November 21, 2009 at 8:37 pm (Uncategorized)


Views on the road to Persimmon Gap where I work

My official job title here at Big Bend National Park is Visitor Use Assistant. I collect the money at the Persimmon Gap Entrance Station, and count the vehicles when they come through. Most people are very nice and very happy to be at Big Bend. But with the Terlingua Chili Cook-Off going on two weekends ago, some folks didn’t give a whit about the park. They just wanted to get to the big drunken party, and they weren’t happy at all about paying $20 a vehicle to get in. By the way, all of my family and friends can visit the park for free while I’m here.

More views on my way “home” from work

Because of the paperwork snafu, I had to work as a volunteer for 3 weeks – which I did not count on, but heck it’s the government. It has its own way of doing things. At first I had flashbacks of my dreaded Army days – especially since I wear a uniform, but that passed. But aside from that, it’s been cool working here. I trained with Doug, a long-time NPS employee who did seasonal work at Acadia NP in Maine in summer, and at Big Bend in winter. He’s now permanent here. Doug is very professional, and an excellent teacher. If I make any goofs, I can just tell my supervisor “Doug taught me to do it that way.” (hee hee)

Cenizo in bloom, Maverick Park Entrance, The Window at Chisos Basin, view from Lost Mine Trail

This job is more complicated than you would think. Who pays what? How to hit the right register keys? Who can I bend the rules for to keep public goodwill? Who do I need to be hardnosed to? What to do when the register doesn’t match up with the money on hand. (I blame hackers or leprechauns.)

Century Plants

I can answer most questions about trails and roads, since I’ve been on many and know about those I haven’t been on. The paved roads all have great views, especially those to the Chisos Basin (which despite the name is in the mountains.) Many of the dirt roads are for high-clearance or 4WD vehicles, which keeps me out. Even the regular dirt roads have their jumps and bumps, and my tailpipe busted loose from its rusted out bracket hitting one. But the park mechanic Mark fixed it right up on his off-time for the price of a pack of pale ale.

Rio Grande at Boquillas Canyon Trail

I finally have my internet hooked up and I feel reconnected to the “real” world. The nearest radio station is 100 miles away, so I get bits and pieces of news on AM stations out of Dallas, Oklahoma City and New Orleans, and sometimes public radio out of Marfa, Texas (home of the unexplained Lights in the Sky. Insert Twilight Zone music here.) Thank God for live streaming of National Public Radio! I don’t have to listen to Hate Radio anymore, bashing Obama and liberals and advocating armed overthrow of the government. However, I do recommend tuning in now and then so you all can understand what motivates these Tea Party and Birther people. Damned scary!

Balanced Rock at sunrise, Grapevine Trail

As you have figured, we are very remote here. Decent grocery shopping can be had at Study Butte (pronounced Stoo-dee after settler Will Study) 25 miles away, which is how far I used to go to the supermarket when I lived in Port Clyde, Maine. But for real shopping, most go to Alpine 100 miles away. That’s a $35 gas bill for my van. So I shop at the Study Butte Store and the Cottonwood General Store and can get most of what I need. It’s a real treat to get fresh vegetables and fruits, which are in short supply. I am disappointed that the avocados sold are the same as at Hannaford – those watery, weak Hass from Chile. Bring back California avocados! Meat selection is slim, too, so when I find chicken thighs (frozen of course) I stock up. Many folks buy from Schwann’s, which delivers twice a month, and I might give them a try for a couple of items.

Where I work, in the “Taco Stand.”

Ryan gave me a scare before I left – he was hiking with his dad when he felt a pain in his chest and couldn’t breathe normally. He kept hiking, though, and did some scrambling up a mountain, then went to the ER that night. He had a spontaneous lung collapse (pneumothorax in medical terms.) Apparently this happens on occasion to young men who are thin and tall. Nobody knows why. He had a chest tube inserted to suction out the air that had leaked into his chest cavity, the lung re-inflated, and he went home. However, the potential is that it could happen again, meaning he’d need surgery. Very strange. He hasn’t given up backpacking though. He just got certification in the Mountaineers navigation course, successfully using the compass to find his way to within 10 feet of a marked point. (The passing grade was 40 feet.) He will also take the Mountain Climbing course, which lasts a year. I wish he would take up birdwatching instead.

Speaking of birds, here are some new birds for my list.

Cactus Wren, Black-throated Sparrow (the “Gentleman Sparrow”), Acorn Woodpecker, and PGap’s raven George

More to come. Stay tuned!


  1. windingwaywatercolors said,

    >great pictures (as usual cindy).looks like you are having fun. We lived at White Sands NM for 2 years and it looks very similar to there. It is pretty. Happy Thanksgiving Anne McMath

  2. Carol Savage Photography said,

    >Cindy, What a fantastic thing to do! great pictures…no b&w w/'color on'!?! Have a yummy Thanksgiving and wonderful season!(a past student-way past)

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