Tuesday, July 28, 2009

More News from the Windy Cave

So life continues to be exciting and an adventure here at Wind Cave! I won't give you a daily description this time, but the adventure is certainly continuing! I have continued to get to see a lot of the surrounding area and hope to go on a short backpacking trip this next weekend. The only bummer is that I will have to go alone because there is not anyone here to go with me. :( But it will still be a fun adventure!

I have done some hiking around the prairie in the last few days and have seen a wonderful world around me. In addition to beautiful sunsets and a serene atmosphere I have seen deer, pronghorn (including absolutely adorable babies!), and lots of elk! I saw one heard of 159 elk by official count (it may have been more than that) while I was hiking. So there are elk in the park!

I am giving the candlelight tour for the fourth time tomorrow. I have a lot of fun with that as I portray a member of the 1902 survey team! I am actually trying to get authorized to do the tour in full costume and character, which would be very fun for me!

I am also in the process of putting together my campfire program, which is centered on the idea of preserving the wilderness. I get to talk about Lewis and Clark, mountain men like John Colter and Jedediah Smith, the mission of the parks service, the story of the bison, and maybe even a little of Wild Bill Hickok and the old west. We will see how it all turns out! I will be presenting that for the first time at some point next week. I will receive my schedule for the next two weeks on Thursday.

I also just found out that I am for sure going to be here at Wind Cave through August 29 and possibly longer than that. I don't know for sure how long, but it looks like I have a pretty good chance of being able to stay at least a week or two into September. I really hope that I am able to do exactly that! I want to stay as long as I can before I have to leave this place and this job.

I made a few other significant decisions as well. I officially sent word to Sharp's that I am not going to be coming back to work again. So I am finished there. No bookkeeping again for me! I am on to something new and better. I don't know for sure what that means, but I am going for it!

I have applied for jobs at Death Valley, Mojave, the Everglades, and Big Bend National Parks for the winter season and am going to continue to apply for anything else I can find in hopes of working at one of those sites for the winter months. If I do not get hired at any of those places my plan is to stay here as long as possible, go back to Oroville for a little while, and then ?????

Life is certainly an adventure!

Please keep me in your prayers and if you have any thoughts or ideas do be sure to let me know!

~Ranger Garrett

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Official Ranger Update

Hello friends!

I figured it was about time to give you an official ranger update! I do not do very well most of the time with getting online and checking email so I have not been so good about keeping anything updated! I have actually been here at Wind Cave for two full months now. Crazy! It feels like I just got here! I am not sure how much longer I will be here, but possibly only about another four weeks. :( I am definitely loving it here and would love to stay longer! This is without any doubt the best job I have ever had. It is also, without a doubt, something that I want to do for the rest of my life, or at least quite a long time!

I am able to do nearly everything that I am passionate about here in this position and I love it! Just to use the last few days as an example...

Friday, July 10
I finally had a day off after ten days straight of working following Kristen's wedding so I decided to go adventuring! I went on a tour of another cave, went into an old gold mine, saw a presidential wax museum, went to an amazing reptile centered zoo called reptile gardens that included the largest collection of poisonous snakes in the world, and then went to a driving zoo called bear country where you could see lots of different animals including about 20 black bears, a grizzly bear, and both grey and timber wolves. After that I came back to Wind Cave to join five others in a caving your through the legendary "spillway" down to the club room, which is one of the largest rooms in the cave that few people ever see. It was very exciting to get to go down there! And I ended up meeting and becoming friends with three of the rangers from Jewel Cave.

Saturday, July 11
After meeting Laura on the tour down to the clubroom I decided to join her as she led Jewel Cave's spelunking tour. It is very different then Wind Cave, but equally as exciting. Laura encouraged me to join several of the rangers in going on a hike through the forest to find another cave called "ice cave" later that evening. So after eating some excellent pizza in Custer (by myself) I drove out and joined about a hundred people in finding the ice cave! There is not ice in it this time of year, but it was still very interesting.

Sunday, July 12
I had to go back to work, but work meant giving my discovery talk about the Call of the Wild and the Buffalo on the front lawn and then giving two tours through the cave. Not too bad for a days work. :)

Monday, July 13
Another fun day of giving tours and working at the visitor center!

Tuesday, July 14
After working all day one of the other rangers asked me if I would be willing to take a group of ten high school students who are here doing work on the campgrounds on the wild cave tour for a special tour. So, I took them in for a four hour tour at 6:15, getting out of the cave at 10:15. I then proceeded to get in my waiting vehicle to drive to Rapid City to watch the midnight showing of "Harry Potter."

Wednesday, July 15
I got back to the park at 4:30 and then proceeded to sleep for two and a half hours before reporting to work in the morning. In addition to our hour and a half walking tour I also gave the wild cave tour again! For those of you who don't know, the wild cave tour is our four hour spelunking tour through the wild part of the cave. I came out of the cave just in time to get in a car with three other rangers and go over to jewel cave to do their spelunking tour again! After that adventure we stopped for pie in Custer and arrived back home around 10:30.

Thursday, July 16
I began the day at 7:30 by opening the visitor center and then I got to give my hike for the first time! I took people out on the prairie and led a hike for two hours while telling them about the plants, animals, and cultural significance of the area. So fun! Then I came back to the cave and gave a couple of tours before now. My roommate Deric is training for the Wild Cave tour and so I am going to go back in the cave for my sixth caving trip in seven days tonight to take him through the route. Crazy!

So there is a look at what my life here is often like. Always and adventure and lots of fun! I have to go to the visitor center to get internet access and have to drive quite a distance away to get cell phone reception, but it is definitely worth the inconvenience to be able to do what I am doing. :)

I am currently giving all five tours of the cave that we offer, giving discovery talks on the front lawn, leading a your hour hike on the prairie, and working at the visitor center. I am working on developing a campfire program that I will give for the first time in two weeks at the nightly campfire in the campgrounds!

I actually have the next couple of days off. I was going to go over to badlands, but now they are having an ice cream social tomorrow night that would be really fun to go to, so I may stick a bit more local this weekend and save the overnight trip for another weekend. There is plenty that I can see and do right here in the park and in this region!

Attached is a picture that Callie took of me demonstrating the flow of air out of the natural entrance at wind cave at the beginning of one of the tours!


"The possibilities of wonderful discoveries by exploration are beyond the most visionary ideas of man"
   -Myron Willsie--official survey of Wind Cave, 1902