Visiting a park might be more exciting than working at one. The ability to go a National Park Service site is yours, mine, and everyone’s. To feel the appreciation and mutual respect we all have for the parks brings all of us together. Visitors make the parks, and it is a pleasure to work with them.
After six weeks of training at King Salmon, cancelled trips, and rain checks, my coworker and I have arrived at Amalik Bay. Katmai National Park and Preserve has thirteen bays along its eastern border and staffs at least two of them in the summer. Like all the rangers before and after me, I will say this – where I work is the best place in the world!
Ranger Robert driving the boat on a patrol of Amalik Bay, with views like this you can see why I say it’s the best! NPS Photo/M. Cohn
The first patrol of the summer ended in Geographic Harbor. We saw a sailboat and decided to contact them. The boat was filled with five individuals from Homer, Alaska who were surprised, but ecstatic to see a boat filled with four uniformed rangers. “Is it okay that we are here?” someone asked from the boat as they waved. “Of course!” we replied. (This seems to be a common response when someone in uniform approaches us, we may feel like we have done something wrong!)
The friendly visitors from Homer. NPS Photo/C. Turner
After a sigh of relief and some big smiles, they insisted we come aboard. We interrupted, or as they told us ‘added’, to their happy hour. They offered us crackers, cheese, and cranberry juice, which we gladly accepted. Our hour and a half on the boat began as a large conversation but evolved into smaller individual ones. Their questions poured out about the area. Luckily, with the combined experience of a Law Enforcement Ranger, a Coastal Biologist, and two Wilderness Rangers, we were able to help each other when we did not know a specific answer. After their questions started to subside, we started to ask them questions and listened to their personal knowledge and history. My coworker and I have not been alive for as long as they had been coming to the park! After a few laughs (them losing their trash in the water and us helping to retrieve it) we parted ways and told them to stop by the cabin anytime.
Rangers Montana and Robert in front of the Amalik Cabin. NPS Photo/C. Turner
Over the next three days we visited with the visitors often. We gave them a Bear Safety Talk and a Coastal Bear Pin. We also gave them a new educational book on Katmai, theirs was 40 years old. We spoke about the weather conditions and what we have been doing. They filled us in about what they had been seeing; a fox with three legs, swimming bears, and other boats. We were visited by two of them one evening at our one room cabin. It started with a grand tour: all two chairs, sink, desk, and bunk beds of it. The tour ended by enjoying the view from the porch overlooking the beautiful bay. They visited for an hour with more stories and questions.
“If my tax dollars are for Rangers to be out here, providing a service of educating and protecting this National Park, they are tax dollars well spent”.
Knowing that this visitor, or any visitor, is satisfied with the service that we as Park Rangers do is very important. That is why we are here – for them! Hearing visitor stories, listening to their suggestions, and improving our park service strengthens our bond for this wonderful place. A bond that will help protect places like Katmai forever.
NPS Photo/C. Turner