Last updated: April 14, 2015
The interaction started out similarly to many that I have while staffing the visitor center desk. I said "hello," asked
how their day was going, and invited them to let me know if there was anything I could help them with. I assisted
Amy* (names have been changed) in choosing an appropriate book for her precocious daughter to read on their
flight home. Amy asked me if I knew about a cabin on an island near the park headquarters and whether or not it is
still standing. Her mother lived there for a summer during the 1960s and Amy hoped to visit the cabin.
Unfortunately the tides were too high to walk across the cut onto Lagoon Island where the cabin does in fact still
stand. I have explored the island myself and was able to share my photographs with Amy. Her face lit up with
excitement when she saw them. She explained to her family that this was the cabin where Grandma Ellen* used to
live. Ellen was happy that her family was visiting Glacier Bay, a place she remembers fondly. Our interaction in the
visitor center ended with a promise to email my pictures of the cabin to Amy. I thought that was the end of it.
I sent the email and thought about how interesting it would be to live in the Lagoon Island cabin and paddle to work
every day. I imagined how nice it would be to have a small island to retreat to after a long day of work. A few weeks
later I found out what it had been like to live there. Ellen sent me an email to thank me for sending my pictures. She
shared with me some of her experiences living there during the summer of 1968. She worked as a waitress at the
lodge. Her husband was a naturalist ranger aboard the tour boat the Seacrest. The couple explored Glacier Bay
on their days off, met notable park visitors, and endured an August with no sunshine and lots of rain. Ellen
expressed the same enthusiasm and sense of adventure present in park staff today. Ellen even found some of her
photographs from her time spent here which she has graciously given me permission to share with you.
Ellen also shared my pictures with her husband Henry*. His name struck a chord of recognition that I could
not place until I received a letter and a copy of his recent book about the 1912 eruption of Novarupta in Katmai
National Park and Preserve. Finally the light bulb clicked on and I realized that I recognized his name from research
I had done to create my tour of the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes while working at Katmai a few years ago. I was
amazed by the connections stemming from one seemingly typical interaction with people perusing the visitor center.
As rangers we strive to be helpful and informative. We hope that we are succeeding at creating positive experiences
for visitors to the parks we work at. Usually we never find out whether or not we are successful. Every once in a
while we get the opportunity to form a deeper connection.
It is truly inspiring to be in contact with people like Amy, Ellen, and Henry. Henry continues his career with the USGS
sharing his geologic understanding of the world through his research. Ellen and Amy keep exploring national parks
having just returned from a visit to Yosemite. Meeting them had deepened my connection to those who came before
me to act as stewards of this place. It has been a refreshing reminder that you never know who you will meet or
what ties will connect you. National parks are places to reflect upon the splendors of the natural world around us
and the roles that we play in that world. They are also places to give thanks to those who preceded us. Some days
we get to directly connect with those people. As Ellen said in her last email, "Isn't it a small world?"