Friday, October 23, 2009

Some "final" Thoughts

Funny how things end up moving so very quickly near the end! It seems like there is still much that I am trying to do before leaving and that doesn't even include such things as trying to see people, which is usually very much a part of this sort of thing! It was strange coming in to open the visitor center this morning and realizing that this is the last time that I will be doing that. The last time I will do the weather, put up the flag, anything... I close everything tomorrow for the last time. I am glad it worked out that way though, I will be the last person to leave the building tomorrow after closing everything down one last time.

I have been getting rather creative with food, trying to eat things up before leaving. I made an excellent pot of stew a couple of days ago that used up a bunch of vegetables and some beef that I had in the freezer. It actually turned out to be some of the best stew I have ever made! Now I need to eat up the rest of it so that I can clean the crockpot and pack that in the car! Other feasts have included such things as pancakes and bratwurst. I had bisquick that needed to be used so I made pancakes for breakfast yesterday morning and I had cooked up some brauts on the grill the other day but didn't have any buns so yesterday for lunch I ate the sausage wrapped in pancakes. It was... interesting!

So last night I was burning the last of the wood I had collected because I need to get everything cleaned tonight and having a bunch of wood stacked up is not the cleanest situation! So anyway, I ended up making quite the fire! The heat nearly drove me out of the room and I unintentionally released smoke out into the room, which quickly permeated the whole house. I discovered that I actually have four smoke detectors in the house, and guess what? They all work!

I have succeeded in getting a lot of stuff, not only packed, but actually in my truck, and will get even more of that done tonight. The plan is still to leave early Sunday morning and start heading east. I have all sorts of maps and directions and plans so we shall see how it all works out! I am attaching my "calendar" as best as I know it at the moment so you have at least some idea where I am! It is very much subject to change and modification of course, but at least it gives you the basic idea!

There is supposed to be rain for a good chunk of tomorrow and there is a 20% chance that it will turn into light snow after midnight Saturday night. I am really hoping that it will not do so, or that it will only be a light dusting, because that could make things a little harder with leaving!

I am also doing all the final check out stuff necessary for me to leave, which includes my official final meeting with Ted, my supervisor. So I had that meeting yesterday and it went extraordinarily well! He definitely did much to confirm me and my abilities as an interpreter. He told me that I have a gift as an interpreter and that he would not only recommend me in any way he could, but also push for anyone to hire me if he was ever given the opportunity. He also told me that I had received more visitor feedback forms than anyone else this summer and clearly was connecting with the visitors in a powerful way as well. And he rated me as exceptional in customer service, interpretation, and for working with others as a team, which are the three main evaluation categories. So basically is was a huge validation of me and what I have done here. He also told me again that they want me back and are planning on me coming in April, but that if something else came along that is totally fine. I have not signed a contract and do not have to come back here if I did change my mind for whatever reason, which was very nice of him as well! And Tom said very similar things today as he left, again telling me that I was a great hire and that he is very glad that he had me come this year and wants me to come back. So that is a pretty nice note to leave on!

Finishing the adventure and soon embarking on the next!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The End has Come: The board is Set: The Pieces are Moving

The end has nearly come! I am down to only nine remaining tours at Wind Cave. That is pretty crazy to think about being finished after doing so many! It has continued to be a lot slower...until today. Apparently schools in Colorado, Minnesota, Iowa, and South Dakota all decided to have parent-teacher conferences and not have school today. Well that had a rather profound impact on us since all sorts of families suddenly showed up at Wind Cave! And only Charlie and I were working today so we had to get rather creative in getting people into the cave. Both Mary and Ted (my supervisors) ended up leading extra tours and we switched the later tours to natural entrance tours in order to facilitate more people. All told we took an extra 100 people through the cave in addition to what our maximum number would have been had everything sold out. Pretty crazy!

That meant I did get to do one final Natural Entrance tour, which was exciting for me. I enjoy that tour a lot more and had fun doing it one last time before leaving. I had all kinds of kids on the tour which is very different from what it has been recently! That meant that my whole tour ended up changing and being very different than what I normally would do. I also had several screaming babies on the tour. I really do not understand why parents bring their infants into the cave. What do they think their child is going to do in that environment?! They do occasionally sleep, but much more often they fuss and scream the entire time. Add to that the fact that I built everything up to the point of lighting the candle and turning off the lights in the post office (the first stop on the tour) only to find that the candle was completely burnt down so I couldn't do it! Luckily we do have a second point later on the tour where you can do a blackout and there is another candle, otherwise I would have had a lot of disappointed people! So it was a very interesting day at work today, to be sure!

I will soon be leaving and departing upon a journey that will take me across much of the country and end back in Phoenix. My first season as a park ranger is nearing its completion!

Living in dangerous wonder...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Garrett Looking Ridiculous on Youtube in Order to Apply to be a Roadie with Invisible Children

So as I have received more and more negative responses from the various national parks that I have applied to for the winter (I just received another "no" from Jewel Cave yesterday), I have begun to think about other possibilities of what I might do in the spring. A few weeks ago I received an email from Invisible Children requesting applicants to be "roadies" for their spring tour. It is something I have thought about doing before, but never actually pursued. However, it might actually be a possibility now because they need people from mid-January through mid- April. So I decided to go ahead and apply. Well part of the application is to submit a five minute video that tells them about yourself and addresses several particular questions. In normal circumstances this would have been fairly simple for me to pull off and a lot of fun to do. However, in my current situation things are a bit more complicated because I do not have access to a video camera or editing program. So I had to get pretty creative in order to put it together.

Through the use of my digital camera I was able to film little bits of video that allowed me to begin putting something together. There is an old version of Windows Movie Maker on one of the computers here, which is ridiculously hard to use and does not allow you to do all sorts of things that I had taken for granted. So my original idea (which was to have me driving and having a conversation with John Muir, who I was going to put in the video as a still picture with my mouth talking, essentially creating a talking head) was severely modified by the end. I also ran into all sorts of other problems like not being able to have two different streams of audio and not being able to superimpose pictures over video, things which it never occurred to me I would not be able to do! I had selected several songs I wanted to use, but the program decided not to read most of them and even when I converted them to different file types (such as MP3 and WAV) they still didn't work, so I had to go to plan H on the music! I had also found several videos that I had taken in various different national parks including a great shot of Yosemite Valley from Glacier Point, a shot looking down Nevada Falls, and footage in the redwoods which I was planning on using. But after a great deal of arguing with the computer I finally conceded that it was not going to read the files and I couldn't use them.  So the video is not good, is not anywhere near what I could have done, and is very different from what was actually in my head originally, but it is still kind of fun to watch. :)

This is the link on youtube (which is how they wanted me to submit the video to them) where you can watch the video. It should take you right to it.

I have also attached the "script" of what I did for the video so that you can follow what I am doing if you choose to do so. There are a few parts of the text that are no longer in the video because I had to cut it down so that the video itself would be less than 5 minutes long. So anyway, if you want to get a good laugh, take a look at it!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I Finally Did It

So all summer I have had a great fear that one day I would somehow mess up and end up going to lead a cave tour and not have my key in my pocket. That would be very bad news because without that key I cannot get in or out of the cave. Well.... today it happened. It really did. I went to give the 11:30 tour and as I arrived at the elevator building I reached inside my pocket and did not have a key....

I have two keys on a little carabineer. One is the key to my truck, and the other is the key to everything here at the cave. Well I had driven into town last night and automatically put my keys down with my wallet and cell phone and not with the other things (like flagging and a lighter) that I always carry with me at work. When I was putting things in my pockets this morning before heading to open up the visitor center apparently I somehow failed to notice I did not have my keys. And the fact did not come to my attention until I was arriving at the elevator with 15 visitors to go down into the cave (I enter a code on a keypad to get into the building in the morning so I had not needed the key for anything yet). So I had to tell them to wait while I ran home (quite literally--I ran all the way to the house and back in my full dress uniform) to retrieve said key. Thankfully I was able to do so and was only three minutes late starting the tour, but it was still pretty ridiculous.

So yes, it is apparently possible for me to be a total spaz and not bring my key with me to work, and thus be unable to get into the cave.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sweeping Chimneys in the Snow

So for those of you who may have been wondering, I did succeed in living through my trip to Jewel Cave on Sunday. It was a near thing though! We ended up spending ten hours in the cave, and during that time surveyed 694 feet of new cave passageway. It was a very very good day! For those of you who are not familiar with cave surveying, a really good day is going to yield 500 feet of surveyed passageway, so this was phenomenal! I came out of the cave looking very much like a chimney sweep, with a lovely layer of manganese covering absolutely every part of me. My caving pants also decided that they had had enough part way through the experience and when I came out I noticed that they had a lot more ventilation in the posterior section than they normally would have. So those pants may be on their way to retirement!

I didn't get to name any rooms, but we did find some exciting new passageways! And I ended up doing all the instrument reading for the entire trip. We only had one set of instruments so another guy went on point and established each survey point and I took the measurements from the previous point and then went to the new one and took the back sites as well. Normally two different people take the opposing measurements, but in this case I did all of it. So every inch of those 694 feet was actually calculated via my measurements!

We came out of the cave into a bit of a snowstorm. It wasn't too bad, but it was definitely snowing and it picked up as we continued on. It was the sort of snow that reminds you of taking off into light speed as you are driving along. It also brought images of sliding and slipping off the road to the forefront of my mind! But we did make it back safely. The snow had turned to rain before we got back to wind cave, so after spending a copious amount of time and effort cleaning myself in the shower I went to bed to the sound of rain utterly exhausted and feeling like I would never move again.

When I awoke I discovered that things had changed during the night. I opened the curtains next to my bed to discover a winter wonderland, a land completely covered in a soft blanket of snow. It had a magical quality to it, much like the classic image of awaking Christmas morning to find a similar coating surrounding you. The snow has since mostly melted, but that first snow was rather magical. Now I am hoping I don't get too much of it in the next month that I am still here!