The Slow Season
The job of a park ranger tends to follow (predictable) cycles of boom and bust. Memorial Day through Labor Day is the boom time. Park visitor centers tend to have longer hours to serve the higher summer visitation. Parks begin to slow down through September and into October. By the time November rolls around, many parks are at a standstill. Most seasonal services have shut down. Buildings not receiving maintenance lay dormant waiting for warmer temperatures and the accompanying influx of visitors.
Carlsbad Caverns sees a decided decrease in visitation, but the flow of people never completely ceases. Mild winters and a constant cave temperature of 56°F (13°C) means the caverns are a year-round vacation destination. For the rangers it usually means more intimate programs since they rarely sell out. It also means (hopefully!) a little more office time to work on projects. Last winter was spent coming up with special programs and projects to celebrate the National Park Service Centennial. This winter will be devoted to possibly continuing some of the special programs as well as going over suggestions we received from you, our visitors, over the past year.
Even during the slow season we have our busy times. The week of Thanksgiving and the week between Christmas and New Year will be busy. Anytime school isn’t in session, parks see a bump in their visitations. Winter destination parks (Death Valley, Saguaro, etc.) count on those bumps and plan staffing levels accordingly. Here at the caverns we’ll see a slump from mid-January to March. Come March our visitation will increase exponentially with Spring Break. Since Spring Break schedules are staggered throughout the country, the entire month stays busy. April and the first half of May is dedicated to hammering out the details of a new summer schedule and training new staff members. By the time Memorial Day rolls around again, we’ll be hitting the ground running to keep up with the thousands of visitors who want to explore the majesty of Carlsbad Caverns.
The life of a park ranger is never dull. We are lucky enough to get to do something different every day. The slow season allows for different opportunities to rejuvenate and refresh our ideas while never getting far away from serving you. For those of you lucky enough to experience parks in their slow seasons, take it in and enjoy. No matter how busy or how slow visitation is on any given day, you are always our number one priority.