The INSIDER Summary:
- National parks aren’t just for tourists and rangers — researchers work there, too.
- Some rangers live in in-park housing during the season.
- It’s a competitive job to get, but it’s not all adventure all the time.
Ash Nudd worked as a national park ranger for three seasons in three different states. Though she’s retired her trusty uniform, she still helps visitors make the most of their time in the parks through recommendations and itineraries on her blog, Dirt In My Shoes.
INSIDER asked Nudd to share a few secrets of the national parks that she learned on the job. Here are four things most tourists don’t know.
National parks are big laboratories.
National parks aren’t just tourist destinations. Scientists often conduct wildlife research out of visitors’ sights.
“There are a lot of wildlife technicians that work behind the scenes in the parks. You’ll see them a lot of times not in full uniform just gathering data, which is really cool,” said Nudd. “That was one of my favorite parts of working at the parks — the chance that I had to go spend a day shadowing them and watching what they do.”
Some park rangers live inside the parks.
If you see cabins or houses along your hike, they might not be tourist accommodations. Oftentimes, rangers live in them during the season, an experience Nudd relished.
“It was amazing,” she said. “You feel really connected to the park because you’re there all the time. You come to really appreciate all the little things, too.”
In Nudd’s experience, these “little things” include watching glorious sunsets over Grand Teton in Wyoming and hearing humpback whales from her window in Alaska’s Glacier Bay.
“It definitely never gets old,” she said.
Becoming a ranger is a competitive gig.
Many park rangers studied environmental science or come from law enforcement backgrounds. Nudd went to business school before she decided to pursue her passion for the outdoors. In any case, she said becoming a national park ranger is a competitive process.
“It’s getting pretty hard to get hired in the park service now,” she said. “You almost need to start with volunteering or an internship or something to get your foot in the door.”
Working in a national park isn’t all adventure all the time.
“A lot of people think it’s always fantastic and you’re always out on adventures,” she said.
At the end of the day, it’s a job like any other. Sometimes rangers have to do dirty work like trail maintenance or scrubbing graffiti off of rocks.
Even though not every moment of her job was glamorous, Nudd loved showing people the natural beauty of national parks.
“To be out on the trail and to be outside, to have a job where you get to see something beautiful every day and help people appreciate what they’re seeing, was really rewarding for me,” she said.
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