Monday, May 30, 2011

My Fearless Team

The snow is gently falling outside on opening day for the "summer" at the Grant Village and Fishing Bridge Visitor Centers. Instead of being at one of these two buildings I find myself sitting at home in my pajamas sipping coffee. I had every intention of getting up early and heading to work to make sure things went smoothly, however the night prior my team gathered at my house for a dinner party and they informed me that if I tried to leave my house they would lock me inside! It has been a tremendous past three weeks and my team adamantly decided that it was time for me to take a day off! Or at least half a day off!

For the past two weeks I have had seasonal Park Rangers arriving from far and wide to work in either Grant or Fishing Bridge for the summer. They each arrived to find snow on the ground and nighttime temperatures in the 20's and 30's yet they still embraced the "summer season" with open arms. Bundled up in hats, gloves and winter jackets we explored the Park while learning about everything from the Park's resources, how to handle wildlife jams, how to stay safe and how to handle emergency situations. Learning to be a Yellowstone Park Ranger in just two weeks is a challenge all on it's own, however their challenge was increased due to the rubble that Spring had left for us to deal with! Everyday there was something new added to our plates yet each of them patiently and diplomatically dealt with the difficulties that Spring had brought us such as: broken visitor centers, offices with no heat,  computer/internet failures, lack of operational restrooms in our offices and one house with no hot water for over one week!  For every failure I apologized but rather than be upset my amazing crew rolled with the punches that I (nor anyone else) could have prevented. Rather than focusing on the problems we diverted our energy into all the good that surrounded us. After all, we were in Yellowstone, on some sort of pre-destined pathway to a wonderful summer.

Despite overseeing two sub-districts, the never ending spring challenges and the 12 hour workdays, I thoroughly enjoyed seasonal training which came to a successful conclusion on Friday. No, my team didn't know everything. No, the Visitor Center's were not perfectly ready for opening day.  And no, summer weather had not arrived. However, considering our timeline and difficulties we were looking pretty darn good!

Friday evening we gathered at my house for an "end of training" dinner party. The living room and dining room were packed with seasonal park rangers of all ages and backgrounds, unified by the National Park Service mission to protect and preserve. I watched them as they all share stories and laughed in unison. They were a team. Most of them had only known each other for less than two weeks however you would have thought that this was actually an "end of season" party. I sat there feeling quite proud of myself and my team,  but then they decided to take it one step farther! Hushing the group, one of the seasonals delivered a speech expressing gratitude for all the hard work I had done thus far. She thanked me for bring them all together, not only during scheduled training, but also after work through backcountry trips and dinner parties. Presenting me with a card, I opened it slowly, and read the most beautiful and inspiring words written by all who attended the party. I was truly honored. After only two weeks of knowing me they had already adopted me in their hearts as their "fearless" leader. Yet I wonder if they know that in that exact moment I had officially accepted them as my "fearless" team!

And so here I am, on opening day, sitting in my PJ's sipping coffee, with a peaceful mind and full confidence in the people who will be the faces of the Grant Village and Fishing Bridge Visitor Centers this summer: My team!



  1. Hope you enjoyed your Opening Day spent in your PJ's. That's a sign of good leadership and a fantastic crew. Good luck with your Summer Season. Can we send you from Georgia a bit of this 90's plus weather? We are happy to share!