Hello again to my Beyond the Riverbend family, and a very happy EARTH DAY! As of today, our blog is celebrating its one year anniversary, and I couldn’t be more grateful for those of you who have followed along, despite the gaps in writing and an irregular schedule (which accompanies the life of a seasonal wildlife technician).
So much has happened since the last time I’ve been able to share with you all. My birthday, Christmas, and 2018 all came and went, including the lengthiest government shutdown in our country’s history to start off the new year. However, even with all this being said, 2019 has already been a personal milemarker. As of March, made possible through a partnership with AmeriCorps and American Conservation Experience (ACE), I’ve been able to fulfill a lifelong dream of mine. Since I was a little girl, I’ve spent my summers in the Appalachian Mountains nearly every year. I was a Junior Ranger and proud of it – and since then I have held enormous respect and love for our National Park Service. I am overjoyed to be able to say that I now work for Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and although I might be biased, I think I can boast the best job (and office) in the whole world.
I’m truly excited to share this news, which is also the reason I’ve been away from my page for quite some time. And I’m even more excited to take you along with me on this adventure over the coming weeks. It’s National Park week, so make sure you get outside and find your park! This link (https://www.nps.gov/subjects/npscelebrates/national-park-week.htm) will take you to the official National Park Service page for National Park Week, where you can find special themes for each day of the week to highlight the different ways you can celebrate America’s natural treasures.
When I talk with visitors in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, especially children, I usually pose the question – “Who owns this park?” I love the array of answers I receive, my favorite being that I’m the one who owns the park! Although they aren’t wrong, I also share ownership with a whole bunch of other people (and no, I don’t just mean my fellow park rangers)… Great Smoky Mountains National Park belongs to you, and me, and every other taxpaying American – isn’t that such a beautiful concept? And just as you take care of and protect your belongings at your home, school, or workplace, so must you also be diligent stewards of your national parks. This includes never feeding the wildlife, never picking the pretty wildflowers, and certainly never littering (and yes, biodegradable items count, too!)
National Parks belong to us all, and in my opinion, there is no better way to celebrate National Park Week – or EARTH DAY – than to get outdoors, breathe the fresh air, swim in a stream, take a hike, watch the birds (or bears) in the trees… and wave hello to a park ranger.
Life is a beautiful, flowing thing. Some aspects change so immensely, while others stay the same. My love of the Smokies has remained steadfast. These mountains and streams and forests have always held a big piece of me. But now that wide-eyed, curious little girl is working in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. And that big change has been one that still gives me goosebumps, even a month from my start date. I find such peace in the reliability of change, through the twists and turns of time.
Chase after your dreams. They’re usually waiting for you just beyond the riverbend.
Picture: me, 1997, Great Smoky Mountains National Park