Season 1 Episode 2: Chillin' in the Alpine with Cynthia Langguth
Season 1 Episode 2: Chillin' in the Alpine with Cynthia Langguth
Back at it again! We join Cynthia Langguth, interpreter and EMT, at the Alpine Visitor Center to learn about the incredibly unique world of the alpine tundra: the land above the trees. Marmots, pika, and ptarmigan... oh my! #rmnpod
[Host: Miles Barger]
What's up Rocky podcast listeners. This is the Rocky Mountain National pod cast it is Friday June thirtieth the last day of June. So happy early July to everybody. We appreciate you coming along for the ride at this week's episode is super cool. We have Cynthia Langguth, she is the Ranger, the lead interpretive Ranger up with our Alpine Visitor Center. So we're going to learn all about things alpine, from the flowers, to the animals, to the weather, and things to watch out for. All sorts of stuff like that. So definitely stay tuned. Before we get started we want to give you a couple of pieces of news.
First of all Old Fall River Road is open. It just opened up like while we're recording this. So, Old River Road is now open for your driving, walking, or whatever pleasure. It is one way up only, you don't know that it's one way from the bottom to the top, and we have had sometimes where it's been super busy. Last year we've had to shut down traffic in the middle of the day. So, if you're planning on coming as with everything arrive early or come later in the evening. It's a beautiful road so if you've never done that before check it out, and it leads up to the Alpine Visitor Center where Cynthia and all of our Alpine Rangers are that we're going to talk about today on the podcast.
Another thing with the roads, we do have road construction going on. If you come into the park, so Moraine Park campground road there some construction there. It can be like five to fifteen minute delays pretty soon after you turn off Bear Lake Road. And, then we also have some pavement preservation stuff. Keeping our pavement in good shape throughout the park and that's just in various areas. So, if you come to an area where cars are stopped for a little bit that's probably what it is, unless everybody is stopping in the middle the road and looking at Elk. Which you should not do! So hopefully that gets moved on but otherwise it's probably pavement preservation.
We've got a program coming up that we want to tell you about it is climbing Long's Peak. So, this is going to be some of our climbing Ranger’s that live and breathe Long’s Peak every day as their job. Talking about climbing Colorado's favorite fourteener Long’s Peak. They're going to talk about climbing and hiking routes, lessons learned, how to prepare and manage for risks and all the things that are involved if you're thinking about a climb. This program is free and open to anybody and it is going to be at seven thirty P.M. on the evenings of July fifth and July twenty-first at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. So again seven thirty P.M. July fifth and July twenty-first at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center Amphitheatre, so come and check that out.
And one last shout out before we head into the podcast, the Rocky Pledge. So we've been putting this on our social media, and we also have it on our website. We have come up with something this summer called the Rocky Pledge. It is a pledge that you can take by yourself, with a group, out loud in your head whatever, however, you want to do it. We just ask that it be meaningful to you. So, if you go to go.nps.gov/rockypledge you'll see Rocky Pledge logo you'll see the pledge itself and you'll see ways that you can join in. We just have so many people coming up to the park now, and actually in a future episode are going to hear about that very soon. We're going to have Kyle Patterson the Public Information Officer for the park here and we're going to talk about the pledge and what you can do to help keep Rocky beautiful and protected. So, go there to learn more about that. We're also encouraging people to take shots on social media, you'll see our logo is like two hands lovingly in circling a bighorn sheep. So if you want to go out in the park and take pictures with your hands and circling stuff or any creative ideas anything like that just tag with the #rockypledge and we go through and look at that hashtag and we re-post shots and we have a bunch of followers so you know win win for everybody.
All right we're going to head into the podcast again this is Cynthia Langguth the Alpine Visitor Center main interpretive Ranger and you're going to learn all sorts of stuff about her and the Alpine.
Cynthia Langguth: Need a Britney Spears mike.
Miles Barger: Yeah, that would be awesome. Hey everyone put on these Britney Spears mikes. OK so I'll give you a little intro to the beginning the podcast so you don't have to go through your full name and everything so we'll start out. Yeah. Then you can monitor listen in and hear myself talk.
CL: I hear voices in my head and it’s mine.
MB: I can like hear my own voice in my head. We don’t have an exact outline.
CL: That's OK just kind of we can wing it.
MB: So we'll start with, Cynthia what do you do here a Rocky Mountain National Park? What's your official title?
CL: So my official title is Park Ranger Interpretation and EMT, which is kind of an interesting combination.
CL: But, I primarily spend my time in the summers in the Alpine tundra of the park and manage the Alpine Visitor Center operation.
MB: What about the winter?
CL: So, in the winter there's a lot of catch up from summer. You know you're hosting three and a half a million of your closest friends a little cleanup time. So, in the winter we do a lot of preparation for the summer and I also get to lead snowshoe walks and full moon hikes in the winter which is pretty awesome.
MB: Maybe we’ll have to come back and talk about that in a little bit. So, Alpine Visitor Center, Rocky’s is pretty famous for its Alpine tundra.
CL: It is.
MB: Is it not. On the way driving up here we saw lots and lots of people eager to see it. So, I thought we'd start by just talking about Alpine tundra what it is. What makes it what it is, nature it is it is because of what it is. Yes, so I guess first we could talk about tundra in general so what is tundra in general?
CL: Yeah, the tundra is I guess a slightly more generic term that just describes ground that is free of trees and temps historically. It's also been defined as you know a lot of permanently frozen ground that certainly I don't think is necessarily the case from a scientific standpoint today. But when tundra was kind of initially used it was to describe an area free of trees that had a lot apparently frozen ground, and then that either you know occurs where you are at, you know really far north latitude in the northern hemisphere or you're at a really high elevation which is of course what we have here in the park.
MB: Right, OK so tundra place without trees that's due to temperature. I guess instead of dryness sort of Alpine tundra is because of Alpine being high elevation, right.
CL: Exactly, versus Arctic tundra which would be latitude based. Yeah
MB: Yeah, so if you want to find tundra due to latitude you have to go very far north.
CL: You do.
MB: Or if you want to find tundra somewhere like Colorado you just have to go up to, in Rocky we’re just generally speaking.
CL: So, generally speaking it occurs around eleven thousand and eleven thousand four hundred feet in elevation, in Rocky and kind of in the, this region of the southern Rocky Mountains certainly as you go further south tundra is found a higher elevation and you go for the north it's about lower elevations. I mean there's Alpine tundra at the equator if mountains are high enough.
MB: If it's tall enough.
MB: Yeah, I worked in Denali National Park for a while and I think their south facing slopes was around twenty-four hundred feet north facing was around eighteen hundred or something like that. So, you just keep going north and eventually it’s sea level.
MB: Takes a while.
CL: Don't have trees even at sea level.
MB: Yeah, exactly.
CL: Pretty amazing!
MB: So, at that eleven-thousand-foot mark here approximately in Rocky, what is it about that elevation that makes it so there are no trees?
CL: So, you know certainly there's a lot of factors that influence tree line but the primary driver is temperature. Trees need a long enough period during the summer to basically go into trees. They need to have enough time to put on new growth and grow up-words, and if the warmest temperature, average warmest temperature during the summer months is below fifty-degrees then pretty much don't have trees anymore. So, that fifty-degree isotherm as it's called is the determining factor for tree line. So, yes it’s just too cold, trees don't have enough time to grow up into trees.
MB: Right, it is too cold and harsh for any tree to make it.
CL: Yes, we don't we definitely get the little kind of shrubby trees, called krummholz’s which technically are the same tree species you find down in the big majestic forests but they're a little stunted up here.
MB: Yeah, krummholz’s that’s an interesting word.
CL: Great name.
MB: Yeah, a German word, right?
CL: Yes, crooked wood.
MB: Crooked wood. Yeah. You see it. Try to think of some places visitors go that are really good to see it like Rainbow Curve.
CL: Yeah, Rainbow Curve is definitely approaching that transition zone between the forest and the alpine tundra. Yeah and even though you know even at pull-offs like Forrest Canyon, Medicine Bow Curve, you can see examples of krummholz’s.
MB: Yeah, Yeah, it's really amazing to see. It's almost like natural Bonsai or something. Super close to the ground, really knareled, they just creep along in little pockets.
CL: Yeah. It’s definitely like Mother Nature’s prunie.
MB: Anywhere are they can find a little bit of shelter from the wind even from themselves. It's amazing how thick they can grow in places.
MB: OK So, Alpine tundra. Rocky has a lot of Alpine tundra.
CL: About a third of the park.
MB: About a third of the park. The park is just under a quarter million acres, so a lot of areas about of Alpine tundra and I think one of the things that makes Rocky so cool and unique is that we have this road that takes you right up in the Alpine tundra, its paved so you can see it in the summer when the road is open, and so when people are driving out that's what they're seeing. One thing that I want to make sure we talk about, so we'll talk about it now with Alpine tundra. So, no trees can grow up here, but other stuff can go up here. What other kind of things grow on the Alpine tundra and when do they grow?
CL: Yeah, so surprisingly I think to a lot of visitors and even staff when they first start working here is how diverse the Alpine tundra is. You know at thirty-five miles an hour in your car can kind of look like a lawn, but when you stop and really spend some time taking a closer look there's actually over three hundred plant species that make their home in the Alpine tundra, here in the park. Some of those are endemic to high elevations in this area.
MB: So, they're only found.
CL: They're only found kind of in the southern Rocky Mountains, and then some of them are circumpolar. You'll find them in tundra up above the Arctic Circle you'll find him and other mountain regions in the world so it's a pretty cool mixed of plant species. A lot of flowering plants which certainly is what draws a lot of people that come here up into the high elevations in the summers to see the wildflowers, and then it's just amazing how tiny and slow growing they can be. You know the growing season here is kind of short compared to what most people are used to in their gardens.
MB: And about how long is it?
CL: Well it depends. If you're in a really sunny windswept area where you're snow free for a longer period of time you know you might have a really posh growing season of like ninety days.
MB: Oh, ninety days!
CL: Yeah, we're talking like you know living the life. And then other plant community’s other areas in the tundra where there's really late lying snow may only have a thirty five or forty day growing season. So, you don't have a lot of time to do business as a plant so you kind of have to have some you know tricks up your sleeve in order to start growing at lower temperatures in but your flowers out into the world a little earlier than, than, a lot of lower elevation plants so it's pretty interesting.
MB: What are some of the tricks?
CL: Well certainly being able to photosynthesize that much lower temperatures then your counterparts down low. So, a lot of Alpine plants will start growing when temperatures are still you know thirty-two, thirty-four degrees Fahrenheit just about freezing really. And then just growing quickly and putting a lot of energy into flowering right away because it's actually more energy intensive to make seeds so you want to have a longer period of the summer where you're putting that energy into making seeds for the next generation. So, a lot of plants appear flower pretty early. And then they have you know hair, and pigments, and waxy coating, and just all kinds of different adaptations depending on which plant you're talking about. Yeah it's just really cool to get to know the Alpine plants a little more and you know just really be surprised and I think impressed by how uniquely adapted life is up here. I mean they've done studies where they've taken high elevation plants down to greenhouses and they drop dead, like life is too good I just can't take it.
CL: So it's kind of cool. It's kind of cool that some of these plants only can grow here in this what seems like impossible harsh environment.
MB: Yeah, I remember, when I first started working up in Alaska and we would you know be out just to see all the different kinds of plants. That was another thing, like you're saying circumpolar or just tundra in general plants, I recognize so many plants here. Some of the same species really close even though it's so far away it was amazing. Same thing with the hair and all these different adaptations. So, I also think the diversity is amazing, I guess is that because, like you're saying conditions vary so much from place to place and it is so on the limit of where it's possible to grow that just small changes, and like you're saying snow freeness, or sun exposure, or moisture retention, or soils is that what drives that amazing amount of diversity that you can sometimes see.
CL: I think so you know it's really interesting up here you can walk just a short distance and transition from one very kind of specific plant community into another that's very different. You know from a super, dry, rocky, windswept Belfield into a more lush meadow. You know another hundred yards down the trail you might come to a wetland so it really is, you know it's, like it's like a big city that's got all these really unique neighborhoods, you know ethnically, and architecturally, and you know economically, it's just you know it's the same thing but you know that natural world that’s on a, on a smaller scale.
MB: I think the point that you made is really, really, good is that I think this happens to a lot of times in desert parks or just anywhere where the conditions are difficult, is that when you're driving through even at thirty five or twenty-five miles an hour, it kind of looks like a there's not that much going on, and then if you stop and you actually start walking some of our trails, we can talk about, and you look closer you realize there's so much stuff. You always have to get your nose down in the ground. Ever see anybody with their nose on the ground their butt in the air they're probably smelling or taking pictures of flowers with their phone.
CL: We call them belly flowers.
MB: Belly flowers.
CL: You have to get on your belly to actually appreciate that.
MB: So, but what this is one thing I want to make sure that we cover is that I want to talk about our tundra protection areas that we have in the park and, and, why those exist. And so let's talk about that first. So, we have to tundra protection zones in the park area. Could you talk about that a little bit?
CL: Yes. So, I think one of the things that I really kind of admire about the Alpine tundra is its incredible ability to adapt and overcome this really harsh environmental conditions, but the same time because of the harsh environmental conditions it's also really fragile. So, because plants grow, so slowly up here you know a few careless you know footprints can wipe out decades worth of growth for some of these species. So, we've learned from a lot of research that was done back in the nineteen-sixty’s that tundra is really slow to recover from trampling, and because we get so many visitors, and we have kind of you know localized the impacts up here with our major viewpoints, and parking areas in those particular spots it's just not feasible to let folks kind of wander around on the tundra itself, because there's too many feet, and they're going to cause long term damage that is going to take you know fifty plus years to recover if no one continues to step on it.
CL: So, yeah so in those areas we've, we've, created under protection zones where you actually are required by Park regulation to stay on paved trails or in parking areas, and that's simply to limit the impacts of thousands of people. You know daily during our peak visitation months from really causing you know almost irreversible damage to the tundra plant communities in those areas. So, it's yeah, it’s really important in those high visitation areas that folks are staying on those paved trails and really allowing the tundra to thrive.
MB: Yeah, I think that that's something that surprises tons of people is it takes a really long time for these tiny, tiny, plants to grow and yet when they get trampled it takes so long for them to grow back.
CL: Yeah, I mean they're species that put on like three leaves in a year.
MB: That’s amazing!
CL: You know and then next year they put on three more leaves you know or they or they are like a dinner plate size plant when they're you know fifty years old. So, you can wipe out quite a bit of growth just by accident grinding your foot when you're walking across the tundra.
MB: Yeah, that's amazing. So, if people do want to be able to see and kind of walk through the tundra get close to a lot of flowers but not trample it, and ruin it for the next fifty years, and keep it beautiful for everybody. Where are some places that you like to send people here look and see everything up close firsthand?
CL: Yeah, well there's, there's, definitely a lot of you know smaller pull offs along Trail Ridge Road up upon tree line where you know two or three cars can stop, and people can get out and then it's totally fine to walk on the tundra you know it's resilient enough that it can handle being stepped on you know a handful of times in a you know a span of a few days. And in those areas if folks are real careful, and they you know walk on bare spots, and rocks when they can, and walk softly on the plants when they are stepping on them it's really not going to cause long term damage, and in fact it's a great way to get to know the tundra a little bit more. So, really any of those smaller pull offs where we don't have you know large parking areas, and signs that indicate you need to stay on a paved trail it's fine to go out on the tundra, and it's interesting you know a lot of visitors don't realize that you can walk on the tundra outside those tundra protection areas. And, you know, another great way to experience the Alpine tundra and get to walk you know off the trail, and really get down on your belly, and check out the flowers, just to go with one of our tundra nature walks. Which are offered daily through the summer at nine-thirty am, and we definitely take folks off trail on those hikes.
MB: So, it's nine-thirty A.M. every morning, Alpine Visitor Center, go out with a Ranger.
CL: Yeah, through early August.
MB: Well, that's awesome! Our last our last podcast, if anyone missed it you can tune in and we talked with Kathy Brazelton a lot about Ranger programs in general and all the stuff that's going on. So, that's a really good one, up here. What are some other range of programs at Alpine Visitor Center that people might be into?
CL: So, in addition to the tundra nature walks which we offer every day we have a talk about the human history of the area. Specifically, around the roads and routes people have taken through the mountains over time. We got that “Road to the top” and that was offered twice weekly. And, then we also offer all about lightning talks three times a week and that one is, is, really good just to learn a little bit more about how to be safe in the park, not only above tree line but just when you're out exploring and adventuring in general, but certainly you know a big reason behind all about lightning talk is lightning is one of our environmental hazards in the summertime. So, we like to educate folks as best we can about how to you know how to plan ahead and how to you know make good decisions when they're in the park so that we don't have anyone injured or killed by lightning.
MB: Yeah, lightning is a big one up here, I think. I mean everyone knows Colorado gets a lot of lightning but, when you're up here above tree line and there's no trees the tallest thing around is often you. Could you talk a little bit about yeah just, just, some of those really general tips for folks? I think it's something that people just you know the Alpine is so different, Alpine tundra from what most of us live in on a daily basis, and that's one of the things people just don't, you don't think about until you're seeing it and it's too late and it’s scary.
CL: Yeah, you know, I think the Alpine tundra is kind of otherworldly to a lot of our visitors. There are a multitude of reasons and one is you know the weather up here, you come up from Denver it's you know ninety-five degrees and then you step out of your car up here, and the wind is blowing, and the wind chills you know is forty-two degrees, and you're still wearing flip flops and a tank top.
CL: So, that kind of throws people for a loop.
MB: And even right now, I don't know what it is in Denver today, I think in the ninety's.
CL: Yeah, it's supposed to be real hot.
MB: And right now, it's in the low sixty's up here, I’m glad I have on a wind jacket you’ve got on a vest, and this is a hot day.
CL: Yeah this is a really nice warm day.
MB: A really warm day.
MB: Yeah, definitely that's a, that's a great tip.
CL: Yeah, and then I think too you know, when it comes to thunderstorms and lightning you know so many of our visitors, and myself included, you know, growing up you, you, watch storms build from a distance and then they are you know, they're coming your way or they're moving away from you, you kind of have this this almost like theater experience when it comes to, to, weather a lot of times, and when you're in the high mountains the weather often builds right where you are, so you don't see it coming, you are in it as it you know developing and so I think it takes people by surprise sometimes.
MB: Happens so fast!
CL: It really does.
MB: You see something off in the distance and like you said, when you're like oh you know look at that storm it's coming in.
CL: Are those puffy clouds are getting a little darker at the bottom.
MB: Yeah, in minutes.
CL: Yeah so. So I think it does take people by surprise and then you know I think a lot of visitors just don't take lightning as seriously as they should here in the park as far as a real risk a real hazard. So you know definitely just getting out and playing in the high elevations early in the morning when there's less likely to be thunderstorms is always a good idea, you know check the weather forecast ahead of time, because we certainly can have under storms develop in the morning you know we've had thunder and lightning at ten AM. It's not always you know noon or one o'clock and then you know just make sure you have kind of an escape plan, you know don't push yourself if you think the weather is changing, turn around the only safe place to be in a lightning storm is in a substantial building or in a you know a hard-top vehicle. You know even outdoors if you get below tree line if you get into the forest you're still not as safe as you would be inside. So, I think it's really just about making good decisions ahead of time and choosing wisely about how you're going to recreate how you're going to spend your time in the park. So that you don't put yourself in one of those situations that can become dangerous really quickly.
MB: And then, I guess since we're on the topic a safety, the other thing I wanted to talk about make sure that we hit is altitude, so.
MB: We’re at Alpine Visitor Center right now. We’re at what altitude?
CL: So, we’re at eleven-thousand-seven-hundred-ninety-six feet, so almost eleven-thousand-eight hundred feet in elevation.
MB: OK and Trial Ridge Road goes a bit over twelve thousand feet in elevation so, I’ll tee you up for a question. So, is there less oxygen?
CL: There is not less oxygen percentage wise, as far as the amount of oxygen in our atmosphere, however, there's less available oxygen to you because the molecules are more spread out. So, if you kind of think about a box of air at sea level and a box of air at elevation, the percentage of oxygen is still the same inside that box but there's less oxygen molecules at elevations.
MB: So, you're getting less oxygen as you breathe.
CL: Yes, you’re getting less for sure.
MB: Significantly less.
CL: Yes, so your body is working a lot harder to get the oxygen it needs, and you know a lot of people think like oh I'll be acclimated after being here a couple days, and for a lot of visitors they do feel better after they're here for a few days, especially if they're taking care of themselves. They're getting sleep, they're eating probably more than they're used to eating, they're drinking a lot of water, caffeinated beverages do not qualify as fluids when you're coming to altitude.
MB: So, those are all things that help.
CL: They help.
MB: Eat a little more food, get some more rest, drink more water.
CL: You'll find you’re probably a little hungrier than you normally are, you need to drink more water because one the environment here is very dry and then two your body just working harder to get what it needs so you're using up more energy, more you know liquid, in your in your system.
MB: So, those things can help.
CL: They definitely can help, you don't fully acclimate until about three months. Which is the bad news you know because your red blood cells have about a three-month life cycle. So, you don't get rid of the old low elevation red blood cells, all of them until the three-month mark, and create those nice new red blood cells that carry more oxygen. So, well most people will often feel better after being here for a few days or a week physiologically you're not going to be acclimated in quite some time.
MB: And, how does it how does it make people feel? You know what, or what are some of the like some of the basic symptoms?
CL: So, you know for a lot of people they just they feel they feel short of breath, a little light headed, a little fuzzy. Folks will often get a mild headache. You know just, just, kind of feeling blah. Yeah just kind of rundown, and that's honestly pretty normal for most folks but what will happen is a lot of times it freaks you out right, like why can’t I catch my breath, I just did a short walk across the parking lot, so now I'm freaking out because I can't catch my breath, so now I can't catch my breath more, and so I'm freaking out even more, and now I'm getting a little dizzy, and you know it's kind of it's like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
MB: I’ve thought a lot about that, just that feeling, it just stresses people out.
CL: Yeah, it totally stresses people out. It causes anxiety.
MB: So, if people are coming up, especially, I mean you know, I know people that, I did this. When I first got here, yeah, I flew in from the D.C. area drove up to Estes Park, we have a few hours before dinner let’s dive up to Alpine Visitor Center, so you’re basically you’re at sea level to almost twelve-thousand feet in no time, and just standing around you, you can feel dizzy. Even if you're perfectly healthy person. So, one thing is yeah, just recognizing that those are some normal symptoms. And, then what if you're up here and they do start to get like if your headache starts to get really acute you know bad it just starts hurting, and feeling really crappy?
CL: Yeah, so really bad headache you just can't catch your breath no matter what you do no matter how long you rest you know dizzy enough that you have to sit down or you're going to fall down you know those are definitely more concerning symptoms, and all of the Rangers that work here at the Alpine Visitor Center are emergency medical technicians.
MB: Oh, OK everybody.
CL: Yup, everybody! It's a requirement of the job here, and we have a medical clinic attached to the visitor center where we can certainly treat visitors who are having a more serious reaction to altitude, or something else. You know a lot of people with preexisting medical conditions will find that when they come to altitude it really aggravates their condition, and something that they might have had relatively good control over a home now is manifesting itself as a more serious medical emergency. So, we certainly take those things very seriously and are happy to help folks that are having more a more serious reaction to the altitude. So, folks shouldn't hesitate to come on into the Alpine Visitor Center and talk to a Ranger if they aren't sure if what they're feeling is quote normal or not.
MB: Right good, that's great. And, then even if you're having mild symptoms the best cure is?
CL: The only cure is to go down.
MB: The best and only cure.
MB: Go down in elevation. Yes, you'll be getting more oxygen you will feel better.
MB: Yes decent. Good I think those are a lot of the safety things that I just want to make sure that we covered from the get go. So, we'll come back to Alpine stuff and visitors and everything. But! Let’s talk about you. Are you excited?
CL: I'm excited.
MB: I can tell how excited you are. So, Cynthia where you from originally?
CL: So, I grew up in Missouri.
MB: Missouri, where in Missouri? For our Midwestern Missouri listeners.
CL: So, kind of the west central part of the state small town near Warrensburg Missouri.
MB: And, when you were growing up were you guys big National Park travelers?
CL: We were. My dad was pretty opposed to going east of our home.
CL: So, we always went west and we visited National Parks, that's just kind of what we did. We had a family that lived near Yellowstone, and Grand Teton National Park, near the redwoods in California. So, about every summer we took some sort of family road trip for a week or two and hit National Parks. So, you know that was just kind of normal for me growing up, that's where we went on vacation. We were, we were definitely though the park visitor that like stopped at the visitor center, and got a map, and then stopped at the overlooks, and took pictures, walked the little nature trail, and then moved on to the next national park.
CL: We weren't hikers, we weren't camper, we never went to a Ranger led program, which I find kind of ironic since I turned into a Ranger that leads programs.
CL: You know I knew I wanted to be a park Ranger about time I was about twelve.
CL: But, I had no clue what they did.
MB: How did you know?
CL: Well, because I got to live and work in places like this, and that was like good enough for me at that age. So, you know the older I got I kind of figured out what Park Ranger’s actually did and it still sounded cool.
MB: You went to a lot of parks.
CL: And I wanted to be there all the time.
MB: I want to be there more.
CL: Yeah, I think it was really the landscapes. You know the like the aesthetics of western landscapes that really hooked me, and that kind of spoke to me on a level even as a you know as a pre-teen and teenager that was really meaningful and I knew like I need to be in these places so.
MB: Do you have any siblings?
CL: I do have an older brother.
MB: Does he feel like that?
CL: He does. Well he actually doesn't like out or photography and in videography. So, we both kind of ended up in fields that you know could have been somewhat predicted by our upbringing.
MB: Why do you think your parents are so into the National Park thing? Was it because you said you did it ever since you were little they done that with their parents?
CL: My dad did. He grew up well kind of to a certain extent they traveled a lot to Florida. So, he grew up going to the beach in the winter months. He lived in Michigan, and then my mom grew up on a farm in Nebraska, so kind of wide open spaces have always been special to her. And yeah, I think that was just kind of their thing, and then I think a lot of it had to do too with where some of our close family lived, and was situated as well. It was like if you go to Jackson Wyoming of course you're going to visit and Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park and that’s where I had relatives. Yeah, so I think I think they both just were really drawn to the same kind of western landscapes. I remember them really being into photography.
MB: What’s the first park you remember visiting?
CL: The first park I remember visiting is probably the Redwoods in California, and I remember the big trees, and then I also remember falling in the ocean and thinking I was going to get sucked out to sea. And then my mom having to shake out my little pink pants in the parking lot and sitting in my underwear in the back seat of the car was very embarrassing so.
MB: OK So that sealed it.
CL: It did that and that's a very, yeah vivid memory me as a child.
MB: Were there any, any smaller parks like less well known or you were going to?
CL: I remember Craters of the Moon.
MB: Oh, in Idaho?
CL: Yeah, that one was really cool as a kid the whole you know lava fields but then ice caves you know was just really, really interesting. I remember, like kind of you know skating in my tennis shoes on the in the ice caves you know early June when it was pretty warm outside. It was really that was a really interesting site.
MB: Yeah, east Idaho is that correct. Yeah Craters of the Moon.
MB: Yeah, for folks who don't know about, that we're trying to I'm asking people these things, I'm trying to highlight some of the units that people might not know about other than Rocky.
MB: And, that's a really amazing, yeah like you said just a bizarre place.
CL: Super cool.
MB: Fields of volcanic rock and ice caves and pretty remote. Yeah interesting.
CL: Yeah, that's definitely one I remember and then I remember as a teenager visiting Fort Laramie.
MB: Oh yeah.
CL: National Historic Park and I really liked that park. I was kind of into history at the time. You know I just found kind of Western history really fascinating and yeah, I thought there Fort Laramie was really cool.
MB: Yeah, so that's down in southeast Wyoming past Guernsey. Which I'm sure many of our listeners are familiar with Guernsey, just look it up. Fort Laramie it's really neat how it's been as different buildings restored to different time periods and they've done a lot of work restoring it and unlike Rocky which is a very busy park it is not a super busy park so you really have a lot of things yourself.
MB: And, at Guernsey state park near there there's a visitor center created by the C.C.C. with exhibits from the WPA and it is like in original condition.
MB: Yes, all the exhibits you can go in there and see, and there all hand calligraphy painted. It's really incredible, it's almost like oh yeah, it's almost like a WPA Museum. It's kind of it's just in this little park that the building is very park rustic architecture huge stones and timbers.
CL: Guernsey state park.
MB: Yeah, Guernsey state park. Yeah, shout out.
CL: Yeah, we didn't hit that on our family trips.
MB: Yeah, a lot of people don't know about it. I don't know if they want me to people but or not but now they know now that you know it's really worth seeing. So, you know you wanted to be a park Ranger near twelve. How did you go about making that dream a reality?
CL: So I when I was looking into where to go to college I definitely looked for programs that, you know were known in the kind of parks field had Parks and Recreation majors, tourism majors those sorts of things, and so I quickly kind of narrowed it down to just a handful of universities, and of course you know dreamed big about going out of state but then financial reality set in, and I ended up going to the University of Missouri which has a good parks recreation tourism program, and yeah so I kind of went into it not knowing exactly what I would focus on but pretty quickly realize that the interpretive educational side of things was what I was most interested in.
MB: And, why did that interest you?
CL: Yeah, I think I, you know I definitely was an extrovert in high school, you know loved drama, and you know kind of being in the thick of things all the time, and so I that appealed to me. Like being, being the educational Ranger, being the one giving the programs kind of you know entertaining visitors to a certain extent, and just also learning about these places. You know I grew up in a rural area and I just you know I was loved just exploring the creeks and forests near where I grew up in trying to figure out how things in nature work so I think that was appealing to, like it was my job to figuring out how things in nature worked and then explaining that to park visitors so yeah.
MB: Yeah, it's kind of similar, it's like oh I get to learn about all sorts of stuff and entertain you expect be the center of attention, sign me up. And you get to learn about so many different things which I think then is really cool.
CL: Yeah, and you're always learning you know because there's you have to you never are going to know everything you know it's like constant like oh wow that's really interesting.
MB: Yeah. So, you went there what was your first park. It didn't have the Park Service, but park job of some kind. Did you like internship?
CL: I did. So, I actually worked at a State Historic Site in Missouri one summer giving tours of an of a lodge home, historic home. Bothwell lodge state historic site near Sedalia Missouri. Yeah, so that was yeah that was a that was a cool, it was a cool experience and then and then I actually got an internship in the National Park Service. Because I always knew that you know growing up in Missouri I wanted to move out west so I don't think my family or my friends ever expected me to stay in Missouri. So, I was pretty, pretty excited when I got an internship at Rocky Mountain National Park during my junior and senior year.
MB: Really! That was your first internship.
CL: It was here, it was here, which is funny because we hadn't this wasn't one of the parks we visited a lot as a kid I think I'd come here once with my parents when I was maybe like thirteen or fourteen.
CL: And I remember thinking it was beautiful but it wasn't one of the landscapes that was kind of burned into my memory as, as a kid growing up you know like Grand Tetons and Grand Canyon, and you know southwest Utah. Was kind of burned into my memory more, so I thought it kind of ironic that I ended up here and then this is become an obviously a really special place to me over time.
MB: Yeah but what were you doing it with that internship?
CL: So, I was doing interpretation. So working at the visitor centers and leading major hikes.
MB: So, it wasn't burned into your memory what did you come away from that summer thinking, like did it.
CL: I think because I didn't grow up hiking and camping and doing those sorts of things you know I to started to dabble with that in college kind of just locally where I went to school, and so this was the first like big western landscape that I lived in and got to know more intimately as a hiker. You know I climbed Longs Peak that first summer, which was you know at the time like the hardest thing I had physically ever done kind of blew my mind yeah and just kind of I think built a lot of confidence in myself as an outdoor person being capable of hiking and camping. Yeah like I planned a backpacking trip to the Grand Canyon after working here that summer for a bunch of my friends you know never none of us had ever backpack before so it was kind of an epic fail some ways but also really awesome.
MB: So you learn.
MB: Yeah, it's kind of the same way I grew up I was in Boy Scouts but didn't like backpacking.
MB: I did that kind of stuff, and then you know I had an internship in Yellowstone one summer, and just got after it, started backing, and hiking, and learning through great success and great failure. Shivering nights and that's when you forgot something important, you know those things.
CL: Like a sleeping pad.
MB: Yeah, like a sleeping pad. It turns out there not just to pad you, it’s to keep you from freezing cold. Yeah, that's interesting that is the first place you came. So, what about after that? What was your first like Park Service job, did it take a while?
CL: It didn't so the next summer after I graduated from college I actually got a job back at Rocky Mountain National Park and working at the entrance stations collecting fees and selling passes. So that was my first you know paid job in the Park Ranger uniform, and it was a great summer it was super fun you know I was fresh out of college working with a lot of other folks fresh out of college so it's kind of like summer camp.
CL: Yeah, it was yeah it was a really good experience, and then I was able to transition into more of an interpretive position in the following summer here at Rocky Mountain National Park, and then I started popping around a little bit more to other National Parks which was kind of one of my goals when I was a seasonal park Ranger so I worked a summer Olympic National Park.
MB: I love Olympic.
CL: And man talk about an amazing back country park.
MB: yeah that's a crazy place just ocean to glaciers in no time, rain forest.
CL: Yeah, in twelve feet of rain to twelve inches of rain in a year.
MB: Yeah exactly.
CL: Yeah, a really cool park.
CL: And, then I work the winters in Death Valley for three years, which I also love the desert, you know your comment earlier about the desert and Alpine kind of having some similarities and I definitely have always seen that and felt that and I think it's one of the reasons I'm drawn to both environments with landscapes.
CL: Yeah, Death Valley was incredible to just I don't know just such a vast place that just I guess for that for me the desert you either love it or you don't.
MB: Yeah it seems to be the case.
CL: There’s not a lot of in between and I absolutely love the desert. So, that was a really cool experience.
MB: You know that I found that too, because I also love Alpine I mean that's one reason why I was up in Alaska for a while. I went to Death Valley just a little bit before I started working here so few years back, and to work to make their new map, and so we got to go all over the park we didn't get to go back on all the dirt roads.
MB: So we didn't have time to ride on washboard for four hours, eight hours a day you know.
CL: And change two flat tires.
MB: Yeah exactly. But I agree I feel like there are a lot of similarities same with the plants like we were talking earlier. Just lots of hidden treasures, it's an amazing place. I think, I feel like a lot of people just end up driving through there you're going to live in Southern California like on the way to Vegas or somewhere.
CL: It's you know it's what you travel through.
MB: Yeah, and the speed limits are kind of high and you kind of blew through there in the summer it is brutal.
CL: Ridiculously hot.
MB: At least down in the lowlands, up high it's nice, but yeah and amazing place, and that's the largest National Park Service unit in the lower forty eight.
CL: It is!
MB: It’s three million acres.
CL: So huge.
MB: One and a half times the size of Yellowstone I think a lot of people don't realize that you know. It has amazing map, just kidding. It is a pretty cool map but, that was a really fun one to make. Yeah it is, it is a really cool place and then what about after that?
CL: And, then I came back here for several seasons I actually worked as a seasonal park Ranger at the Alpine Visitor Center which was really fun. And then eventually decided that you know I was going to make a career this, you know I needed to have year round work and it took a few years but I eventually got a permanent year round job with the National Park Service at Pointe Ray's National Seashore, which was a really cool change from working in desert parks and mountain parks to go to a sea shore and learn marine mammals and marine weather and pelagic birds and you know all of the really cool things about you know kind of coastal California.
CL: And I was there for a couple years and it was really a neat area to live to visit a lot of other National Park Service sites you know everything in the San Francisco area.
MB: Amazing how close it is.
MB: San Francisco, so much stuff. Yeah, did you worked out at the light house ever? I did you live out there?
CL: I did not OK.
MB: That always seem hardcore to me the people.
CL: Yeah, the wind and it's like yeah the Alpine, yeah.
MB: Yeah and fog comes a through there to right?
CL: Little bit not too much.
MB: Yeah, Point Reyes is awesome.
CL: Yeah, so I work there in the Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California and then back here at Rocky so.
MB: That’s a lot of great places.
CL: Yeah, I'm kind of picky. I have to you know I have to be in a place that kind of speaks to my soul.
MB: Yeah, it speaks to you right.
CL: You know I like to visit a lot of you know everything in the National Park Service I feel is you know valuable and important and inspirational and really cool to visit but not all of the National Park Service sites or places I would want to work just because I write the really bright personally kind of excited about it.
MB: Yeah, I think that’s important. When I was doing that job, I was making maps, I traveled to all kinds of sites from like you know big parks, like this down to tiny little Revolutionary War battlefields, and everything in between, and it's a you know the people that were at those sites were excited about those sites. So I think it's great. Yeah it's like there's niches for lots of different people and in fact I think a lot of people end up in these little subcultures of NPS. I learned, like I remember when I was down at some of some Civil War parks in the South, you know they're like you know the cannonball circuit, you know it's like people who just love the Civil War, and I feel you especially in interpretation like you have to love the work.
CL: You have to love the stories your telling.
MB: Yeah, you have to. If you don't love it, you'll either get bored of it or whatever and then it shows.
CL: You're not going to be as effective at it.
MB: Yeah, that's great you're able to be in so many places that work for you and so since you've been back at Rocky, have you always been in the Alpine Visitor Center.
CL: You know the first couple years I was back here I was not up at the Alpine Visitor Center. I was down on the east side of the park helping run the Sheeps Lakes operation which is another really cool place and in Rocky. A lot of great people that dedicate their time to working there helping protect the bighorn sheep and yeah tell that story to the visitors.
MB: That's down in Horseshoe park fastest ways from Fall River entrance right.
MB: Yeah, just for visitors just look it up on our website Fall River entrance Sheeps Lake information. So you did that for a little bit.
CL: I did. But you know honestly one of my dreams in coming back to Rocky Mountain National Park was to work at the Alpine Visitor Center and to kind of manage this part of the park from an interpretive standpoint. I just love the high elevation it's really it's really for me what makes Rocky really special.
CL: It's the it's the part of the park that I love the most. And yeah so when I was able to come back up here. And start you know managing the Alpine visitor center and you know recruiting volunteers Yeah park staff that were also really excited about this environment yeah it's it's been awesome it's going to be hard to to leave.
MB: Yeah man so hard to top this no pun intended it is the highest elevation parks visitor center in the National Park Service for those who might not know.
CL: Yet surprisingly the second highest elevation visitor center in pretty sure is in Hawaii.
MB: Really, Haleakalā.
CL: Yeah Haleakalā
MB: That makes sense. I never thought about that.
CL: I think a lot of people would not expect that.
MB: Yeah, I hadn't thought about that. I remember one winter I almost, almost took an internship there at Haleakalā. They were like by the way yeah, it's a real cold up here, and remote. It is very high up.
CL: I think their Visitor Centers at like ten-thousand feet.
MB: Yeah, it's really like high up there. It gets below freezing a lot. Why it is an amazing place. So you've been up here on running the Alpine Visitor Center for a while. What are some of the I'm sure there are many challenges of running the Alpine Visitor Center because it's such a, it's such a crazy place to build anything.
CL: You know it is and that's honestly what I told my staff my new staff in the spring before we can even get up here because yeah the road is still closed.
MB: Yeah, when can you get up here?
CL: Usually late May, we shoot for Memorial Day weekend but that more times than not doesn't happen.
MB: You don't have long between when you can get here and we know it opens up to the public.
CL: No! So yeah, it's kind of honestly a ridiculous place to have a building you know in the grand scheme of things, it's a little over the top. So I think just the location is kind of ridiculous. You know we don't have running water for the first few weeks that were open in the spring, and for the last three or four weeks that were open in the fall which you know it's not a big hardship or anything, but it surprises a lot of visitors. They’re not prepared for it, they don't understand why they can't have a flush toilet. So you know the little things like that make it kind of challenging sometimes. The weather is totally squirrely, especially in the early season and late season we can have blizzards blowing, you know sixty seventy mile an hour wind gusts lightning, I mean our building has been struck by lightning before when it gets when it when it's really kind of dicey you step outside and can hear our lightning rod on the roof humming. That's always a sign to just go back inside. I tell people to put their umbrellas away.
MB: So you know when people drive up they'll see or if they look at pictures online you know these huge logs on the roof that’s for snow load I assume.
CL: That’s to hold the roof on the winners.
MB: From the wind.
MB: OK because the wind up here is crazy.
CL: Yes, hundred mile an hour plus in the winter.
MB: And then yeah, all the lightning rods sticking up.
CL: So yeah, the building tells that story pretty well.
CL: Yeah just in then you know people like I mentioned earlier it's kind of otherworldly for a lot of visitors they, they pop above tree line and it's like no other place they've ever been you know, and the roads, and guardrails, and your hearts pounding a little faster, and they can't quite catch their breath and the road doesn't have guard rails, and they're freaking out, and they pull into the parking lot, and they're having a full on panic attack, and you know we calmly confidently reassure them that the road is just as wide here as it is in Kansas and you know it can be really scary though.
MB: Yeah it does scare a lot of people, understandably.
CL: So just the kind of the visitor dynamic. You know people coming in not feeling well people coming in freaked out about the road. People coming in just super you know blissed out because this is a pretty incredible environment. You know you get the full gamut so never you never quite know what your day's going to bring rain which is one of the reasons I love it but yeah it can be an interesting place to work. For sure.
MB: Yeah. What is it about the Alpine for you that speaks to you? I mean, I certainly can relate to that because I find the same thing you know the first time that I went above tree line, I guess it was probably in Yellowstone and I was just like this is it that's it for me you know I just immediately loved it, and I think as many people as there are who are kind of freaked out by it there's a lot of people who have that feeling, but what is it what is it for you that keeps the magic going?
CL: You know I kind of think it's a combination of the just the visual landscape you know the incredible views the fact that you can see mountain ranges that are you know forty fifty miles away. You know that is such just wide open expanse of the landscape and that kind of combined with the really hardy cool you know quirky adaptations to the plants interesting animals that are only found in the high elevations. You know I'm definitely a plant person so I geek out on the flowers, totally. You know and just the fact that it's like such a harsh environment, and the weather and the climate really shape it on some super nuanced ways that I just find really intriguing and I'm always discovering something new, and yeah it's just it's just an incredible landscape it's my happy place where I go in my head when I need to be in my happy place.
MB: Yeah, that's a good point about one thing I was like is kind of the rawness because things are so on the edge that you can like see. Natural process fairly clearly compared to lots of places you know there's not trees coming up or there's, there's complexity of course there's a lot of complexity but there's also us. Straightforwardness about it that's your hair down a little bit yeah you can just like how you know even looking out here you can see how on steeper slopes like grasses will kind of shift and see how Frost affects things and you can see how.
CL: Slope affects things.
MB: Right exactly that's a big one is yes seeing like north facing north south east or west and how that has an effect you just see all these natural things laid out laid out in front of you and then yet to the power it's like you can ignore it
CL: Yeah right
MB: You can have no illusion that you're not in charge. it's just because any I mean it every day that illusion will be shattered by something.
MB: And to me also it feels a little bit like going into space because it's like you get a little bit of the year where you can come up here and be relatively comfortable as a biological human and then most of the year is just completely un-survivable.
CL: Super harsh
MB: Yeah I mean it it's just crazy one thing I wanted to come back to as you mentioned a little bit earlier and I think a lot of visitors may not may not know the kind of human history of Trail Ridge and before it was a road just Trail Ridge Can you talk about that a little bit of what it was used for and the role that it played for different cultures
CL: Yes So the human history here goes back at least twelve thousand years we found archaeological evidence in the park of people using the high country especially you know way back and you know kind of seasonally of course just like you just mentioned you know it's not the kind of environment that humans can live in year round, but you know it's a very rich environment in the summer as far as animal migration of course you know twelve thousand plus years ago there was different species here than there is today but you know prehistoric people use this area for hunting or gathering for travel between kind of inner mountain valleys and the routes that they used continued to be used down into more modern native peoples the Ute people use this area for a long time. I think at least you know five hundred six hundred plus years. And they use those same travel corridors that the prehistoric people used you know there wasn't this big you know break it was kind of a continuous use of this area and once again you know archeological evidence of camps in the high country of you know spiritual significance and places of really you know powerful you know religion for the for the native people. We found you know archeological evidence of that as well as areas where animals were captured in butchered for food so there's a there's an incredibly rich human history in this area and even today we're learning more about that human history and how you know different spiritual sites in the park might be tied together and might have ties to the seasons or to astronomical events or to other sites at lower elevation and how they might be linked. And then kind of the late arrivers on the scene the Arapaho. You know in the eighteenth hundreds came into this area and you know the Arapaho and the Ute are still they still consider this a very significant place in their culture a lot of spiritual significance still here the rivers in particular here the fact that so many rivers start in the park is really significant in these high high elevation areas and the kind of spiritual sites are still considered really sacred to the Ute and Arapaho even today which I think is cool you know I think you know a lot of our visitors feel a spiritual connection to this landscape and that's not something new that's not like oh and they made it a national park and around people can you know have this incredible you know spiritual experience you know and connection to this place you know this is been a significant place for humans for a long long time.
MB: It's been speaking to people for a long time
CL: Yeah and I think that's really cool. You know we're very late comers on the scene grand scheme of things the National Park Service.
MB: And I think it's interesting too that. I mean just when you when people come to visit or if you're not going to visit but you want to look online go to our what park web site see a map or look it up on any map and it's look at look at Trail Ridge Road not just Trail Ridge and you'll see it just makes sense as a place to travel and so we have the Ute trail that you can hike on all those pretty closely the foot trail that was used and even Trail Ridge Road doesn't stray too far from that
CL: It doesn’t, for many miles Trail Ridge Road follows that route that was used by prehistoric man, Ute and Arapaho people.
MB: Yeah, it's just that I was enjoy thinking about that when I hear that. Like you said the park itself it's been here now over a hundred years which seems old but it is a small very small drop in the bucket the people been here for, for a really long time. What are the most common visitor questions that you get up here?
CL: Well certainly about the building. Yeah, why are the logs on the roof. The interesting architectural component. Yeah you know.
MB: And so, we covered that cover to keep the roof from any ripped off.
CL: Exactly you know and that keeps the building from blowing away. You know we get a lot of questions about the poles along the road.
MB: Oh yeah that's a good one.
CL: Snow poles yeah, a lot of people think it's to measure the depth of snow they are but they're so that the plow drivers can find the road in the spring which is pretty mind boggling to think about.
MB: Yeah we have been for the past few years posting pictures every spring when the road crew appears so go on our Facebook and scroll back a little bit into, into May and look at some of those pictures and you'll see why the snow poles exist. I cannot see the road it's so that's what those are for.
CL: Yes that's what those are for. we get a lot of questions just about hikes in you know the wildlife up here sometimes is new for folks marmots and pica and some of the bird species like the white tail ptarmigan are unique to the areas. So we get a lot of questions about that and then because people have traveled you know from the lower elevations of the park to get here they'll make note of things along the way and will get questions about. You know the dead trees that people see from the insect outbreaks that we've had in the last couple decades due to warming temperatures and longer summers and warmer shorter winters so we definite questions about that yeah and yeah just people wondering where they can go to explore more you know the folks you know there they are intrigued with this landscape and you know being on a mountaintop is a pretty awesome experience and so we get a lot of you know what’s a good peak to hike. Where can I you know get out in the tundra a little bit more?
MB: And, what about critters or the critters people wonder about?
CL: Well people definitely wonder about the marmots the Yellowed Belly Marmots even though they're not exclusively found in the Alpine tundra people seem to notice them and see them up here. You know so people wonder you know what was that animal or was it a beaver. You know well you know no wonder what it was doing yeah and then the Pica of course the American Pica which is at least in this part of the world pretty much a high elevation animal.
CL: And any animal we're definitely really watching you know. And how this is such a harsh environment it's kind of like life on the edge and you know because things are so fine tune to the environment up here changes in the environment definitely can have very significant ramifications for some of the species in the Pica because they're so well adapted to cold but not so much to warm in the summers. And then they have course can't be too cold in the winters we're concerned about changes in snowpack affecting them in the winter and then warmer temperatures in the summer affecting if whether or not they can gather enough food to make it through the winter right so people ask about the pika and it's a good opportunity to talk a little bit about some of the research that's ongoing in the park and some of the things we're learning about this environment as it as it does change with you know the changes that are happening you know climate.
MB: Yeah any changes to the averages you see you can start to see pretty quickly appear a lot of I mean on the decade scale which is enough for people to be able to actually notice you in people who visited your work here for a long time.
CL: Even something as simple as a snow field you know we get a lot of questions about the snow field right here from the Alpine visitor center that we're looking at and you know we used to consider it a permanent snowfield because in the history of the park at least no one had ever seen it melt and then I believe it melted for the first time completely in two thousand and three it was gone and it doesn't melt every year now but you know I wouldn't consider it a permanent snowfield any right and so you know that's one of those changes that people who have visited you know over the years my witness themselves so it's not always a change that a scientist has to do in-depth research to to determine sometimes it's as simple as noticing that wow I've never seen that snow field as small as it is or wasn't there always snow here in late August this year there's not what's going on so so yeah the Alpine tundra definitely you know has a lot of I think important lessons about changes that are that are happening and then what that might mean for the future.
MB: So we'll end with two questions, second to last question penalty or whatever the word is. If you could give We've got we've covered a lot of tips about safety where you can see things, animals questions things like that and so kind of apart from that more general if you could give people one. Piece of advice or one to something to keep in mind as they as they come to Rocky they come to the Alpine maybe coming up in Visitor Center. What would it be can be it can be practical or it can be more. Not practical I guess.
CL: I mean I guess I would just say. You know take the time to really notice the little things you know a place like Rocky the landscape itself can overwhelm you because it's just like yelling at you in your face like look at me this view is amazing you know how can you notice anything else and I think you know that that alone is very powerful but I think when folks kind of zoom in on a more you know more micro scale they. They can really discover some true treasures whether it's noticing how an animal is behaving or notice saying that teeny tiny you know Alpine flower at their feet that they almost stopped on because they were enjoying the view or just noticing you know something down at lower elevations with you know a rotting log in the forest in and you know what's growing around it you know sometimes those little things I think sometimes can layer on top of overwhelming landscape pieces of a place like Rocky Mountain National Park and just add an incredible richness to your experience. so, take the time to notice the little things whatever that might mean wherever you are and write park.
MB: That's great take the time to know so little things and final. So your first internship was at Rocky worked here before you worked here now. What does Rocky mean to you? Hard question.
MB: Tough question and was rocky mean to get you had a hard time with the two probably everybody will but I want to ask everybody anyway.
CL: You know I think it's changed over the years you know when I first came here is kind of you know why died in turn it meant you know just this really wild landscape. You know that I had to kind of prove myself in figure out you know. How to Be confident capable and I think now having worked here for a long time and having explored a lot of other western landscapes as an adult you know backpacking in you know really getting to know places I think now I see it more as a. As a place to introduce people like it's not as wild to me now that I've spent time in other places that are you know bigger acreage wise and less visited people wise and. You know a little maybe a little more remote. Like I don't feel kind of that sense of real kind of wildness in almost you know it an edge of danger tonight as I did when I first came here so now I see it is like a really cool place to introduce other people to like wildness So I kind of see it as like. Like a. Or no like us but the baby pool. Yeah our visitors there and I and I say and I see a lot of our visitors experiencing it that way if you know they this is the first place they've really hiked very much and it was the first place they figured out how to pee in the woods and you know how to use a water filter and so I kind of see it. Now for visitors. It's what it was to me yeah you know a long time ago was the place I kind of like got my wilderness legs I'm and really learned. Wild places and exploring the more intimate level.
MB: Yeah I think that's a great point I think about that a lot a lot with Rocky and with a lot of national parks and in general you know there's a there's a lot of public land other the national parks and a lot of it is really remote and out there with little to no visitors services certainly no paved road that you know it's only twelve thousand feet but this is a place where you can come with your family or you can come regardless of your experience level and see what you know the southern Rockies can be what Alpine could be and then when you look at a map and you see all this stuff yeah that is so hard to get to you can you can have a personal appreciation and connection for it and understand. The importance of it you know it's a group well
MB: Well thank you so much for talking to us
CL: You are very welcome. yeah anytime I can talk about the high mountains, I'm happy.
MB: Yes exactly when people come up to one visitor center maybe you'll see Cynthia you do say hi.
CL: Yeah stop and say hi.
MB: And we hope to see you soon.
Thanks for joining us on this second episode of The Rocky Mountain National Park cast we have got a ton of great episodes in the works we've been scheduling things left and right so again our public information officer actually going to ride one of our shuttle buses up to Bear Lake and walk around Bear Lake and. Talk about the Rocky pull talk about. Just general. Tips for seeing the park and learn what a public information officer does apart it's actually really really interesting job and a ton of cool experience to share with you. We're gonna be talking to our volunteer program coordinator our museum curator we're going to be in a back country folks climbing Rangers Riyad all sorts of stuff like that so we encourage you to subscribe for all future episodes for sure and go on iTunes and give us some reviews if you like our show we have a couple up there already which is great we appreciate those and those just help people find our podcast and help it grow you can also go to our home page which is it go.nps.gov/rockypod where you can get shown to see can see if you pictures there's a transcription available and you can actually leave comments or any of our episodes there's a little comment section at the bottom of each post and we would love any feedback you have or stories you would like to hear ways the podcast could be improved. Anything you have that can make this be the best it can be so we appreciate all your feedback and we look forward to seeing you in two weeks. The Rocky Mountain National Park cast is a product of Rocky Mountain National Park one of four hundred seventeen units of the National Park Service to preserve America's heritage for all for ever thank you so much and we'll see you in a couple weeks.