June 8th, 3:22pm
Outside the Rocky Mountain Park Headquarters, Kathy Brazelton welcomed us into the Ranger offices. Kathy is the District Naturalist for the East side of the park. She has been rangering for 30 years throughout the west, but has spent the past 16 years in these Rocky Mountains. When we asked what drew her to this park, she answered:
“I love these mountains. They are in my soul. You can get up in them with… backpack gear, in a place where you may see 2 people for a week. So even though we get 4 million visitors, that experience is still available to folks. And even folks who… can’t do that kind of a trip, they can still find places where they can find the solitude and the healing powers of wilderness.”
For as crowded as the park can seem (and especially so as we were here on Memorial Day weekend), visitors are still drawn to the expansive mountains and canyons of a park that is 95% wilderness. She told us about how exciting is to be a park ranger, to be able to slow down and learn the language of nature in order to be a part of a living conversation, to keep learning in order to be, as Aldo Leopold stated, “intelligent tinkerers.” Rangers in other countries, she told us, were created to protect the property of kings and queens. But rangers here, follow the lead of Enos Mills. As Kathy says:
“…the story of Enos, coming here as a boy, falling in love with the mountains, setting up his mountain guiding school. And he really started the whole naturalist profession, of taking people into the mountains, and he said, ‘Don’t just tell them its name, tell them what it does. Tell them how it touches them.’ I mean, he had the principles of interpretation down before anybody else did. If you read his ‘Adventures of a Mountain Guide’ that’s where he laid out the profession…”
She spoke our language with the ‘care about, care for’ principle. That the more one learns about the park, the more they’ll care about it, and the more one cares about it, the more one will pick up the mantle to care for the parks as well.