All play and no work on a mountain

All play and no work on a mountain

Established as a national park in 1899, before the National Park Service was created in 1916, Mount Rainier National Park is a prized jewel of the Pacific Northwest. 2 million people visit annually, most coming between the months of July and August.  Ranger programs began June 29 at the park. Since then, I have been focusing on two programs: a guided hiking tour on the geology of Mt. Rainier and a “pop-up” program that allows visitors an opportunity to connect with other visitors.

“A Symphony of Change” is a teenager nearing adulthood. I have been nurturing this program since I arrived to the park. The program is designed with audience-centered experience techniques to bring the visitor closer to the beauty they are seeing. In the program, we explore how geological processes birthed & shaped the mountain, and how these same processes may influence the future Mt. Rainier.  The processes explored are plate tectonics, volcanism, glaciers, and lahars. By the end of the program, a battle royale ensues where visitors are asked to vote for the king of the mountain with an extra option: humans.

At the final viewpoint for a geology hike. Photo by Curt Jacquot.

Helping visitors identify features at the end of a geology program hike. Photo by Curt Jacquot.

My pop-up program titled “Holiday Gathering” tasks visitors to spread Mt. Rainier cheer with hash tag #myMORAvalue (Mount Rainier). Visitors are asked to contribute to the graffiti board about what they value the most at Mt. Rainier…what do they want to share with their friends and family back home? A dialogue then ensues to discuss how we can manage this resource for future generations to appreciate. Correlation is also drawn to the visitor’s home to build a stronger connection to their value at the park.

They are then encouraged to find a fun fact about their value (resources provided), and to write it on a tag. The tag is attached to a clothespin that has a positive message. The clothespin can then be left behind for another visitor to read, or they can clip it to another visitor’s backpack for later discovery.

Graffiti board at pop-up program. Photo by self.

Visitors writing a fun fact about what they value the most at Mount Rainier. Photo by Curt Jacquot.

Finishing the MORA cheer tag for a visitor. Photo by Curt Jacquot.

Visitors proudly show off their MORA cheer tags. Photo by self.

Program development at Mt. Rainier has been an amazing time. Being in control of the format, subject matter, and activities has been an amazing creative outlet. I encourage other who have a love for the environment to give interpretation a shot. We each have varied experiences which lends itself to a unique experience to be had by all. Most likely, we have all done some form of interpretation throughout our life whether it was for a job, a friend or family member, or a stranger on the street.

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