I have been a park ranger for the National Park Service for about nine years. From the glaciers of Alaska to the shores of the island of Guam, I have been privileged to be a part of a team of rangers, working for a common goal, to protect and preserve the natural, cultural, and historical treasures of our country. Being able to facilitate connections between visitors and their national parks has been the most rewarding aspects of this career. It has been said that our national parks are America's Best Idea: I have to agree.
I think it's imperative that we preserve our national lands, and their stories, not only for the enjoyment they provide, but I firmly believe they allow us to help find our place in a much larger world - and our responsibility to it. As John Muir said - "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe."
My first real Park experience came as a wide-eyed 12-year-old on my first family camping trip in Yosemite National Park, especially the misty hike to Vernal Falls. A few years later, I got my drivers license not to cruise, but to cruise out to Pt. Reyes National Seashore to hike every trail rain or shine, night or day. I had set my dream sights, and never wavered The dream first came true at Natural Bridges National Monument, and donning that flat hat for the first time was one of my proudest moments. I still feel that pride. As pathways of opportunity would allow, I wore that hat most of my career for another excellent organization, the California State Parks. But I couldn't be happier than I am right now representing the National Parks at one of my favorites, Great Basin. I have discovered that I enjoy sharing the wonders of a National Park experience as much as I enjoy the wonders themselves, maybe even more.
I am heartened whenever I discover that something I've done means something to someone else. I had a group of children once join me at a campfire program to demonstrate the growth of a Bristlecone pine. I adorned their wrist with green string bracelets as part of the demonstration. The next day while climbing Wheeler Peak on an off-duty day hike, I encountered a family who recognized me and praised the program. Their daughter was still wearing her green string bracelet.
I was a ranger at Canyonlands National Park for seven years, at the Island in the Sky district, which was the busiest part of the park. We were getting about twenty five hundred people a day and so to come here where we're getting a hundred and fifty to two hundred people a day was a big change for me. Unlike other parks, like Mesa Verde, you can come here and have kind of more intimate experience with the ruins where you can get up close to them and have that time to yourself and just sit quietly. And there's something really special about that. You do have to work a little bit harder to get out here to Hovenweep, but that isolation is part of the experience at the park, I think. You can really sit out here and hear the wind and smell the sage and really just feel like that moment is unique to you. It's important to know that Hovenweep certainly has these amazing ruins and it has this amazing human history, but it has so much more than that. You know it has amazing stars and really dark skies and it has that silence, and it has that that that opportunity to experience something individual that that makes it worth the visit.
Richard Felt is a drama teacher and history teacher who volunteers to play the part of W.H. Harkness in the re-enactments held at Golden Spike National Historic Site throughout the summer months. He first took up the the role for the 100th anniversary re-enactment of the ceremony held at the site in 1969. Richard’s history with the site predates the establishment of the Park and remembers watching his mother take part in re-enactments in the 1950’s. At the time there were no rails or locomotives at the site, only the spot where history was made. “One of the fortunate aspects of of the Golden Spike National Historic site is that the landscape still looks just like it did on May 10th
Mike Oestreich is a locomotive fireman at Golden Spike National Historic Site. He has always had an interest in industrial history of which railroads play a big role. He volunteered for 13 years at the The Railway Museum of Greater Cincinnati in Covington, Kentucky. However, He didn’t learn about steam locomotive operation until he came to Golden Spike. Everything he knows about steam was learned through an informal apprenticeship program where the knowledge of how to run these fully functioning replicas of the “Jupiter” and the “119” has been handed down from preceding engineers and firemen to the newer members of the crew. He sees the work on these locomotives as mix of a hobby and a job. It’s a lot of fun and he enjoys the nostalgia of recreating the history of the transcontinental railroad at the Golden Spike National Historic site.
David Kilton is an interpretive ranger at Golden Spike National Historic Site. He loves history and especially enjoys sharing the story of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10th 1869 at Promontory Summit Utah. “Being a national Park Ranger is an amazing job, it’s the best job in the world. You get to work at amazing places and interact with people who are excited to be visiting the parks. It’s pretty amazing to do something you love.” David told KUED in an interview for National Parks Beyond the Crowds. He is a firm believer that people; and most importantly kids, need to get out and explore the world around them.
I grew up in Cedar City, and my dad was an astronomer. He would help out at the star parties and I would occasionally come up too. It was so cool to see stars and planets and all the night sky objects you wouldn’t normally see in the valley. So I was hooked early on. The star parties are one of the most fun parts of my job. People look through the telescope and they’ll say “that looks like a photo it looks so good” and I have to tell them, “no that's the actual planet Saturn.” It’s fun to watch people react. It's pretty amazing.
At Cedar Breaks, our oldest tree, a bristlecone pine, is turning one thousand six hundred and seventy-nine years old. You can see it on the Spectra Trail. I keep trying to convince the park that we ought to have a birthday party for it every year to celebrate its birthday but the idea hasn't caught on yet, but maybe it'll be something we'll do in the future.
I'm a landscape painter, living with my husband and 12-year old daughter in Parowan, Utah. I cheerfully paint beauty wherever I find it, but there's just more of it in national parks than in my neighborhood. I'm fortunate to live in southern Utah, in painting distance of a half dozen amazing national parks. I'm especially fortunate to have a parks pass and art supplies!
Last summer I painted up at Cedar Breaks with the Cedar Breaks Arts Afire Plein Air Event. That event brought me, Brad Holt and Mary Jabens to paint outdoors in Cedar Breaks during the Wildflower Festival. In 2016, ten artists have been invited to paint and the results should be amazing.
Cedar Breaks National Monument is beautiful, so painting up there seems reasonable. However, there have been complications. Like the altitude---10,000 feet. Think of normal weather in July in Utah--monsoons, wind, thunderstorms, hail. Then picture that weather up there. It's been a little violent. Painting halted abruptly on the fourth of July when an epic deluge hit. Painters, bikers, hikers dashed for whatever cover they could find. It took two trips to get my gear to the car, and I was soaked through before I could drive away. Then there was the time I was painting on the Ramparts Trail one fine, somewhat windy morning when I turned my back for a moment. In that moment, my easel---complete with paint thinner, brushes and a couple tubes of paint----was blown over the edge. I watched in horror as the easel launched and jar of thinner rolled down the vertiginous slope, bouncing gaily over small cliff bands. It just kept going. It may be washed down to Cedar City some day. Fortunately for me, I was able to reach a leg of the easel and haul it up. A passing hiker with a good head for heights edged down a slope that made my knees weak and retrieved my paints and brushes. I was profoundly grateful, but still a mile from the parking lot with no paint thinner. Darn it. I found a more sheltered spot a bit farther from the edge and painted un-thinned.
I have been the paleontologist at Dinosaur National Monument for 34 years. My main research interests are dinosaurs & the ecosystems they lived in. I am also interested in fossil resource management & preservation, & the impacts of 20th century warfare and social revolutions on fossil collections & scientists.
I'm a 3rd generation raft guide who grew up on the banks of the Green River. My first trip through the rapids of Dinosaur National Monument was with my family and Holiday River Expeditions at the ripe old age of 2. Spending 7 seasons as a rafting guide in the deep canyons of Dinosaur has brought me great peace and in many ways feels like a home away from home. Recently I took my passion for this beloved river to the next level and became the Green Riverkeeper Affiliate with Waterkeeper Alliance. I hope to spend my life fighting to protect places like Dinosaur and the whole Green River watershed for generations to come.
Once I took an older man through the Gates of Lodore. He was a retired middle school teacher with many stories to tell around a campfire. He was adamant about doing all the hikes he could, even though his pace was not that of a spry youngster anymore. Because of his slow-gate, we set out just the two of us up a canyon wall at the break of dawn, not hurried by more energetic adventurous. That climb was such a great task for such an uncooperative body; still he plodded slowly, slowly upward, an affable grin on his face... When we stopped at the first viewpoint to take in the magical vista of the snaking Green River with a kiss of sunlight on the western canyon wall, I asked him why he came out this far to rough it with us. He responded wyrley, "I didn't come out here to rough it; I came out here to smooth it!... things are rough enough in town". As we made our way back down towards bacon, eggs, and sandy beaches, I couldn't stop thinking about that answer: even though this trip was such a trial for him, it was exactly where his soul felt most at ease. That was the day I learned about freedom and true grit.
Visiting a park gives us countless examples of how we are still a part of nature, not separate from it. With threats like climate change creating increasing species extinction and rapid spreading of disease, these wilderness areas will be more important than ever. They will create a buffer for the vulnerable, keeping ecosystems in tact, and protecting all of our shared interest in a healthy landscape. They will also invite us back again and again to remember what kind of world we want to see for future generations to come.
Fledgling Raft Guide Lauren Wood with her Father
Growing up I took every opportunity to spend time in nature, whether it was in the nearby Texas Hill Country or on bigger trips to the mountains in New Mexico and Colorado. I’ve always been naturally curious, taking time to observe and learn about the world around me. So it was only fitting that I would seek out a career where I could combine my two interests, putting them to use to make a difference in the world around me. As an Interpreter with the National Park Service, I have the amazing opportunity to learn about these special places firsthand and share their hidden wonder with those who take the time to get to know them too.
Park’s offer the chance to challenge ourselves physically and rejuvenate ourselves spiritually. It’s critically important to preserve these resources now, while they are still intact, so that future generations will have the opportunity to experience and enjoy these pieces of America - its landscapes and people - long after we are gone.
Working at Rainbow Bridge National Monument, a tiny monument located in Southern Utah, I have the opportunity to interact with visitors from all over the world. Some of my favorite experiences are when I get to interact with visitors who have been coming to the Monument for years and don’t expect to learn anything new. It usually doesn’t take long before they realize there is so much more to offer, even at such a small Monument they’ve been to twenty times already, if they are willing to take the time to open their eyes and ears to what is happening all around them. Every day of every season is different, even from one hour to the next as the sun moves across the sky illuminating and bringing to life different parts of the bridge and canyon. It’s a truly magical experience for those who take the time to just be a part of it for a while.
Born and raised in Page, Arizona on the shores of Lake Powell I spent my earliest summers houseboating on the lake and whitewater rafting the Grand Canyon. Sleeping under the bright night skies without four walls to surround me only blossomed my love for the outdoors and the National Parks. Operating our kayaking tour company, Hidden Canyon Kayak, inside of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area brings me year round employment and enjoyment.
I believe that continued support and funding through visitation are the best avenues to keep National Parks not only preserved but also understood for the future generations of the Human Race. With hundreds of memories of the past and hundreds more to come in my future, you could say I'm excited for what tomorrow will bring.
Produced by KUED’s Nancy Green, Joe Prokop, and Paige Sparks, the documentary is part of KUED’s Year of the Parks, celebrating the centennial of the U.S. Park Service.
“While each destination we visit is unique, we used a treasure trove of vintage home movies to weave continuity throughout the piece. One family seemed to travel to all the national monuments in during the 1950s and ‘60s, and we discovered their footage at the Utah State Historical Society and the University of Utah’s Marriott Library,” says Prokop. “It’s a reminder that the wanderlust that drives us to seek more secluded attractions is not a new phenomenon.”
Green says the film crew encountered solitude at every location during the film’s production. “What amazed me was the fact that we’d drive up to a place, park, go to film, and literally be the only ones there,” she says. “I didn’t know you could find that kind of secluded and intimate experience with the landscape anymore.”
Beyond the Crowds also takes viewers on the road less traveled to the majestic Natural Bridges National Monument, Hovenweep National Monument, a spectacular collection of towers poised on the edge of a canyon, once home to over 2,500 ancestral Puebloans; the Golden Spike National Historic Site, where actors re-create the moment the rails were joined in 1869; Dinosaur National Monument, where fossils of dinosaurs remain embedded inside a giant rock wall; and to Rainbow Bridge National Monument, accessed via Lake Powell which was once a sacred site to the Diné.
“For the anniversary of the National Park Service, we wanted to call attention and celebrate these lesser known gems,” says Green.
National Parks: Beyond the Crowds is made possible with the generous support of the following: