Volunteer Newsletter Page 5

Got an idea for the Newsletter?

Submit your idea/article/invitation/news to e-mail or call 970-586-1330. We look forward to hearing from you.

Give Us Your Input

At the VIP Appreciation Events (see information about the East Side event on page two; information about the West Side Event will be in future newsletters) the park tries to show its appreciation for the monumental gifts you all give to Rocky Mountain National Park with a small token/gift/award. We would like your input regarding these awards this year. We are trying to come up with new gifts to choose from and we are basing our decisions on a few criteria. We want the awards to be practical and useful for your jobs here in the park. So far our theme has been "The Hiking Essentials" (see below). What are your suggestions? What kind of awards would you like to see us offer? Call 970-586-1330 or e-mail with your ideas.

The Hiking Essentials

Pack the "Essentials" and be prepared for minor injuries, sudden weather changes or delays.

Always carry:

  1. Map of the area and compass
  2. Extra food and water
  3. Extra clothing, including rain gear
  4. Sunglasses, sunscreen and hat
  5. Pocketknife
  6. Matches in a waterproof container and candle or other fire starter
  7. Whistle
  8. Flashlight with extra batteries and bulb
  9. Space blanket
  10. First aid kit

And don’t forget the most important thing of all…common sense!


Volunteer Moment:
by Katy Sykes, Acting Information Office Manager

From one of Rocky’s original volunteers…

Photo Katy Sykes VIP in 1976.
Katy Sykes in her first NPS uniform.
Wow! I was going to be a Volunteer in Parks – a VIP–in my most favorite place in the whole world–Rocky Mountain National Park! I was so excited I could hardly stand it. It was the summer of 1976, and I had just finished kindergarten. No, not really. I had just finished my junior year of high school. It was a dream come true. There have only been two professions I’ve ever wanted to pursue. When I was really little, I wanted to be an airline stewardess. From about the age of seven though, all I’ve wanted to do was work for the National Park Service. There I was, 17 years old and starting to fulfill my dream.

If service-wide volunteer uniform standards existed at the time, they were not applied here. I was issued a gray ranger uniform shirt. I took off the NPS patch and replaced it with a Volunteer in Parks patch. I bought myself some green pants. The only pair I could find that fit was corduroy, but nobody cared. I was issued a green windbreaker which I had to return when the summer ended. I wore my brown hiking boots and got dark green bootlaces for them downtown, because that’s what all the park service people did. I was issued a red plastic nametag with a silhouette of Mt. Meeker and Longs Peak, my name and Volunteer in Parks. I was thrilled.

In the summer of 1976 there were only three – yes, three! – volunteers in Rocky Mountain National Park. Two of us, Rick Nichols and I, worked in Wild Basin. The third volunteer was a guy who ran around with a mileage wheel measuring the park trails. I really enjoyed my summer at Wild Basin. I ran the ranger station while the rangers were out on patrol. I talked to visitors, issued backcountry permits, operated the radio base station, and sold books. I surveyed the parking lot daily and tallied license plates from each state. I updated information on the trailhead bulletin boards. Occasionally I joined a ranger on backcountry patrol. After my first patrol, in June’s snow and mud, I headed to the store downtown and bought myself some heavy hiking boots, again with dark green laces, and rag wool socks. Hey, it was the ‘70s, the era before Gore-Tex and Thorlos.

The biggest event that summer was the Big Thompson Flood, the night of July 31. It was a weird day. The phones had gone out so communication was by radio, emergency traffic only. A man in the Wild Basin parking lot threatened his wife with a rock. Another man tried to persuade people to buy his car so he could ride a donkey to Wyoming. I wasn’t in the ranger station that day; I was on a horseback patrol with a ranger to Finch Lake. We confiscated a tent from campers who illegally camped on the trail and then were nowhere to be found. That night was the most ferocious storm. The next day was my day off, but I went to work anyway, to see if they needed help. It was a very wet day with low clouds over the mountains. I remember very wet, backcountry campers coming out to the trailhead. I advised them to leave the area via Highway 7; it was the only road open. For the rest of the summer I received calls asking if I had issued backcountry permits to people who had been gone a while and their families didn’t know where they were. That was hard.

All in all though, it was a wonderful summer.

In fall I went back home to Omaha to finish my senior year of high school. I served as a VIP after school at the NPS Midwest Regional Office. It was also a wonderful experience, being surrounded by NPS employees and parky stuff. My favorite project involved sorting the region’s slide files, selecting the ones to keep and ones to send east to Harpers Ferry Center. I learned a lot about the national parks. Especially fascinating were the many slides of the carving of Mount Rushmore.

The next summer I applied for a seasonal position in Rocky Mountain National Park. Like so many others, I rated myself too low and didn’t get a job. I still wanted to be in the park, so I got a job at a gift shop in Estes Park. I worked weekdays and volunteered in the Backcountry Office (BCO) on my weekends. It was a busy summer; I enjoyed my time in BCO the best, of course.

The following summer I finally got my first job as a seasonal ranger in the BCO. I worked there two summers, then at the Kawuneeche Visitor Center the summer of 1981. I graduated from Colorado State University with a B.S. in Recreation Resources, with a concentration in Environmental Interpretation. CSU and my summers in the park were golden.

Last updated: February 24, 2015

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

1000 US Hwy 36
Estes Park, CO 80517


(970) 586-1206
Through winter, the Information Office is open 8:00 am–4:30 pm Mon–Fri. Recorded Trail Ridge Road status: (970) 586-1222.

Contact Us