a speedy orientation

Photo May 19, 3 03 01 PM
Our shiny living room

(Written last Saturday morning…)

I moved into COLM on last breezy, cloudy Sunday afternoon. I briefly met my new boss, Nick, his girlfriend Lauren, and their dog GRTE (“Gerty”), who showed me to my new home: a tan aluminum-sided duplex amongst three similarly appareled buildings, overshadowed by a high sandstone mound. The place is frickin beautiful inside. Hardwood floors, huge living room, huge bedrooms. The bathroom has this beautiful shower and a bathtub. (Goes on my list of great things about new job. Also on there: I get to drive a pick-up truck.) Nick was friendly and competent, Lauren was outgoing and welcoming, and GRTE was adorable.

My roommate, Jackie, arrived midway through my unpacking chaos. She’s tall and kind and wide-eyed, with a soft voice and a loud, sudden laugh that takes one aback at first. Twenty-nine, married for almost a year. Her husband lives and works in Canyonlands. Jackie and I started talking immediately (like, I mean talking – we were discussing past relationships and our families and financial worries and religion and practically bowel movements within like the first five minutes) and thankfully, she’s super awesome. She’s funny, she’s open, she’s easy to talk to, she drinks beer. She is saving me right now. (And yes, yes, I apologize for my forays into dramatization.)

Photo May 25, 11 02 43 AM
My roommate Jackie. She’s fantastic.

So I moved in. Pictures on the walls, clothes in drawers, knick-knacks on windowsills. (Including my little plastic good luck dinosaur, who accompanies me on all trips, and Phil (osopher) the Bear, and many beautiful paintings from my very talented friends and family.) And training commenced. Five hot days of it. (Hot is an adjective I’ll probably learn to leave out, as it will be implied. I got into my car today and the little screen-y on the dashboard said “102° F.” It was probably exaggerated, but it was a bit shocking.)

Photo May 25, 8 13 42 PM
Identity yet unknown. Anybody?

There are only two of us new seasonal interp rangers this summer, so most of training was just Nick (lead interp, who led the training), Mark (an older guy most recently from Grand Teton), and myself. Training was a haphazard concoction: one minute we were learning how to operate the copy machine; the next, driving two hours to Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park; the next, being discreetly tested on how well we could back into tight parking spaces with the government Escape. (This, through sheer luck, I did perfectly the first time – surprising, I believe, all three of us.) Mark and I both have multiple seasons as interpreters under our belts, so the training was more of an orientation to the park and the logistics of our programs here. We hiked some of the trails, learned the names of our rock layers, attempted to identify lizards on the fly, puzzled over wildflowers together. (“They’ll all be dead in three weeks anyway,” Nick told us, waving his hand dismissively at the flowers.)

Our field trip to Black Canyon, in which we learned all about our park’s base rock formation (creatively named the Black Canyon Formation; it’s over 1.5 billion years old) was a lovely diversion into the area. The place looks a bit like a setting for a Lord of the Rings scene, all choppy black canyon walls dropping straight into shadowy depths. Here, you can see for yourself.

Photo May 21, 3 04 23 PM
Black Canyon of Gunnison National Park

Friday was our last day of training, but also our first day in uniform. I get the impression they’ve been a bit pressed for staff round here, and with Memorial Day weekend upon us, Mark and I were desperately needed to staff the visitor center (which is about eight thousand times the size of IsRo’s, with many exhibits including an at-the-push-of-a-button vocalizing canyon wren, which warbles melodiously throughout the rooms every thirty seconds or so.)

Photo May 25, 10 57 54 AMWithin minutes of ceremoniously removing my flat hat (it’s still ridiculous; no change there) and stepping behind the desk, I was initiating a new Junior Ranger (Russell, age “five and a half years”.) The day included another 400 or so visitors, including a “creation scientist” who talked to me at great length about how the park’s geology proves creationism (these people always come in when no one else is around, somehow), a woman wearing a Zingerman’s Tshirt, and two separate couples from Germany who were delighted when I carried out our whole conversation in German. Points to Liz.

Saturday is my day off, and I’ll write more soon about this place itself: the great sandstone monoliths, the thirsty resurrection mosses, the swifts catching currents in the sky.

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