U.S. National Park Week 2014

From April 19th to 27th, America is celebrating National Park Week to raise awareness of our nation's collection of 300+ beautiful and unique outdoor spaces. In addition to free park entrance last weekend, there are several events taking place throughout this week, including Earth Day volunteering and National Junior Ranger Day on April 26th. All of this made me think of my friend Bill and his wife Courtney, whom work for the  U.S. National Park Service in Utah. I was eager to learn more about what a career in the Park Service entails.

Bill, thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me. So, what's your career background and how'd you join the National Park Service?

I have been working for the National Park Service for the last 10 years. I have worked in Arches National Park,  Canyonlands National Park, and Zion National Park in Utah, Olympic National Park in Washington state, Death Valley National Park in California, and Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida. I majored in Park Management at Unity College in Maine. I started off with an internship and spent many years working seasonally (6-8 months at a time) before becoming permanent in 2009. 

Sounds like a great way to experience a diverse mix of environments. Can you tell me a little bit about your job as a Park Ranger?

I am a Law Enforcement Ranger, which basically means I enforce the rules and regulations of the National Park Service. A law enforcement ranger has to wear many different hats. I am a Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), wildland firefighter and structure firefighter, and Search and Rescue team member. Just the other day, I had to help a women who broke her leg while hiking, followed by wildfire (which we successfully put out). Then, immediately after the wildfire, we had a lost hiker (which we found), and that same evening, a drunk driver we had to arrest. We have to manage the visitors to protect the natural resource and protect the natural resource from the visitors. 

Wow, it sounds like there is never a dull moment. Is living in a National Park like having the coolest backyard ever?

It's amazing. My commute to work is 30 feet.

While classics like the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone are high on my to-do list, can you think of any underrated National Parks you've worked in (or visited) that are worth checking out?

Lassen National Park in northern California is incredibly underrated. It is referred to as "little Yosemite" and is a beautiful park.

When packing for camping, what are the most important things you always have in your pack? (Sometimes I forget the most obvious things!) 

Water, food, headlamp, knife, clothes, map/compass, matches or lighter. Those are the basics. GPS on your phone is great as long as you have cell coverage, which is not always reliable in our National Parks. 

I see  Zion is open year-round, but, when do you think the best time to visit is?

Zion is beautiful in spring, summer, fall, and winter depending on what you want to do. In the winter, you can snow shoe in the mountains above 7000 feet, or, stay below in the canyons and hike in temps 40-50 F. Spring or fall, you can go just about anywhere and it will be 70 F with clear blue skies. Summer can be hot (110 F in July) but it's a perfect time to go into the shaded and wet slot canyon (you need a wet suit even in summer for some of them).

That's fantastic advice. Thanks again for answering my questions, and for the service that you do! For more information, check out the rest of the  National Park Week events and 9 Great Ways to Celebrate National Park Week.

Photo credits: 1/2/3/4/5/6

Marie Frei

One Carry-On is a blog managed by Marie Frei, a travel expert and photographer with a passion for exploring off the beaten path locations. The blog covers honest and personal stories about living and traveling as an American abroad, shares her global appreciation for culture and design, and promotes traveling to far-flung destinations with a carry-on as fun, affordable, and easy.