In the second installment of ASK A RANGER, we talk to Ranger Kaiti May.
Over the past year, I have gotten to know Ranger Kaiti May through Twitter, as she is a regular participant in the #ParkChat conversations each Wednesday Night at 6pm PST. Kaiti is one of the brave souls that are dedicating their lives to preserving and protecting public lands. Working as a National Park Ranger, she is in a unique position to get future generations invested in wilderness. I was lucky enough to be able to interview her via email recently, and reading though her answers for the first time was an incredible glimpse at who she is, as well as another glimpse as to the caliber of the amazing people who work in our National Parks.
Enjoy getting to know Ranger Kaiti May.
Which National Parks have you been employed at?
What was your job while there?
At Assateague Island I was a Visitor Use Assistant. In other words, I worked at the entrance booths, collecting fees and welcoming people to the park. I also worked in the Ranger Station checking people in to their campsites and selling Over-Sand-Vehicle permits.
Mesa Verde provided my first opportunity to be an Interpretive Park Ranger. My main duty was leading people through cliff dwellings! I researched my own programs, and would lead 50 people down stairs, through tunnels, and up ladders.
At Yellowstone, I was located at the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center and was an Interpretive Park Ranger. I gave a wide assortment of programs there, from boat tours, thermal walks, river talks, evening programs and more.
What is your best experience in a National Park?
My best experience would have to be any of the family memories I have visiting parks when I was younger. Of course they were family vacations, so sometimes you didn’t along with your siblings, but I remember the good moments. At the Grand Canyon, looking over the edge of the rim and being super protective of my younger brother doing the same. Or in Yellowstone when my family was hiking along the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River and a storm blew over and it hailed on us! Those memories are some of my best experiences in a National Park.
What is your worst experience in a National Park?
I try to make everything positive; but unfortunately, my worst experience in a National Park was an encounter with some visitors in Yellowstone. I had a hard time explaining/convincing a group of guys that they shouldn’t get so close to a bison. They reacted very rudely to me and I felt like I was being ganged up on. After they left I cried over frustration. I was frustrated that I couldn’t help them understand that these animals are wild, and each time we get to close to them we help them become use to us humans. Eventually they will lose their wildness that we love about them.
What is one question that shocks you that it is asked?
To be honest, I don’t remember those questions! I usually remember when people share their connections to the “resource” with me. Like when a little boy after a Cliff Palace tour at Mesa Verde National Park looked up at me and said “When I grow up, I’m going to be an Indian!” Or when I stood with a family in Yellowstone and we marveled at the size of a bison that was grazing nearby.
What is an environmental issue you feel needs to be addressed?
I try to personally be aware of my water usage. I would love to look more into how much waste I am putting out. I recycle what I can, but there is so much more you can do! Some people even live without making any waste, I hope I can do that soon. The amount of waste we produce is astounding, and I have nightmares about the pollution that is floating in the ocean.
What is your favorite hike in the National Park System?
I really enjoy the Petroglyph Point trail in Mesa Verde National Park. Its about 2.5 miles and a little strenuous. The trail following the cliff edge goes up and down, and has amazing canyon views as you go along. Plus the petroglyph panel at the half way point is worth it as well! In Yellowstone, I really enjoyed hiking the Mount Washburn trail to the fire lookout at the top. 3.1 miles if you hike up. Dunraven pass offers great place to see wildlife, wildflowers, and 360* views of Yellowstone.
Which National Park do you most want to visit?
Most of my traveling has been from park job to park job; I haven’t done as much visiting as I would like! I really want to head to the Northwest and check out the parks up there!
What should everyone know about the National Park Service? Would you recommend becoming a ranger as a career? Why or why not?
It’s a competitive field! Every day I have people telling me they wish they could be a park ranger. It’s a job that requires passion, commitment, and a lot of sacrifice. Starting out, it is mostly seasonal work (6 months at a time), and there is a lot of moving and flexibility. Even though I say that, it is a very rewarding career. I wanted to become a National Park Ranger because I wanted to help people connect to their parks. I want them to understand the importance and love the National Parks like I do!