Until now I never told anybody what I did last summer. There was this one person who said they knew what I did, but they were way off base. It all started with the Land Rover I borrowed from a friend. I had no plan. No plan at all. I just started driving and eventually found myself in the desert. There I met this gnarled old medicine man who told me I was destined for great things. He smelled funny. And then he disappeared.
Let me first explain myself. I am not a brave person by nature. I once spent three hours in my little sister's playhouse hiding from a bee. Turns out it was just a small speck of ash on the wind from a neighbor's charcoal grill. Keep this in mind.
It was a day much like any other. The sun shown brightly, bathing the forest in a warm glow. It broke through the canopy's small gaps like a cascading river of light, pooling in the mossy forest floor. As it happens, a careless but presumably well meaning individual left their campfire to relieve themselves, and the flames went walkabout. If this happened near a campground, the fire would have been addressed quickly.
I discovered it on my morning hike to check the back trails. Smoke on the horizon. I was several miles from the nearest ranger, and I flat out ran the other way in terror. My voice was hoarse from screaming. It was only when I remembered my wand on my back pocket that I summoned the courage to summon some courage.
What did I do then? I beat that fire out with my pants.
I've been on the job for almost two months now. I made it through winter without frostbite, made a few friends, am pretty sure I saw a pack of Knarls, and even had a close encounter with two black bear cubs. And by close I mean at a distance and by encounter I mean snapped a photo with a telephoto lens. It was super adorable.
Now about these tourists. Give me bears any day of the week. Most of them come marching and cruising right through the park, iPads and iPhones thrust into the air, in front of their face, and dangling on selfie sticks. A quick shot and a panoramic and they're on to the next landmark.
They don't stop and listen to the sound of the forest. They don't notice the animals in the trees. They don't gasp at the size the trunks, the height of the towering Redwoods, or the stop to smell the moss. They trample the delecate and rare plant life beside large signs stating "Please don't trample the delecate and rare plant life." They're just capturing highlights to be "enjoyed" later on small screens and square aspect ratios.
It's depressing. It's as if they're all bewitched by an Obscuro charm.
I've begun to live for the days where I'm out on the back trails, the farside of the North Ridge, the hard to reach areas where the adventurers travel. I met a man yesterday who had never heard of Facebook. Can you imagine?
My New Goals
1. Teach Appreciation
I'm taking it as my mission in this job to teach these people to appreciate what they have out here. The next time someone hands me their oversized smart phone, I'm going to have them turn around and actually look at the thing they're posing in front of. My captain doesn't think it's a good idea, he's just happy there are people entering the park. But that's not enough for me.
2. Ride an Elk
Vargatesh told me the ultimate challange and test of will for a Park Ranger is to ride a wild Roosevelt Elk.
I know he was messing with me (as any former Indian pop star would) but I'm going to show him. If a Cicuro charm could tame the Loch Ness Monster, I'm sure it could work on simple beast. I came pretty close to one, even managed to feed it some sugar cubes, but he wouldn't let me approach his hindquarters. I'm going to bring my wand every day from now on.
3. Blog More
I started out so ambitious with this blog, but just two days in I fell into the "I'll write tomorrow" pattern and almost 2 months have gone by. Unacceptable. So I promise I will write more from here on out. I should probably also get one of those hit counters, don't you think?
My first day was relatively uneventful. In fact, it was paperwork for the better part of the morning. I kind of like paperwork though, so I didn't mind (don't tell anyone).
After all the necessary forms were finished though, we headed out for some trail inspection, one of our primary duties. Fellow ranger Taylor Shotwell and I clocked almost 8 miles of snowshoeing. We didn't see a single other soul. I could get used to this. I suspect everything is going to be a bit different in the spring.
The next few weeks are going to be pretty full of:
- Hiking and snowshoeing
- Checking the remote way stations
- Black bear tracking
Oh, and I saw a fox! I barely restrained myself from shouting for Seamus Finnegan before I realized it was just covered in snow and not a Patronus Charm. I'm on the look out though. You never know when you might run into a wizard. You need to be ready.