Last summer I took a job with Parks Canada. I have been working towards changing my career and I believe guiding and interpretation, as well as living closer to forests, is in my path. I didn't get the job I wanted but I was offered Campground placement. (update from winter 2020: this summer I start as an interpreter!)
My first day: my housing wasn't ready so I was put somewhere else for an unknown amount of time. I had sent my measurements ahead of time for a uniform but there wasn't one that fit. (it would be several months, almost to then end of my contract, before I got proper pants that fit)
Also I had underestimated how isolated I would feel, I was more than an hour from any town and I worked with a very small team. I was told before I chose this location that people either love it or hate it, ha ha ha I thought "ill love it, won't it be nice to just go out to the woods and be alone" I knew there was no cell service on the highway, but oh thank god there was some internet at my cabin or I think I would have gone totally insane. Ultimately the thing that threw me the most was that I was going to work alone on all shifts. And on those shifts I would be doing up to 3 hours of driving every day. And that most of what I would be doing was cleaning outhouses and emptying garbages.
Now don't get me wrong, this section of wilderness is beautiful, special and unique. I tried so hard to love it out there but it took me months to feel at all settled, I was so lonely, and it didn't help that the weather all summer was terrible.
The biggest thing I could recognize is, I have some mental health issues to address. I need to be better at being alone, at controlling my emotions and dealing with disappointments.
Because barring everything that I have written here: nothing bad happened. The people were nice, and it really is so beautiful out there. I do know now that whatever position I go for in the future, I need a town close, socialization, and to not be so far from my husband.
Now for some good stuff!
I really have enjoyed representing Parks Canada. The visitors love talking to me, and I with them. I was always happy to sit and have a chat, telling them things to do and see, share the wildlife sightings. Later in the summer there were a lot of questions about the Rampart Creek wolf attack www.outsideonline.com/2401179/wolf-attacks-family-banff-national-park, as that campground was one of the ones on my route.
But honestly it is an honour to represent my country in such a beautiful part of it, and from all of what I learned this summer I am much more prepared to work in a visitor centre or as an interpreter.
And there were some things that happened in the summer that were truly awesome. I saw so many bears, but on one of my last days I saw a cinnamon colour bear in Ramart Creek campground. It was snacking on berries and then swam accross the river. It was a rare moment where I was alone with the animal (in my truck) Throughout the summer almost every bear I saw was surrounded by cars and people clogging the highway and I would have to call it in and ask everyone to move along. It was often a stressful part of the day, but this bear and me were on our own, it was quiet and peaceful. Another day I saw a small grizzly in a lunch area and had to get everyone to get in their cars. The grizzly wandered off, but a warden showed up and took me for a little walk in the woods to show me what the bear had been eating and doing and how to see the evidence. That was a great day too.
Another interesting thing about the summer was as soon as I was in my uniform, everyone assumed I had been on every hike in the area. This was just interesting, because I don't think anyone seemed to assume at all because I was larger that I would not have done all the hikes, it was such an automatic response that if I was in that uniform I just must be they type to have done it. That was cool.
If I really step back and look at it, even on my worst days out there, something wonderful or beautiful was there every day. I would eat lunch alongside a deer, early mornings loading the truck I would often be visited by our local rabbit eating its breakfast, the fantastic clouds and morning fog that completely hides the mountains until it burns off.
Pictured above: same location, morning clouds vs sunny afternoon. Amazing eh?
We had many baby birds that we got to watch learn how to fly, there were endangered Little Brown Bats that lived in our roof, and their babies were also out learning to fly. And remember how I said it never stopped raining? Well that led to an unprecedented mushroom bloom, and left the forest floor looking like the coast and just like a fairytale.
Above photos: I took so many photos of mushrooms. Alberta is a dry place and ive never seen so many growing here. I don't know what kind any were, I dont pick them. I just awed at them for weeks.
It was also so quiet and dark at night, especially with the clouds and rain. Just dark. I would drive home in the evening towards the campground I was living at and see the haze of the camp fires. It was comforting and felt less lonely.
I got to help with a rescue effort of an injured climber and watched a helicopter land in the campground, which was so loud and pretty cool. In another instance, one of the women I worked with had mice living in her car, and we knew there was a weasel in the woods, so we were trying to figure out how to let the weasel in the car to catch the mice! ha ha.
There was a wonderful wood stove sauna that employees had built, for employee use.
I worked conflict resolution, one evening helping 2 parties that had both thought they booked a site and were arguing about who would get to stay there. I helped them go from anger to sharing the site and having a wonderful evening together.
There was a loon love story, did you know Loons mate for life? We cheered on the two locals when they found each other. Thinking, good for you.
Overall this summer has been much the same as the rest of my life lately, personal confusion, job dissatisfaction combined with beauty, blessings seen and unseen, and learning.
I had strong moments where I had to step back and appreciate what I have and what I am working towards. Ive been angry and unsettled, largely as I have often talked about on this blog, around not being able to have children. I want change, I want to move on, and this was part of it. Change isn't easy. Figuring out life, and how you want to live it, isn't easy. But my incredible freedom to do it, and my privilege in life for where I live is my blessing.
Pictured here: Upper Waterfowl lakes. A 5 min walk from the cabin I stayed at. And on any night without rain, a wonderful place to spend an evening just listening, or reading, or chatting with other people that had wandered there.
So that summer is over, and Parks has hired me again! This summer I will be in Banff Townsite at the Cave and Basin Historical Site. I will be a Heritage Presenter. And I do believe my experience last summer is what allowed me to finally secure an interpreter job this year. It was worth it. And looking back, even just writing this, I can see more of what was so good about the summer.
there are facts and then there are emotions. This is as honest as I can be about my struggles and triumphs.