Thursday, September 24, 2009

One More I Forgot!

I forgot one other thing I meant to include in that last email! I received another visitor comment form today, which is always exciting, but what was especially exciting about this one was not what the visitor had written on the form as much as what my boss wrote on it. Every time I get a comment form it goes to my direct supervisor, the chief of interpretation, and to the superintendent of the park. They generally make some general comment such as "nice job" or "good work," but on this particular one Tom, the chief of interp who is also the one who has the final say about who gets hired and who does not, wrote, "Garrett, you were a great hire and we look forward to working with you again next year."

That definitely made me feel good about what I am doing! And it is also pretty close to a written promise of a job next summer!

The Unexpected Blessings and Gifts of God

I have received several wonderful gifts from God in the last few days. It has been quite wonderful and I wanted to share at least a little of that with you!

On Tuesday one of the other rangers called in sick. He has actually been sick the last three days, which has greatly complicated things since there are so few of us left, but on Tuesday it did have an unexpected benefit for me and that was that I ended up covering the elk program for him that night. I had thought that I was only going to get to do the program once, but I actually had the opportunity to do it again! The bad part of that was that I had to close the visitor center, which meant I was here until 6:30 and then had to start the program at 7:00 so it gave me basically no time to prepare. That meant I didn't have time to look at my notes or anything at all. But it still came off quite well. I had fun with it and received a lot of very positive comments about it. One in particular came from a lady who said she has been coming to the program and bringing friends for years and mine was by far the best she had ever been to!

We heard the elk some during the program, which is rare because they usually are not right by the campgrounds. So I figured we would hear a lot when we went out. But we didn't. :( We hardly heard anything at all! And of course I had 30 people come out there with me! So I was being very apologetic and several people stopped me and said it was fine, they were glad to be out there anyway. And I ended up staying out there with several people until 9:45 just being outside and enjoying the night and watching as the stars were slowly revealed as a layer of clouds was peeled away. So what appeared to be a disappointment actually turned into a gift. 

Another part of that story is a family of eight, including six kids who I met that evening. I talked to them at length in the Visitor Center earlier that day and again just before closing and then they stayed out with me the entire time. I also made four of the kids junior rangers the next morning and so talked to them even more. They are from New Hampshire but have been on the road traveling in an RV (with six kids ages 4-17) since December of 2007! The mom is homeschooling all six kids and they are just traveling around the country seeing all the parks. They had just spent several weeks in Alaska a couple of months ago. How awesome is that! I want to do that! But at least I got to hear about it and be a part of their experience. :)

Last night I finally got to go hike out into the prairie the way I have been wanting to for quite a while. I put together my pack, which was very strange because in included things like a full size pillow and an extra blanket, which is not usual backpacking fair! I then headed out simply walking from my house into the prairie. I want out a couple of miles and found a lovely ridge overlooking a large section of the rolling prairie and set up camp. It was so amazing! It was an absolutely superb night sky and I heard the elk all around me! A couple of particular gems included seeing an elk approach me in the dusk and bugle less than 40 yards in front of me! Then I just laid out under the stars for quite some time, taking in the majesty around me. I was already feeling peace and love descend upon me, but then I read a letter that I had received yesterday and brought along with me, and those feelings were only increased and abounded. It was a beautiful experience! 

It was quite cold sleeping out there, but I made it through to awake just in time to view a gorgeous sunrise over a nearby ridge. I was going to leave pretty soon after that, but then the elk started moving again and from my vantage point I watched five different groups moving around the prairie. I twice had elk come within 50 yards of me and got to see them bugle and heard the cows from a distance not much further than that. It was a gift. It was a gift that inspires the soul to sing and sour above the heavens.

How glorious is our God in Heaven and his creation here amidst our lives!

And to add one more thing today I also managed to arrange things so that I am going to be able to take an extra day off next Wednesday, which will allow me to go surveying in the cave again! So I will have another opportunity to venture into the unknown frontier!

I am in a very good, healthy, and peaceful place and am feeling very blessed indeed.

On a not as exciting note I did find out today that Tammy (a fellow ranger who also has a history degree and has 1.5 years of experience as opposed to my five months and who had actually had an interview whereas I have yet to receive a phone call) did not get the job at Death Valley, which means it is almost a guarantee that I will not get it. I also now know that Carlsbad is basically not an option for this winter and found out today that there were more than 100 applicants for the two open positions at jewel cave. So in a nutshell, the three places that were my best bets for getting a winter job all look like a no go. Which means that I have a very very low chance at this point of finding a winter job. But I am trusting that whatever happens will be an opportunity for me to grow, advance, and learn!

Resting in His Peace,


Friday, September 18, 2009

The Blessings of Nature

So I gave my elk program last night, and is was so much fun! I forgot some of the things I had hoped to do, said some things in a different order, and my videos didn't work the way they were supposed to, but it was still really really good and people had a very positive reaction to it. I had 26 show up for the campground presentation about the elk and 22 people went out with me to actually listen to the elk. That group included many of the people that were staying in the campground as well as numerous others that simply came for the sole purpose of attending the elk program.

I had one couple from Rapid City who has been wanting to come to the program for 38 years but never made it and they finally came last night. As they were leaving they came up to me and told me that the program had been worth waiting 38 years for. That was a pretty excellent compliment!

And the elk performed! It was amazing. As soon as we got out of the cars I heard one bugle about 300 yards away and it got better from there. We had two going back and forth, both of which were within 200 yards of where we were standing. And it was made even better because it was an absolutely beautiful night with a perfectly clear sky where we could see an abundance of stars.

So I also ended up giving an impromptu night sky program in which I showed the few things I actually know (such as the dippers, the north star, Cassiopeia, the summer triangle including Altair, Deneb, and Vega, Signus the Swan, and Scorpio) and just generally enjoyed the sky as well.

I was supposed to leave at 9:00, but ended up staying out there with a few people until 9:30 just listening and looking at the stars.

It would have been an amazing experience to take part in, but I was actually the one leading it. The experience of those 22 people was defined by me. I was the ranger that created the opportunity for them to experience the majesty of nature. And they did! Several people made comments to me about how good the program was, how much they enjoyed it, and how amazing it was just being out like that.

And I was getting paid! My job is to go out and enjoy the majesty of nature!

I am feeling very blessed!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Oregon Trail to the Rockies

I have returned from my journey along the Oregon Trail to the Rocky Mountains. And an interesting journey it was too! The journey began on Thursday evening when I departed Wind Cave to drive down to Chimney Rock in Nebraska. I arrived at the landmark successfully and pulled in front of the gate blocking my way into the parking lot. I wanted to get a closer look at the visitor center in hopes of determining whether it would be worth staying to see it the next morning. Well I got out of my truck with the intention of crossing the open parking lot to the visitor center. I did not bring a light because the lights from the visitor center illuminated much of the parking lot and the section that was not so illuminated had just been viewed in my headlights so I knew it was merely an open parking lot. Or so I though! I had taken two steps when I heard a sound that stopped me dead in my tracks. The sound was unmistakable, a sound that I recognized the instant I heard it and a sound I knew I would do well to pay attention to. It was the clear sound of a rattlesnake originating a very short distance in front of me. I slowly backed up and turned the headlights back on. Once again stepping out of my truck I looked around the front to discover that the snake was about two feet in front of my truck and about one a half feet from where I had just stopped, directly in the path I was intending to walk. It was still poised and ready to strike and would certainly have done so had I not aborted my intention. That was certainly a notable way to start my journey!

I spent that night in my truck (I had thought to sleep out under the stars, but the encounter with the snake quickly amended that plan!) at an overlook above chimney rock. I awoke the next morning to find the rock directly outside my window. After doing some initial exploration, including walking through the cemetery that lay a short distance from my sleeping spot, I sat in the back of my truck and wrote the email that I later sent in regard to 9-11 and some of my recent thoughts concerning what it means to be free. I finished that just about the time the visitor center opened so I went through it before heading on down the Oregon Trail. I also stopped at Scott's Bluff, another significant landmark along the trail, where I saw the swale of wagons that had passed and had some amazing views of the trail. From there I followed the trail again before stopping at Fort Laramie in Wyoming. The fort was not in great condition as much of it was dismantled by settlers in the late 1890's and the wood and materials were taken elsewhere. Even so, I was still able to see some structures, and I found a canon, which I immediately had to sit on to take a picture (that picture is attached). Fort Laramie played an important role, not only on the Oregon Trail, but also as the central command post of the Indian wars of the 1860's and 70's. That included being the site of the treaty signed in 1868 which designated the Black Hills as the property of the Lakota Sioux.

With a final quick stop at the Guernsey wagon ruts, which are still very visible in the rock, I headed on to Greeley where I joined Kristen and Corey in a weekend of adventure. We spent all day Saturday at the Highland Games in Estes Park. While not as large or impressive as the ones in Pleasanton, they were still great fun. I wore the kilt, of course, and partook in the viewing of such activities as jousting, bagpiping, firing bowling balls from cannons, and celtic rock music. Very fun! =)

On Sunday I attended church with Kristen and Corey for the first time in several months. It was a very welcome change. :) We also had fun just hanging out, playing tennis, watching movies, eating chalupa, and looking at pictures. And Kristen completely destroyed me at Settlers of Cattan, thus breaking a lengthy winning streak. Good job Kristen!

After departing Greeley on Monday I decided to go back to Estes Park and spend some time in the mountains. So I drove all the way to the top of the trail ridge road in Rocky Mountain National Park, hiked around a little bit, watched some elk and listened to them bugle, and otherwise enjoyed the mountains. I love being up in the mountains. It is a place where the soul is easily and truly renewed and given peace.

Now I am back to work once more, and am about to leave to give my first of three tours today. Tomorrow I get to lead the elk program in the evening, which I am very excited about! I hiked out at dawn again this morning and once again head bugling, and saw elk as well, though only from a distance. It was not quite as close or personal as last week, but still very peaceful and awe inspiring. God is renewing my spirit, and for that I am immensely grateful!

Fun Affirmation

So I just finished a tour and have a few minutes before giving another tour and wanted to share a bit about what just happened. I have been having a terrible time getting out of tours on time because my crowd is generally older and almost always much more curious and inquisitive. So I am getting a lot more questions, and interesting questions too. On this last tour I had a lot of more personal questions in regard to what I am doing and what I will be doing when I leave here. That resulted in one man staying behind after to tell me that he has lots of connections with the Kentucky state park system. He gave me his information and told me that if the federal position doesn't come through I should call him to see if I could get an interpretive position at the state level. That was interesting!

I also had another lady tell me that it was the best tour or program she had ever been on. That definitely helps make me feel good about what I am doing! I have received several such comments over the course of the summer, which certainly seems to affirm that I am doing something that I do well.

I also received a visitor comment form yesterday which contained this comment...

"Garrett gave us such an inspiration to live life to its fullest for whatever time God has given us on this earth."

That really made me smile. =) I do not ever mention God on the entire tour and do nothing to overtly talk about the bible, John 10:10, living life to the full, or anything like that. However the message does permeate my tour, especially my conclusion. And it was really exciting to read how much of an impact that had on someone. yay!