Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Facility Day

The day always starts early on Facility days. The alarm never truly goes off because I am always afraid of missing it so I am constantly waking up to check if I missed it. I quit fighting sleep at 328 AM and rose out of the prison mattress bed and shut the alarm off. My stuff was already in the kitchen as to not wake the sleeping housemates even though most nights they keep me awake. I dressed, double checked that I had everything, and went into the kitchen to grab my food and head out the door. At the Access Road at 345 AM, I started my ascent without a headlamp because the moon was still bright. Mission #1: Find another crew member's keys that she lost last night. Mission failed.

Arriving at approximately 423 AM, I started right into my chores of the morning...flush the pools, clean the indoor and outdoor pools, fill the water tank, remove the wood rat nest, see if I could fix the door (unsuccessful), check the electric fences and hope not to get shocked, and hang the wag bag (poop bags) box so the wood rat doesn't keep getting into it. With all finished in ample time, I laid down on the unsteady cot for a quick nap. The birds awoke early and started feeding before I realized what was going on because they placed rabbits in the facility not a calf. I started taking notes. I had already missed sunrise and the sun doesn't allow for great photos. Well, the dirty one-way glass doesn't help matters either.

I walk into the outer room to use the facility which is a toilet seat with a bag attached and there is Mr. Wood Rat. I chase him down the hall. I absolutely hate rodents. They just look dirty. I chase him out the door and then I close up the bottom of the door and use duct tape to secure it. I am sure he knows a dozen holes to come through.

It is quiet in the observation room. And then I listen intently. I feel like I am inside of a wasp nest as a zillion yellow jackets buzz outside. The air is filled with them. They fly into the windows. They smell my fear of having to stick the Epi-pen in my leg if I get stung. I wonder where they are going to land the helicopter when they have to fly we out because I have quit breathing. And then I whip my attention back to work. But I can't get the wasps out of my mind.

And then I scan outside the mesh to my favorite part of the day most of the time. My friend has arrived. May be two of them. I am always excited when a guest of some animal species arrives to attempt to eat things out of the flight pen. But all of the visitors, this one has to be my favorite.


On this day, I got to see something I had never seen before in my life and that was a roadrunner flying. He flew for quite some time before returning. And there were two of them today. No other visitors expect a few turkey vultures.

I took my notes-checked their toes, legs, eyes, beak, nare, neck, and wings. Sometimes they make it pretty easy for me to check their wings.

With eating finished, they hung out together and by themselves lounging at the pool. Some of the birds preened themselves to look beautiful. And of course some didn't care what they looked like.

At about 10 AM, I called the person on the outside to ask where she might have lost her keys. She informed me that all the birds were out of the view of the facility and this would be my chance to leave. I hesitated for a brief moment and realized if I didn't go now, I would be stuck all day. I packed my stuff which I've come pretty good at doing in about 1 minute and headed out the door down the road. I had reached the S-curve when I noticed the first one flying over me. (this photo was not from this day)...

I hurried down the hill and drove back to the dorm where I took a long nap before returning to work later that evening.


Thursday, August 11, 2005


I went over to another park this weekend (mine are Monday-Wednesday). I went for two reasons--one because I had never been there and two because I had friends there to stay with. I mean friends there I wanted to say hello to.

I left Monday morning and headed down the two-lane highway. I saw the golden eagle, fing ran over the snake, swerved for the squirrels, and quietly drove on listening to XM channels. I listen to them like I watch TV switching every couple of seconds. I notice some stuff on the road which reminded me of blood until I rounded the corner to find 15 large ball swinging black bulls walking down the road. I slowed down and the rancher stopped and waved me up. "Just ease your way through". Now they were walking the direction I was going and every damn time I went to go around one, it cut me off. 20 minutes later with my vehicle splattered with cow shit, I was on my way. I watched as a coworker in her BMW (obviously paid more than me) was doing Mach 1 up the road. I flashed my lights and gave her the slow down sign (one finger point down). She said today she wasn't sure why I was telling her that, but decided she better slow down before the corner. Luckily she did.

I arrived at the park and met up with my friends. We did what all good park service people do--talk about everyone else and where they are, who they are with, etc. And then I went over to JB's house. We primarily laid around watching TV, playing with his cats, and discussing life. We finally settled on dinner in town (40 minutes away) and the Dukes of Hazzard.

Tuesday I finally climbed out of bed and went hiking. I hit various areas of the park all which seemed too damn crowded to me. I climbed up this rock and found my digital camera malfunctioning. I wanted to throw it off, but instead smiled and took pictures with my other one. So no photos. Then I went and hiked up to some falls. It was nice and there weren't that many people. I climbed down to the pool where the falls were cascading into and stripped down to my sports bra and black underwear. Then I climbed into the pool for a quick dip. Then people invaded my space and I went away meeting way too many people on the way up. I returned to the village, got an ice cream cone and headed back to JB's for a shower and more TV time on the couch.

Wednesday morning I finally got moving about 10am. I had picked out several hikes from a book that said I would most likely see a bear. I came to a realization during this hike of searching for a bear---if you are searching for something such as a bear, goshawk, and I will even throw in religion here---you will never find or see it. When you find or see such things are at unexpected times in your life. And it is those times that are so much more special. So I didn't see a bear and I am not upset over it. I am rather glad because the damn thing probably would have chased me down. And I ended my weekend with a drive back in reflection of sorts...

This past week in the Park Service, a fellow park ranger, Jeff Christensen passed away. He died from a fall he endured while on a backcountry patrol. I didn't know him, but he has made an impression on me. He had told someone once this quote:

You know, if I ever die while at work in the mountains, do not cry for me because you will know that I died doing what I love. But if I die in a car accident on my way to an office job, then cry for me because you will know I was miserable and not doing what I loved. - - JC

And that is exactly how I feel. If I succumb to my end in the depths of nature, then I will forever be at peace. My living will explains to celebrate my life and not cry about my passing. I have lived a wonderful life up to this point. Sure it has had its downfalls, but those downs have lifted me up and brought me to where I am today. Loving life each day as if it is the last.