Another thing I'm hindered because of no internet at home. My work computer isn't friendly to my camera's cord, USB connections, or memory sticks. This coming weekend, though, I have groups coming Friday and Sunday. Hopefully, I'll get some good pictures and will find a way to post them.
Verizon finally let me out of my contract. Perhaps it's because my modem couldn't pick up a network for most of last week. Or maybe it's just because I called and told them I wasn't going to pay for something I couldn't use (again).
I must admit, the loosening of the budget is nice, but I can't get some of work done at home any more. This really cramps my style.
And it hinders my ability to talk to my friends every night via Facebook. *sigh* Whatever will I do?
Sorry, no current pictures for the moment. I'll post some as soon as I can. Today is Saturday, and I didn't have to work, but I was supposed to go over to Fawn and Chuck's house to feed their pets. Well, state road 706 out here in front of the park was covered in slush and snow, but the further west you got (Highway 7), the slush was turning to packed ice. I turned around and called Fawn's neighbor to come feed the horse tonight.
The central Cascades are expecting more than a foot of new snow today/tomorrow morning. Here's what one of our park biological techs sent out in an email today:
You may think there is more snow on the ground in Longmire this year [compared to last year], but take note of the following:
2008 March 27th Longmire snowdepth: 64" 2009 March 27th Longmire snowdepth: 51"
Also of interest:
From March 27th-March 29th of 2008, Longmire received 21" of snow to reach a total of 70" on the ground by March 29th.
The storms over the next few days should bring over a foot of snow to Longmire.
When will spring arrive? Those of you with daffodils and tulips coming up: I'm officially ignoring you. :P
Good Grief! This week was not as busy as some -- or so says our education center calendar. But goodness, it went fast and I don't remember half of it. ;) I guess I haven't blogged since Tuesday night.
Tuesday's program motivated me to learn/write a new snowshoe program for Fawn and I to use at Longmire, the next time snow and bad weather hinder us from taking our group to Paradise.
I had one lunch meeting with our Division Chief on my own (Monday) and then one with her and Fawn together. If you're ever in the area of Longmire, Park HQ, or Ashford, WA, be sure to try the Copper Creek Inn for lunch or dinner. It was tasty! (Ok, so I had it for dinner tonight too, on my way home from Longmire and work...)
I've started researching my chosen character for the park's living history efforts: Susan Longmire Hall (granddaughter of James Longmire, for those curious types).
In other news, I finally convinced Verizon that my air card modem was useless out here - too often, it simply can't pick up their network. So FINALLY, I am out of that contract. It worked great in the city, but out here in the park, it's nothing but a paperweight. So my budget has shrunk by $60 each month. More money for yarn? ;)
I've made progress on the raglan turtleneck sweater of Araucania Multy (spelling?) that I'd wanted to get done before Christmas.... One and a half sleeves to go, and it will be done! Woot! And I've been mulling over ideas for the Lambspun Prism that my wonderful SnB friends sent me this week. I still can't narrow it down to one project... Such problems!
I did a little bit of a snowshoe hike today, in planning for next week's groups. I'll have to review my pictures and post a couple. ;)
The Interp staff here apparently have a tradition. If no one on a snowshoe walk falls down by the end of the program, the ranger will make a snow angel at the trailhead.
Today, our school group got a special treat. Unfortunately, the weather/snow was bad enough that the park plows couldn't get the road cleared through to Paradise in the morning. So instead, Ranger Marne took us on a walk around the Trail of Shadows at Longmire. We talked about the standard winter ecology/adaptations information as usual, but Marne added in some of the history of Longmire and the geology of the springs. If you didn't know, there are mineral springs - not HOT mineral springs, the water is cool to the touch (which we all did!) - at Longmire. This is what first attracted James Longmire to the meadow in 1883. (Ok, so his lost horse had a part to play in the discovery as well...)
Our group was eighth graders today; the trail we were on is much easier than the Nisqually Vista loop at Paradise. No kids fell over, so Marne was true to the ranger oath (*wink*):
Alice Algae got lonesome on her own, so she set out to find a partner. She bumped into Freddy Fungus one day, and he seemed like a "fungi" (get it? "fun guy"?). So they started "hanging out" together-- took a "lichen" to each other, you see. It seemed like a good partnership: Alice was the breadwinner, producing food enough for them both; and Freddy was the homemaker, providing the roof over their heads. But you know, sometimes the relationship is "up in the air," sometimes it's "on the rocks."
My fellow interp., Julia, suggested that the lichen above is in the Hypogymnia genus. We're not sure on the exact species... There are a couple that look very similar out here. The discs are the fruiting structures of the fungus (called apothecia).
I didn't catch all of what he said, and I can't spell his name, but Boots is a nice enough fella. From Olympia, works Monday-Friday and goes home on the weekends. Thus the no noise on the weekends. ;) We were trying to do laundry at the same time tonight.
You all know I love to knit. And crochet. And bake. And cook. And grow my little houseplants.
My little apartment - where ever it may be - has to have room for my hobbies.
When I had a TV in the living room, I used to watch PBS on the weekends - when I wasn't out on a trail somewhere. I watched cooking shows, gardening shows, New Yankee Workshop and This Old House. It would get my little creative juices going.
I have spent many hours this weekend working on a raglan turtleneck sweater of Araucania wool that I wanted to get done back before Christmas. Well, I've actually made progress. The body is done; all that remains are the sleeves. It's purples/browns/salmons - perfect colors for spring! LOL
Besides the knitting, I have spent hours reading about local farms, CSAs, and co-ops, in the hopes of satisfying my gardening urge. (I'm hungry now, too.) Friday, on the way to Olympia, Fawn pointed out a farm that has a huge berry patch; you can go in and pick your own, pay by the pound. I'll be hitting there in season!
Pardon me, I need to go eat some bread and butter pickles.
Ok, that was a nice little snack. My goals (perhaps too lofty?) for the coming season include the following:
Preserving: * blueberries * apples (sauce and butter, although I'm afraid no apple butter will ever compare to Salem's...) * tomatoes - I hope to try several types, including some form of spahgetti sauce, a tomato/chili concoction similar to Rotel (which I use/eat way too much of), and versions of homemade salsa and ketchup... I really need to find Jenny C.'s salsa recipe that we had a Lambspun that night... * pickles - I want to get myself away from the corn syrup sweetened pickles. I love both dill pickles and bread and butter pickles. Need to perfect both. * pumpkin - I use a lot of pumpkin in the fall, in baking mostly. Usually, I just cook it up and freeze it. I may just settle for that method again.
I have lots of other ideas..... I could go on for hours.
For those of you curious about my picture from last week, yes, it is a lichen. I'm having other park staff confirm my ID, then I'll post the name and details. Sorry it's taking a while. ;)
Bethanyg, no update on Boots. No noise this weekend. :)
Most of you know I'm a wildflower fanatic. I love my plants. But now I'm learning, gradually, about the geology of the Cascades and volcanism. I won't go into the whole lecture here. The question for yesterday was, "How do you teach kids about pressure build-up inside the earth?" By trying to squeeze 10 kids into a circle made by 5 other kids! Duh.
The build-up of gases under the surface of the earth contributes to the explosive forces of some volcanoes...
I have a pair of dark brown Carhartt pants to wear with my volunteer shirts. I'm just going to go ahead and say it. Carhartts just suck. When will clothing manufacturers start making pants for women with real hips? Why must I wear specific brands for my uniform, instead of making something that actually fits me?!
I just love the little things you find out among the trees!
1) What type of organism is this? (Bonus point if you can name the genus and species - Latin spelled correctly!)
2) What are the (relatively) round disc-like structures on it? What function do they serve?
I'll leave this open til 5 p.m. Friday, or whenever I get back from Olympia. Fawn and I are demonstrating how volcanoes work at an event over there. I'm not sure when we'll get back to Tahoma Woods. First person to post here with the correct answers wins my respect. LOL ;)
Yes, you read that right. All of this clunking has made me look at my beloved Lowas that are about 6 years old. They are falling apart. And my back-up pair of boots isn't very comfortable. (I got those back-ups for about $20 at an REI garage sale two years ago. Couldn't beat the price...)
Right now, REI members get 20% off one regular-priced item. And I have a whopping $5 in REI dividends that I can apply. I really want a new pair of Lowa hikers. These are the only boots I've found in recent years that are wide enough for my feet. And considering how much I wear them, six years is a good life. They retail at $190. So I could get them for around $150. Can I afford this on my miniscule stipend?
Raise your hands: how many of you know who Flat Stanley is? Well, before today, I'd never met him either. But apparently, this little guy travels around the world in an envelope learning things every where he stops.
Mt. Rainier National Park received a Flat Stanley from an elementary school (sorry, can't remember off the top of my head which school sent us the little guy) last week. After researching what the program was about, I brainstormed a bunch of things to include in Stanley's journal for the week. Here's what Stanley will do, in some form or fashion:
Learn about winter recreation and avalanche safety. (cool park stuff!)
Go on a snowshoe hike with me at Paradise. (cool park stuff!)
Visit the Longmire Museum and whichever ranger is on duty there. (history, science)
Compare his height to the height of Mt. Rainier. (math)
Learn about volcanoes and geology. (science)
I didn't have my camera in the office today, but I will get pictures of Stanley having fun in the park. :)
Of course, those of you who know about the Flat Stanley book and program know that this is primarily a literacy project for elementary school students. But I will be adding in a bit of science and math. Go figure. That's what the students get for sending him to a park. ;)
No recent update on Boots. I haven't heard him much in the past few days - maybe he was away for the weekend? The light was on in his apartment when I walked by earlier, on my way to the laundry room.
Today I took myself up to Seattle for the day. Just a day for sight-seeing, really, but I had a few things I wanted to do.
1) Find a yarn store and look for a few skeins that I needed. I succeeded in this quest. I found Hilltop East on 8th Street in Bellevue. (For those of you from St. Louis, Bellevue reminded me quite a bit of Clayton.) Beautiful shop! Everything was displayed nicely with good samples to look at. The shelves were only waist-high, letting you see around the whole store. To be honest, though, I wasn't overly impressed by their selection: they didn't have a whole lot of any one thing. Severly lacking in the sock yarn department. :( But, I WAS able to find a couple of skeins of Mission Falls 1824 Wool to finish up that striped sweater that has had UFO status on Ravelry for most of the past year. Still, the two women working in the store were very nice and helpful; I'd recommend you visit Hilltop East!
After that, as I was going back towards I-90, I stopped at the Whole Foods in Bellevue. I picked up a few things for my kitchen. ;) A girl does have her favorite foods, you know.
Then I got on I-90 and headed west. This shot was coming off of Mercer Island (Christine, correct me if I'm wrong!) heading across Lake Washington. Seattle is just over the hilltop, ahead of me.
2) My first destination in Seattle was the Klondike National Historic Park museum. I don't quite have gold fever, but I caught the history bug for the Yukon and Alaska gold rush era when I was up in Alaska a couple of years ago. I thought the displays were interesting. I don't know if I could have handled the 1500 steps of the Golden Staircase on the Chilkoot Trail, but reading about it was fun. Another stamp for my NPS passport. Some day, I'll get up to Skagway and see the other half of this museum. ;)
Heck, I'd take my weight in gold, even at the 1897 value!
This area is directly north of Qwest and Safeco Fields (but who cares about football or the American League?! Go CARDS!!!!!). I walked around the old downtown area, window shopping the art galleries and boutiques that I couldn't even afford to enter. *laughs* I really like the architecture of old buildings. I should go back and take more pictures of the buildings. At this point in the day, the winds were really strong and the temperature was dropping. So I headed in doors.
You could tell that it was the off-season. Many of the booths were filled with crafters and local artisans. I also got there late; around 4:15. Most of the booths closed at 5 p.m. A few flying apples soared over my head. Fish were not flying today, although the guys in one of the booths selling fish looked like they were having a bit too much fun. ;) I looked around, got some sushi to snack on and walked out to the back of the building. I took this picture, looking out over Puget Sound:
When driving home, I stopped for groceries in Puyallup. Then, between Eatonville and Elbe, the snow was coming down pretty hard. The road is a country road and is not lit. I was thinking I would be spending the night in my truck on the side of the road somewhere. But finally, our Park HQ sign came into view and I breathed a sigh of relief. My little truck and its four-wheel-drive do just fine on ice and snow! Back to the mountain!
Time has flown by. Or maybe I've just slept too much.
Let's see. Thursday I did some miscellaneous tasks at the office and then drove up to Paradise to practice for my upcoming programs. It was a great day to be out on the mountain!
I met a woman and her son, and ended up using them as my 'guinea pig' audience as the son tagged along with me throughout most of the trail. He was a good sport, answering my questions and discussing the concepts that I want to cover in my programs. It was a good day!
On the way back home, I stopped at Longmire for an hour or so and went through the museum, finding facts and writing questions for an upcoming scavenger hunt that Fawn and I want to use as part of a school's field day in June. Actually, we want to have four scavenger hunts available, but I just worked on the first one yesterday.
I got back to the office about 6 p.m., only to find that my assigned program on Saturday had been canceled. The Sierra Club was trying to put together a field trip for kids in their Inner City Outreach (ICO) program. But not enough kids had turned in permission forms, so they had canceled the trip. They were very apologetic; I just was disappointed. Not only was I looking forward to Saturday, but these are the kids we really need to reach in our park! I assured the ICO's program director that I would still love to work with them and their kids if they wanted to put something similar together in the future. Never turn down a kid who wants to play outdoors in one of our magnificent parks!!
Today, I slept in and then went to the office to deal paperwork, mail and logistics. I got to the office to find that my boss (who's been sick most of the past month and missed a lot of work) did about half of the things I'd left for myself to do today. Very nice of her! We talked a bit, made some plans for next week - we have three major off-site events next week, all of which should be fun. We are judging two schools' science fairs and participating in a science exhibition of sorts in Olympia. We are demonstrating volcanoes. Actually, we're blowing up soda bottles, but the analogy works. :)
On Facebook tonight, I found out something that made me sad. Apparently, my little friend Hannah misses me terribly. She won't talk about my leaving or how she misses me with anyone, I guess. She's 10 years old, the middle daughter of my friends Lori and Alan. They are back in Colorado; friends I used to see regularly before I moved to Washington in February. So I've started working on matching stocking caps for Hannah and myself. Using up stash yarns, because I still haven't found my way to a yarn store here in WA, believe it or not! (No hate mail, please! LOL ) And I think I'll give them a call tomorrow and see how she's doing. I'll post pictures of the hats as I get them done.
I've mentioned my coworker, Fawn, on here before. But my actual supervisor is Anne, who's been out sick with bronchitis most of the past 3 weeks (most of the time I've been here). Anne is the one who interviewed me and offered me the internship I have now. She's the one who did the paperwork and technically runs the education program at the park.
Today after our staff meeting, Anne called me "The One with All the Ideas".
I think I do have lots of ideas. Some of them might even be good. But perhaps, rather than ideas, I have a bit of vision. It's really the dream of a little girl who fell in love with those alpine sunflowers who face east to capture the morning sun.
I was one of those lucky few kids. We had a car that we could pile full of stuff and drive out to the mountains every summer. There simply is no feeling like running out into the middle of a wide open mountain valley, surrounded by wildflowers and gurgling rivers, hugged on all sides by rugged sentinels that have stood the test of time.
There really is no finer cathedral in all the world.
In the next 11 months, I need to get my act together. I need take my ideas and put them on paper. When one of the park's permanent staff suggests something, I need to spend a few hours working out that idea. I've decided that I don't need credit for the work or projects, as long as the park benefits, I'll be happy. This is not a battle for the environmentalists. It is a struggle that must be embraced by those of us lucky enough to have a relationship with our wide open spaces.
Today in our staff meeting, Julia (acting East side interp lead) mentioned her excitement over the idea of creating podcasts for the park. Julia is young enough still that she has fresh ideas and isn't hindered by the old-school vision of the NPS that some of our colleagues have. But she's also been around long enough to understand the dubious, often political game-playing, mentality of her bosses.
Tonight, I started on a project that Fawn suggested. In June, we have all of the 4th graders from a local town (about 80 students) coming to the park for a field day of sorts. We are going to create a set of scavenger hunts to get the kids involved in learning about the park and its resources. We are hoping that the kids will get a kick out of finding the details. From there, I'd love to turn these scavenger hunts into a continuation of the Junior Ranger program. This park has a lot of returning families year after year (from what I understand), just like our beloved Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. If these families have kids that have gone through the Junior Ranger program in past years, we would like to engage them again in a new activity. I think Fawn's scavenger hunt idea could be adapted for each of the four main road regions (as I see them): Longmire, Paradise, Ohanapecosh*, and Sunrise*. We also have tons of families out here every weekend during the winter specifically for sledding and winter activities at Paradise. But the current Junior Ranger program is geared for summer activities and conditions. I'd like to adapt the U.S. Forest Service's Junior Snow Ranger program for our park, as we have 6-8 months of heavy snow cover every year.
We need to engage, and capture the imagination and spirit, of the kids that come to the park. They are our future supporters. We need to reconnect them with the world around them and the resources that make their lives possible.
Give him a fire in his heart Give him a light in his eyes Give him the wild wind for a brother And the wild Montana skies
It was a meeting. There were seven of us. Despite some tension in the background (which I knew existed, but I had nothing to do with) everything went well and we actually had quite a few laughs. But still, it was a meeting; I yawned through the second hour.
One exciting thing happened in the meeting. As I'm going out on a trail alone tomorrow, I was given the lesson on using park radios:
Hold the button down, talk. Let go of the button, listen. Repeat.
Out of this, I officially have my own call sign for the Mt. Rainier National Park. We're all just numbers (this is the government, after all); I'm 508. Tomorrow I'll be in street clothes, practicing for my first solo hike and program, which is this coming Saturday morning. But at the same time, I'll have my volunteer duties and trail roving to consider when I pass other hikers/snowshoers. I will be there to help people who need me.
508 on the Nisqually Vista trail. All's well.
The Boots saga continues. He must have had an early day today, or have had the day off. I was in the parking lot of my apartment building with my boss, verifying my truck's insurance and registration (my truck gets a park entry pass for the next year, and all of my paperwork has to be checked). He walked out of his apartment, over to his truck and took off. He said Hi to us, but as my boss was rambling on about something, I really couldn't see his boots. ;)
The snow that has fallen the past few days has created some fantastic icicles. I called these my 'Polar Bear Paws'. What do you think they look like?
About 6 p.m. tonight, Boots came home. Again, I didn't look, but he must have had tons of snow on his boots. He stomped so loud and banged those boots against the porch railing that the whole building shook. Dude was serious.
The thudding on the porch last night came with TWO voices. Now I'm just confused. ha ha ha
And have I mentioned the weather?
Last week, the wet straps on our kids' snowshoes froze, making them impossible to tighten properly. We decided to bring them inside and dry completely. We also needed to inventory and pull out any broken snowshoes. So I went in to the office yesterday afternoon (Sunday) to clean up our mess of drying snowshoes, because our classrooms are being used this week for park training sessions. Being the closest staff member, I get to put in a few little crazy hours now and then to do chores like this.
So I was going to sleep in a bit today and go in to work late. Today's hours really didn't have a schedule - no schools were visiting us today.
I hit the snooze alarm at 8 a.m. I didn't wake up again until 11:30 a.m. Fawn probably thinks I'm dead. But she is an organization freak, so she probably loves the cleaning job I did yesterday at the ed. center, and thus she won't say anything about my... uh... lack of being there this morning.
I've decided that part of the reason I sleep so much here is the fact that this housing complex is sort of in a dark hole - surrounded by tall trees. And it's winter so the clouds and snow are here blocking the morning sun. My bedroom has the same amount of ambient light from about 8 a.m. to about 4:30 p.m. every day. And that's not a lot of light.
It looks like it's stopped snowing for the time being... I should shower and head to the office for a little bit.
I feel like writing a million things today. I told my friend that I could write a book, but it would be composed of one-sentence paragraphs. My thoughts are disjointed (thus the silly - but true - "Confession" entry earlier today).
I had a conversation last night with a friend of mine. Some of you that read this will know him; others will not. I'd made some silly comment about how cute one of his pictures was - it was of him and his wife. He rambled on about how happy he was in his marriage. I must admit, I'm happy for him.
But I'm dubious. How do you get to a marriage, much less a happy one?
I'm jaded; I've dated a real bunch of... uh... losers. To put it mildly. Marriage does not seem to me like a happy ending, but more like something to be avoided at all costs.
Ok, rant over.
Tomorrow is just an office day; no school groups. Should be quiet. Maybe my boss will be back from her 2-week bout with bronchitis.
You know it's a Zombie Day when the Mr. Coffee has a full pot of hot coffee waiting for you and yet you don't have any desire to get out of your chair and go get the coffee.
Welcome to my morning.
We got a dusting of snow overnight here at Tahoma Woods. But right now, the sky can't make up its mind whether it wants to rain or snow. So most of the snow is gone. We had some nice little black-tailed deer visit the neighborhood earlier.
I really left a mess of gear all over the kitchen yesterday when I got home from work. My snowshoes are currently serving as my welcome mat and my trekking poles point the way to my bathroom very nicely.
Today was the type of day where I think I probably would have forgotten to wear my shoes, if it hadn't been for the cold weather outside. My office is a 5-minute walk from my apartment, so forgetting my extra coat this morning was really no big deal. I just ran back and picked up what I needed. Twice. I'd have forgotten everything else too, I'm sure, if my daypack didn't always stay packed with most of my trail necessities.
Fawn and I took a group of seventh graders, their teacher and a few parents up on the mountain today. After some logistic mix-ups (and a few people getting lost on their way TO the park... LOL), we got up to Paradise about 11 a.m. There was 8-10" of fresh powder. Although the park road was plowed, the trail crew had not been up there for the morning yet. So it was our group that broke the trail today. It was slow going, uphill and down. But Fawn and I each had two of the kids that helped us. We took turns leading today, partly because I wrote the program and partly because breaking trail in that much snow can be tiring (especially if you're trying to teach at the same time).
It started off sunny and beautiful - and a bit warm, and then the clouds rolled in. By the end of the hike, it was cold and grey and flurrying. But the kids had a blast. The condition of the snow really helped in the fun - they were able to roll down hills, make snowballs, etc. For kids from Seattle who get more rain than snow, today was a play day - not just a day to learn about winter ecology and survival in the mountains.
And sadly, like everything else today, I forgot to bring my camera along. Doh. The teacher promised to send us copies of her pictures - she must have taken at least 100. I hope she got a picture of me speaking to the group. I need one of those for my reports here. And as I'm usually the one taking the pictures, I have no pictures of myself, unless I'm posed in front of some beautiful view.
An update on Boots: Boots is a man. Uniformed with mirrored sunglasses. As I was getting home from work today, he was getting home, but in his personal vehicle. I was unlocking my front door as he pulled up, so I really didn't get a good look. Not sure, but I'd still bet seasonal law enforcement from the way he carried himself. But he didn't have any gear with him. So who knows?
I have this neighbor who lives in the apartment next to mine here at Tahoma Woods. I have yet to actually meet him or her - I don't even know if it's a man or a woman. But I hear them come home at night. We do not keep the same hours or work schedule.
I hear the 'thud, thud' of boots upon the front porch and I know the neighbor is home. I'm imagining that this person is a man, probably not the smallest person in the world (judging purely from the amount of noise made), and is one of our temporary law enforcement rangers. For now, I'll call him Boots.
I know eventually I will come face-to-face with this person. But they just left for work and I didn't have the nerve to spy out of my kitchen window. ;) The office I share with Fawn is being used for a tele-conference right now that I'm not involved with, so I'm at home, practicing for the program I have to give tomorrow.
A nice little picture of some snowy footprints at Paradise from Monday:
I never watch reality TV. Never seen an episode of Survivor or American Idol. Never care to.
But my program on Friday will be for a group of seventh graders and we're supposed to talk about winter adaptations during our snowshoe hike on the mountain. So I picked the theme "Survivor" and I'll let the kids tell me about what people do on the show to 'survive' (although the show is so contrived it's really a joke). Then I'll tie that into real life survival adaptations by the animals and plants that live in the subalpine areas we will hike through.
For instance... Did you know? Snowshoe hares not only adapt to winter by changing their coats to white and growing a thicker coat, but they also change their diet. In the summer, the hares eat flowers, plant leaves and stems and sedges primarily. In the winter, they live on the needles of evergreens - which mostly are Subalpine Fir trees around Paradise (our snowshoe hike location) at Mt. Rainier.
Our office (Education) at Mt. Rainier National Park gets letters from kids all of the time. Some kids write with a very specific request - park maps, newspapers, etc. - often times for school projects. Some other kids write us to "thank the rangers" that gave XYZ program that they attended when they were camping with their family. Every letter is different, every kids has something different to say. Some of the letters are absolutely hysterical.
The park really doesn't have any funding to maintain a program of sending lots of materials to kids via the mail, even for school project requests. And no, these letters don't just come from Seattle/Tacoma/Olympia - these letters come from all over the U.S. Recently, we've received letters from New York and Michigan. It's just sad; we're basically passing up a huge PR campaign.
My direct boss has followed the party line and sends out the standard "look at our website" response to many kids. But since January, the job has fallen to my coworker Fawn, and she's a bit of a rebel. She wrote up a nice little 'fact sheet' about the park - double-sided so there is a bit to read including some pictures. She sends these sheets and a park map to every kid that writes us now.
(If you didn't ever notice, by the entrance/exit station, most parks have a drop box, if you don't want to hold on to the park map and newspaper given you when you arrive. Sometimes, these documents are in good enough shape to hand out to a second round of people. ;) Someone gets the "good enough condition" maps...)
Personally, I would like to see this tiny little program idea of Fawn's expand. I would like to put together a proposal of ideas and a potential budget and write a grant to get this thing funded. Getting kids connected with our parks is a major issue right now - and is a priority sent from Washington (D.C.).
So. I have my ideas of what I'd like to be able to send out to the kids. But before I discuss that, I'd like to ask you all out there in Cyberville:
1) Have your kids or your friends' kids ever written to a National Park in such a way? If so, what (if anything) did they receive?
2) What do you think kids would love to receive, or be interested in receiving, in addition to a park map or newspaper?
Feel free to comment or just send me an email directly. ;) Thanks!
This was taken about 2 p.m. this afternoon from near the Nisqually Vista trailhead, looking west/southwest roughly. 5 pictures stitched together...
I've worked in a lot of schools and I've seen how parental support and socio-economic factors can affect a child's education. Today was just another example of the despairity happening in America. The kids we had visiting the park today were from a private school. For 17 kids, we had 10 parents come along. These kids were ready to go, brought all of the coats, mittens and dry socks that they needed, and listened attentively (until we plainly just wore them out and they were sleepwalking back to their vehicles).
Contrast this to last week's seventh and eighth graders, from a public school near Seattle proper, most of whom didn't bring winter coats with them. The teacher for those kids couldn't get parents to come on the field trip; two teachers - and a couple of high school seniors were along as 'chaperones' - came with the group of 42 students.
The younger kids today had way more energy and knowledge; they asked good questions are were curious about what they would see. They complained a lot less, even when they got tired. They were a bit more supportive of each other when sliding down the big sliding hill, although the kids did stick to their parents a bit when actually hiking.
I know, it seems you can attribute some of these differences perhaps to age differences and things like that. There was just such a difference.
After last week's stomach bug issues, I have done little besides sleep this weekend. I've been reading through an ethnography (research report in book form) of Mt. Rainier. It's interesting. Besides that? I really should go get some groceries and do some laundry. Hmmm...