Friday, August 13, 2010

Goodbye, Cave!

I've never quit so early in the season. Even if I only work Saturdays, I've always hung on to the end in October, but last night I turned in my key and badges. No more laser pointer, no more flashlight holder. It's SO SAD! Every year. Your last day of the season is always filled with emotion. Ten summers at Timp Cave. I MUST record a few of the blessings. Remarkable blessings.

When I prayed before sleeping night before last, I said something like, "I'm so me get through my last day at the cave tomorrow." When I woke up to pray yesterday morning, my heart was overflowing with gratitude for cave blessings. My prayer was mushy and gushy. I can't capture it all in this one blog post, but I'll mention a few things.

The cave itself. The three caves are incredible. For a girl who never had Park Ranger on her list of things to do, I have LOVED that cave!! I've learned so much about geology and our Earth. I have different eyes to see as I travel around and hike in mountains. I always joke that I've been learning geology in "layers." Thank you, Cave, for teaching me part of your story. I'm not a cave professor or anything, but I have learned. You are beautiful. Glad I get to preserve and protect you.

The trail. The trail is where it all started in my quest for a safe place to hike. I am so thankful for the ability to walk. What a blessing all of that hiking and sweating have been to me. The trail has built my testimony and faith in God. I am still skittish and wary about rockfall, but over the years, those random falling objects have turned into "testimony rocks." God knows what all the rocks are doing and where they are falling. I have never been hit by a single one (except the one my husband threw at my head during training when we were all wearing hard hats, "Did that hurt?" he asked...). On MULTIPLE OCCASIONS, the Lord has held back the elements for me. Just for me. Whole slides have been held back until I have passed by safely. When it's my time, it will be my time. For now, God has truly been preserving and protecting me as I have been preserving and protecting the cave.

The rangers. This is the part that brings tears to the eyes. The rangers at Timpanogos Cave are some of the most incredible people who roam the Earth! How lucky am I to have worked with the legendary Arlo Shelley? I have been mentored by Jay Allen and Royce Shelley. When K and I pray sometimes, we express gratitude for all of our Ranger Friends. There are so many, but they are diverse and talented, loving and hilarious! All those Lunch Bench moments. All those inside jokes. All those unprofessional radio chats about the Timpanogos Cave Rule being in effect and Switching to Plan B. I don't know if our Chief Ranger has ever figured out what Switching to Plan B means. He asked me once straight out, but I hedged, refusing to share the little interpreter secret. Watch Point...yeah, I've left one every year except this year. Good times.

Visitors. They come in all shapes and sizes. They come from near and far. Some are polite guests. Others are rude and obnoxious. Some are a little off in their thinking. One woman left me speechless when she said with all confidence, "We went to a cave in Texas once, but that one was underground." Underground? We were standing a hundred and ten feet underground in Middle Cave Fault and I couldn't figure out how to let this woman know that WE TOO were UNDERGROUND! So I smiled and nodded. Just smiled and nodded. On my fourth tour yesterday, one of my best in my whole career, I was talking with my group at the exit, giving my conclusion for my "Was it Worth It?" theme. I was a bit indulgent (but they loved it) as I ended by telling them how the cave has been worth it for me. I apologized for the mushiness (and don't worry, my conclusion wasn't as long as this blog post), but I told them that out of everything, my biggest prize from the cave was finding my husband.

Husband. That's right, husband. Who knew I would find my husband there? HIGHLY unlikely. Tons of cute, young, female rangers to choose from and he picked me, the chubby girl ten years older! I was enumerating all of these other blessings in my prayer yesterday morning and then sort of chuckled to myself and said, "Oh yeah, Heavenly Father, and let's not forget finding my husband! I certainly thank Thee for that." When I signed myself up for rangering, I was focused on not wasting my summers by watching too much television. I wanted to EXERCISE. I wanted to try this neat ranger thing. I wanted to help. Serve. Wear the badge (the green pants, the flat hat). Supplement my income. Be cool like Kristen. And somehow I got married. In the House of the Lord. For time and all eternity. To a VERY nice man. A Sweetie. A GOOD man! A man who loves me so much that he can't even believe it. How LUCKY am I???

So lucky. So blessed. So incredibly blessed. Blessed by a cave. A forty-three degree cave that's hard to get to on some days. I love you, Cave. I love you for all these reasons and more, but I have this Other Job...another Huge Responsibility. It's time to Be With The Children who are coming in a few days. I must Teach. It's one of my gifts. And then I will spend my days off with that Husband you gave me. Thank you, Cave. Thank you for all of these things.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Rocky Mountain National Park

If only this old backpack and hiking stick could tell a few stories from their perspective...

I was reading aloud to K from a book called Funny Trail Tales. In one excerpt by Howard Tomb, author of FINE POINTS OF EXPEDITION BEHAVIOR in The Cool of the Wild, we found something that each of us can work on. K is guilty of breaking Expedition Behavior Rule No. 1: GET THE HE** OUT OF BED. He's just not a morning person. He loves to sleep in. J is guilty of breaking Expedition Behavior Rule No. 2: DO NOT BE CHEERFUL BEFORE BREAKFAST. As aptly described in the book, J is thus, "Some people wake up as happy and perky as fluffy bunny rabbits. They put stress on those who wake up as mean as rabid wolverines." We hope we have many more years, summers, and weekends to keep improving our Expedition Behavior!

We hiked to Lulu City, population 200 back in the day from 1879-1884. We were in the Kawuneeche Valley and there were these bright red mushrooms all over the place. To me they are screaming, "I dare you to eat me...heh, heh, heh." However, a sign said the golden mantled ground squirrels consume them. Not much of this old ghost town/silver mine left...just a tree growing through the leftovers of someone's old cabin. Great 7.4 mile hike!

Marmot and Elk.

Adams Falls.

Nymph Lake.

Dream Lake.

Dream Boat!

Hallet Peak from Emerald Lake, the third of the three lakes beyond Bear Lake. I love the name "Never Summer Mountains."

Alberta Falls...Alberta was the wife of Mr. Sprague. That's why they call it Sprague Lake. Everybody has to earn their livin' and it's kind of funny to watch ducks do that. I think the chipmunk was in some kind of transcendental hypnotic state because it sat that still while I snapped a couple of pics.

This is Lava Cliffs and Alpine Tundra above 12,000 feet on the Trail Ridge Road.

We drove the Old Fall River Road constructed between 1913 and 1920. We stopped at Chasm Falls and grabbed this picture of five big bull elk lounging around.

Lake Irene is a beautiful easy walk with friendly mule deer. "Federal Deer" aren't afraid of humans, it seems.

This is near (ten miles) the headwaters of the Colorado River in Coyote Valley. We had a nice afternoon walk here--sunny.

This was taken from our site at Timber Creek Campground on the west side. The east side campgrounds fill up quickly and it's a ZOO over there, so we did enjoy the "quiet" side of the park. All of the trees have been cut down due to the bark beetle infestation. Our changing campground neighbors included: a couple from Poland, a guy riding his bicycle from Seattle to Louisiana, an Asian couple from San Francisco with a souped up van to sleep in, an older fellow with a little Jack Russell terrier who made loud, constant, bear-like snoring noises in his sleep (the human, not the dog--K and I laughed about these noises for two nights!), and a man with two older daughters who needed high-volume banjo music to feel comfortable at all hours. It rained off and on every single day, but we still had no trouble hiking, cooking, and sleeping.

K and I had ourselves another great trip! We had been to Rocky Mountain National Park once for snowshoeing in winter, but this was J's first time to visit in the summer. We highly recommend the park any time of year, but dress warmly no matter the time of year because they call them the NEVER SUMMER MOUNTAINS for a reason!