Stomping ground: North Cascades between Mount Rainier and Mount Baker
Job: Mount Rainier National Park backcountry ranger
How did you get into your job as a backcountry ranger?
Having gone to Alaska as a wildlife technician soon after high school opened the door for me, but it took time to figure out how to be involved in fieldwork without being a scientist. Eventually, I wove my way into jobs that allowed me to be outside and use skills I already had or could acquire and feel comfortable with. I worked at Badlands National Park, North Cascades National Park, and the Mount Baker Ranger District and slowly moved into a backcountry ranger position.
What’s a typical day at work?
My job is based 10 miles from the nearest road, and I’m there to educate visitors and enforce regulations. I’m out as a steward for the park, making sure that the interaction between the land and the people is going well. Every day is different, and that’s one of the reasons I love the job.
What else do you love about your job?
It allows me to be kind of a generalist. I’m not a geologist, and I don’t have to know everything about geology, but I know enough to help people understand why it’s so cool to be standing on the side of a volcano. I have the opportunity to learn about all kinds of things—plants, wildlife, geology—and pass that knowledge on to hikers.
What’s the most surprising thing about your job?
What surprised me most was how many people think that putting toilet paper under a rock is an appropriate way to dispose of it. If someone leaves toilet paper out, I am the one who has to clean it up.
What kinds of goals help you stay satisfied in your job?
My goal for the moment is to learn as much as I can, to do the best I can do to host people on their own land, and do the best I can do to make sure we are able to keep public lands and wilderness reserved for everybody. I know it sounds clichéd, but I do feel strongly about that.