Thursday, June 10, 2010

Working For A Living

We have been having quite a bit of trouble lately with our internet service here in the Alaska bush that is Katmai. The bandwidth is often exceeded by the many people that use the computers, and that slows the whole system down to less-than-dial-up speeds. The infrastructure needs repairing, which means going up on top of Dumpling Mountain to repair the tower that got nearly destroyed in high winds this past winter. Plus, the involvement of the federal government, which is known to move at glacial speeds anyway, only slows down the entire maintenance process even more. In addition to all that, the external hard drive on which I keep all my previous blog posts and pix has decided to quit on me. Lucky I have a handful of extra thumb drives to start fresh. Today.

So, that is the reason why it has been nearly a week since my last blog post. Don’t despair! We shall endure.

I have been working on my evening program for the past couple of weeks, and wasn’t making much progress. My topic is geology. Of course it is!!! There is so much to tell people! But hey – they don’t want to hear it all (I can’t imagine WHY they don’t, but clearly they don’t). They want to hear about two or three things that they might possibly remember, and see some nice pictures, and be done with it.

The thing is, park interpreters are supposed to interpret park resources in a meaningful way for visitors, not just spout off 45 minutes of facts in the hope of visitors finding their own significance in all of the mish-mash. This is not an easy task. We have to come up with “themes” and “subthemes” and “goals” and “objectives” that we hope each visitor will find important to them personally. Well, of course we never know if these goals are ever reached – the visitor leaves and then who knows what happens with their experience? But as someone near and dear once said many times over – It’s what we do. We try to follow the outline, and leave out a whole lot of interesting (well, to me, anyway) stuff.

So the next time you go to hear some park ranger talk for 45 minutes on, say, the mating habits of the collared lizard or how big-eared bats utilize echolocation to avoid a cave wall or why the Navajo sandstone is almost pure quartz, remember how much effort that ranger put into it so you could find meaning. Right on!

We are beginning to see many more visitors now, both human and otherwise. The salmon haven’t quite arrived yet but the bears are creeping and sneaking in, looking for an early treat. It’s mating season for Ursus arctos and you had better get out of their way.

We have begun staffing one of the viewing platforms already, and “the corner,” which is along the high-people-volume pathway across the river and to the falls platform (where every single visitor wants to get that perfect photo-op of the salmon jumping into the bear’s mouth).

Right now there are quite a few anglers angling about in the 2-mile length of Brooks River, catching and releasing trout and dolly varden (both are fish, for the uninitiated). Not being of the angler persuasion myself, yesterday while staffing the lower platform I decided to chat up one chap in chest-high waders and a funny hat. Politely I inquired as to just what the attraction might be, concerning just catching fish to let them go. So he tells me “It’s all about tricking the fish.” I said “That’s it? You’re playing mind games with a fish?” He kind of laughed and replied “Yeah, pretty much. Kind of goofy when you think about it.”

I’m getting paid to go back out to the VTTS Friday 6/11. I have assembled a nice outline of geologic talking-points for each stop on the 23-mile drive, for the Three Forks visitor center, and along the 3-mile round-trip hike. I hope I don’t lose anyone along the way.

Glaciers and volcanoes. Woo Hoo!!!

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