Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Day in the Life of a Park Ranger/Naturalist...The "B" Shift.

Today wasn't a "typical" day at work but then, we don't have many typical days here ever. Our schedule is divided into shifts so that everything is covered, with an "admin" shift to do paperwork, pay bills, and anything else that needs taking care of. I thought it might be interesting to write about each shift as I am on them during the day. Today I am on the "B" shift. The shift names are pretty much arbitrary...it could be called the Z shift and I'd still be doing the same thing (I think...).

I would have left Moab around 10:20 a.m. to be at the park by 11 a.m. but I needed to stop by our region office to pick up some merchandise that had been delivered there--T-shirts and cards designed just for the park by a local artist, who happens to live around the corner from me.

Once I got everything picked up and ready to go, I stopped for "breakfast" at Wendy's (not the healthiest choice but I had run other errands and skipped a real breakfast). I got to the park after a 45 minute drive up Highways 191 and 313. I unloaded the boxes and a bag of my interpretive materials for a program I had given in May at Arches...finally returned it to the Dead Horse Point. Then I got down to my regular shift, which today is cleaning and collecting fees at the entrance station until 9 p.m., counting money and checking the park by 10 p.m.

I gathered my rubber gloves for cleaning and leather gloves for picking up trash and headed up to the Point to clean the restrooms. (I knew I wouldn't have everything finished by 12:30 p.m. when I was to cover lunch at the visitor center) Normally I clean both the men's and women's restrooms at the same time but I found that when it's busy it works best to clean one at a time. I cleaned the women's first, which went by pretty quickly. The men's....was a different story.

I won't go into detail because that's just gross, but cleaning the men's restroom was a little more complicated today than other days. I was about to go in and start cleaning but a group went in and I had to wait outside. One by one they came out and right away I could tell something was wrong. One man said as he passed me, "That's really gross, what someone dropped in that urinal." What?? Then more people came out..."Some people..." muttered under another's breath. Finally a German man came out, the last, and said "I'm sorry for you. Someone misunderstood the function of the urinal." Oooooh noooooo.......so I went into the cleaning closet and gathered up some cardboard, just in case. It was pretty bad, but thankfully, not as bad as it could have been and the rest of the cleaning went smoothly.

I covered lunch at the visitor center, then headed back out to finish cleaning. Our water is trucked into the park--because there isn't any on the mesa top--so we have to check water levels every day. There are four tanks in the park. The entrance station tank holds 1,000; the group site tank holds 2,000 gallons; the main tank for the visitor center, campground and ranger residences holds 20,000 gallons and the tank at the Point holds 6,000 gallons. I checked the water--all good--and headed back to the Point to empty garbages and pick up litter.

After finishing the Point, I headed to the group site. It's small and there are only two bathroom stalls to clean so it went quickly. From there I headed to the campground and cleaned the restrooms. I didn't have time to clean grills or do much sweeping but I got the important parts.

After lunch I headed out to the entrance station. This new one was built a couple years ago and it's really pretty nice. There is a restroom with a flushing toilet, drinking water and shaded windows to keep out most of the sun. My window for incoming traffic faces west, so I have to have my sunscreen, glasses and hat on all afternoon. At around 9 p.m. I start closing up and counting money, then I secure the money at the visitor center and do the late check.

During the late check we check bathrooms to make sure there are no big messes and that there is no water left running. If the water runs all night, the tank runs out of water and we are in trouble! We also drive through the campground to make sure no one has a wood fire, which is not allowed, check the restrooms for messes and running water, and make sure people are observing the quiet time, which is 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

After that I will head home, down the dark highway into Moab. The drive isn't really bad, most of the time. Most of the year there isn't much traffic and the scenery is pretty. One of the ABSOLUTE BEST sunrises I've ever seen was on my way to work one morning. I wish I had been able to take a picture, but I don't think that would have captured it. Sometimes I get to see kit fox, mule deer, bats, owls, poor-wills, porcupine or coyotes. I swear I saw a skunk crossing the road up here one evening but I could have been wrong--maybe it was a porcupine? Anyway some evening I will take pictures of the drive home and post them here.


Jen said...

Wow. That sounds like a long day! But it sounds like you love your job, and I'm so happy to hear that. That makes everything SOOOO much better. Thanks for giving us a little insight into your world. :) Let's hope for no more men's bathroom messes--SICK. :)

Gilbrides said...

It sounds like you definitely have enough to keep you busy and a lot of variety to keep you from being bored. I am sure that the scenery is amazing!! (and I'm sure you have times of quiet when you can really just enjoy your surroundings and be at peace!)