“The tendency nowadays to wander in the wilderness is delightful to see. Thousands of tired, nerve-shaking, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wilderness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”
That was/is me: a nerve-shaking, anxiety-ridden, addicted to social media person. Yet I noticed a pattern, when I did spend time outside I began to feel less anxiety and nervousness. I wasn’t worried about school, work, or anything else. I was fascinated by every leaf, animal, tree, rock, and river I saw.
The summer after graduating high school, my family visited Yellowstone National Park and the spark of being a National Park Ranger ignited. By the end my freshmen year of university, the dream of being a National Park Ranger became a goal. I decided to follow my dream, and promptly transferred schools. During the summer of my sophomore year, I had my first job with the National Park Service, and I was hooked! I love helping people connect with nature and enjoy making visitors’ vacations memorable and special.
Actually being able to speak in front of a group of people was never something I thought I could do as a career. Growing up I was always considered to be quiet and shy. Doing anything in front of a crowd to was terrifying to me! I was a nervous wreck for my first program and tour as a ranger in the summer of 2012. You know how in cartoons, a character’s knees knock together when they are scared? That’s what happened to me!
It turned out that I only had five people in that first program, but I fell in love with the job. I don’t think I will ever be completely calm before I begin a program, but I don’t see myself changing jobs quite yet!
Colorado has become a special place in my heart, especially Mesa Verde National Park where I am currently an Interpretive Park Ranger. This park has been a stepping stone for my career and has helped me grow in character as well. It was at Mesa Verde where I had that nerve-wracking first program, and it was where I learned that I could do my dream job.
My duties as an Interpretive Park Ranger include leading tours and programs of the Ancestral Puebloan dwellings the park protects, working in the Visitor and Research Center, the Archeological Museum, as well as hosting an evening program and leading backcountry hikes. My job is to help you connect to whatever is that interests you! My work day is spent at the desk at the Visitor Center or the museum helping people plan their trips, and giving programs through the cliff dwellings in the park. My main goal is to ensure that you have an amazing visit and will love Mesa Verde National Park as much as I do.
This is my first winter season here at Mesa Verde and there is still a lot you can do! When we do have snow, the park offers snowshoeing and cross-country skiing trails. The trails have been in excellent condition and many have been enjoying this quiet time in the park. You can join a ranger for a talk about Spruce Tree House and the Ancestral Pueblo People. The Mesa Top Loop is a scenic driving loop that offers some amazing views of canyons, cliff dwellings, and some mesa top sites. The winter is a great time to see wildlife as well. I have seen more this winter season than I do in the summer.
If you’re planning a winter trip to Mesa Verde, be sure to check the park website to see how the road and trail conditions are before you go: www.nps.gov/meve
Spruce Tree House in winter
Ranger Kaiti May is an Interpretive Park Ranger with the National Park Service. She is currently spending the winter season in Mesa Verde National Park after spending a summer at Yellowstone. She previously worked at Mesa Verde during the summers of 2012 and 2013 after her first season as a National Park Ranger in 2011 at the Assateague Island National Seashore. Follow her National Park adventures on her blog, www.rangerkaitimay.com, and on social media. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @rangerkaitimay and like the Ranger Kaiti May Facebook page!
Inside Spruce Tree House in the summer