complete an internship as an Interpretive Park Ranger in the Needles District of Canyonlands National Park 75 miles south of Moab, UT. I started February 20th and will be done June 10th.

What does that mean?

I get to wear a cool uniform, talk on a radio, drive government vehicles around, manage the campground, collect entrance & bookstore fees, answer questions, answer phones, go on hikes, create and present a campfire program, represent the U.S. Government, and live in one of the coolest places on earth with some of the neatest people.

No, it's not all sunshine and the romantic "National Park Ranger" ideal - sometimes I don't know the answer, sometimes the visitor center hours drag on, sometimes I feel smooshed under the bureaucratic policies, sometimes I miss my family and friends back home and even feel lonely out here in the desert...

...but then a little kid rushes up and asks me a question about coyotes, "Ranger, Ranger!" or I wake up before the sun and watch it paint an ever-changing liquid masterpiece across the sky, or I stand at the edge of a canyon mid-way through a run and listen to my own heart beat in the contented silence broken only by wind and birdsong, and I realize how lucky I am to live out here in the land of glowing rocks. I mean, I live in a National Park! When am I ever going to get this opportunity again? That's all the motivation I need to savor it.

Besides, it's not hard to love this place. Every hike is refreshing. It seems like there is no end to the trails or the things you can learn about this area- and no end to the questions, either. I spend a lot of free time/slow visitors center hours/project time just reading up about the natural & cultural history of the area, the whims and ways of the desert and life itself. It's like school, but so much better because I'm not doing it for a grade, and the parameters are so wide and the interest so keen!

I don't know if this internship will lead me to my life's mission or just help me become confident in my ability to manage a cash register, but either way I aim to help other people out, have grand adventures myself and learn as much as I can about this amazing place. :D