After 14 years as a backcountry ranger I am moving on to a new job and a new organization. I’m sitting at my desk for the last time looking up at the map of the park that hangs on the wall. I have been fortunate enough to travel throughout this great park and patrol many of the popular backcountry areas. Looking at the map now, there are still many places I haven’t been or even seen from the air. Six years isn’t enough time to even scratch the surface of this immense wilderness.
When my season ended in the fall I flew down to the southwest and spent some time exploring the desert. I visited Zion National Park, a park I’ve been many times before and one of my favorite places. I was riding the shuttle back to the park entrance and overheard some other visitors talking. A young couple and an older woman were talking about where they were from and what they did. The younger man explained that he was in the Air Force and the woman immediately thanked him for his service. The young man replied simply but earnestly, “It is my privilege to serve.”
I’ve heard this phrase many times before but something about the way that he said it, the heartfelt honesty in his voice, stuck with me. As I finish my time as a ranger these are the same words that I would like to pass on. It has been my privilege to serve. I have had many amazing experiences working as a ranger and many opportunities to help visitors enjoy this incredible place. I was very lucky to get hired here and have the opportunity to work alongside some of the best folks in the service.
The last thought I’d like to share before I wrap this up and head out the door is to please remember the national parks are very special places. They are unique pieces of land set aside for the public now and forever. It is our responsibility to ensure that these places remain wild and preserved for the generations that come after us. This responsibility falls on both the park service and the public. We are all stewards of the land and the quality of the job we do will be our legacy.