Return From the Grand Canyon

I have returned to St. Louis after two weeks of Fundamentals training with the National Park Service at the Grand Canyon. It should go without saying that the experience was incredible. The scenic views were great, yes, especially for a Midwesterner like me who’s used to seeing flat corn fields and cows. But what really made the experience so special were the people involved and the lifelong friendships I developed in such a short amount of time. Someone mentioned on the last day that we had all become family, and I feel like those family bonds will be strong no matter how different our future career paths may be or if we ever meet in real life again.

Forty-eight Park Service employees from all grades and divisions within the agency and from all parts of the United States came together for this training. Nobody came in with an ego or an air of superiority about their work or their pay. We spent most of our time in the classroom learning about various elements of NPS operations (interpretation and education, law enforcement, visitor and resource protection, administration, policy, etc.) and participated in many group discussions and team-building activities, including one major project in which seven groups used the knowledge they learned about NPS operations to collaborate in the building of their own fictitious park unit. Everyone contributed fresh, dynamic ideas about their role in the agency and ways for strengthening the values behind our mission to preserve and interpret our nation’s natural and cultural resources. I’ve left the experience re-energized and anxious to do better in my role interpreting 19th century U.S. history at the Ulysses S. Grant National Historic Site. I also feel very encouraged and excited about my future career prospects with the Park Service.

During the training we had several opportunities to view and explore the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. On the first day our instructors took us to the Park’s main visitor center and viewing area for about ninety minutes, although the view was marred by pouring snow and dense fog. During our weekend break about twenty of us chose to hike down the Bright Angel Trail. Some in the group hiked all the way down to the bottom of the Canyon, spent the night at Phantom Ranch, and came back up the next day, but my group opted to do a six-mile day hike to the Three-Mile rest house and back. Finally, many of us went to Desert View on our last day of training to take in the view at the area’s watchtower.

Here are my favorite photos from these explorations. Some of these photos were taken with my iPhone camera, while others were taken with my Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ70. Click on any image to view the gallery at full size. Enjoy!

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