Tuesday, April 5, 2011

There is Just Something About the National Parks...

I think it would be fair to say that I possess an affinity for National Parks.This has long been true but has perhaps never been more evident than it is now.

I first visited Shenandoah National Park in May of last year in late spring. I hiked several trails within the park including one that took me alongside the beautiful cascading water of the Rose River. As I hiked along that trail I found myself thinking that if there were ever a perfect spot to propose, I was in it. It was with that thought in mind that I brought Alison to that same trail in August, and though there was certainly no proposing that took place, that hike did mark the moment of our first kiss and the beginning of our romance. We returned to the park again in October to enjoy the colors of fall, thus completing for me a record of visitation in three of the fours seasons.

When I found myself a few months later thinking about how I would want to propose to Alison there really wasn't much of a question. And thus I found myself hiking the same trail with a ring in my pocket seven weeks ago in the final remaining season. Little did I know when I devised that plan that only a few days after the proposal I would be offered an eight month position working as a Park Ranger in the very same park. So now, seven weeks later I find myself engaged to be married while living and working in Shenandoah. This place will ever hold a very special place in my heart. :)

I am officially in uniform as an NPS ranger once again, this time aiding visitors in understanding and experiencing the wonders of the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is different in almost every way to what I was doing on the Mall! I have certainly enjoyed these first two weeks and am rapidly learning and applying that newfound knowledge in my interactions with visitors. My first significant moment of interpretation and guidance while working as a ranger at Shenandoah had nothing to do with that park, however. My very first day on the desk I found myself talking to a couple about the cherry blossoms in Washington, DC, thus interpreting the very same thing I would have done had I been on the Mall in that moment.

I was blessed with the opportunity to enjoy the beauty of the blossoms myself last week, despite no longer living in the immediate area. The single biggest challenge in me taking this job in Shenandoah is being away from Alison as she continues to live in DC. Thankfully I have been able to come and spend each of my days off so far with her, including last Tuesday when we occupied ourselves by playing model for a fledgling professional photographer as he took a series of fun pictures of us with the blossoms around the Tidal Basin including several featuring my NPS flat hat. We had a lot of fun enjoying the blossoms and will hopefully get some fun engagement pictures out of it as well!

The weather in Shenandoah has been anything but spring like for most of my time there thus far. I awaken each morning to temperatures below freezing and last week twice awoke to more than 2 inches of fresh snow on the ground. The second storm was this past Friday and after work I went and hiked up to the highest point in the park and enjoyed some spectacular scenery covered with a blanket of snow as the sun was setting.

My affinity for National Parks is not limited to working, living, and proposing in one. It is looking increasingly likely that I will also be getting married in one. It is a distinct possibility that Alison and I will be married at the Yosemite Valley Chapel in Yosemite National Park (http://yosemitevalleychapel.org/photos.htm) on Saturday, January 14, 2012. This is not set in stone, nor something to count on at all at this point, but is certainly a rapidly emerging preference for both of us.

Life certainly continues to be an adventure!

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