28 Jul THE LAST DANCE
With my time at Rocky coming to an end, I’ve decided to allocate this blog post as a reflection of my summer. Prior to coming to Rocky, I knew my summer would be great. I’d be living in the mountains, conducting research, making friends, all while being able to represent my culture and community. Although going in, my expectations were high, somehow, the reality of this experience still managed to blow those expectations away. First, I’ll start with my research and my findings.
Prior to apply to this internship, I had no idea what “Visitor Use Impact Monitoring” was. While I could piece together a lose meaning of the phrase, it wasn’t until I got here that I truly understood what I was going to be doing this summer. Even after learning about what my position entailed, I was still a bit nervous to actually be conducting the research. I had an unrealistic fear that somehow the research I would be conducting would not be to the standard of an employed fulltime researcher and therefor would be unusable. From day one, I was worried; little did I know, I had the best mentor possible- Paige Lambert. When I expressed my nerves and worries, Paige was willing to take however much time to help squash those fears. Even with a full plate of work- from installing and monitoring trail and traffic counters to writing the research learning center news letter- Paige never hesitated to take time out of her busy schedule to help me. With the help of Paige, I quickly became confident in my research and- with the help of volunteers- started tackling the trails of Wild Basin.
After weeks of collection, it became obvious that Ouzel Falls- one of the scenic destinations in Wild Basin- was the most heavily impacted part of Wild Basin. With no official trail to the top of the falls, there were bad social trails stretching in every direction to the top. Furthermore, the merging of these social trails created huge congregation areas. Because of these social trails and congregation areas, there’s widespread soil erosion everywhere with little to no vegetation present. In the realm of visitor use impacts, Ouzel Falls ranks among some of the worst. Because of its condition, I recommended some solutions; first implementing some sort of trail marker to guide people up the falls. I believe that most visitors are not intentionally trying to create social trails; instead- because of the lack of trail markers- they don’t know where to go and as a result create social trails. Trail markers would guide people up to the top of the falls on one trail resulting in less social trails. The next solution would be ecological. Once we install trail markers, we can have veg crew come in and do a mass revegetation at the falls. My final recommendation is education. As mentioned before, I don’t believe that people are intentionally trying to create social trails; instead they follow trails off of the main trails and don’t realize the damage they’re causing. If we were to educate people about social trails and visitor use impacts as a whole, I believe we’d see a reduction in visitor use impacts. To conclude, I just want to point out that these solutions are not mutually exclusive and very much work in tandem. Once we engineer- create trail markers- we can revegetate; following that, we can educate the public about our revegetation process and teach them to stay on the main trail.
Now that I’ve covered my research, I’d like to write about the amazing people I met. As mentioned above, I had the most amazing mentor possible- Paige. Along with Paige, I frequently worked with the other members of the research learning center. Scott Esser- the director- is a great boss to have. Having worked at Rocky for nearly 20 years, he’s an extremely knowledgeable person and a great leader; I couldn’t have asked for a better boss. Lisa Cowart Baron- the research coordinator- is also extremely knowledgeable and would often share her experiences working in the NPS throughout the country. Furthermore, she helped me a ton with the GIS analysis portion of my research. Bill Peterson- the McGraw Ranch caretaker- is an extremely friendly, kind person. He’s frequently taking me out for hikes and deserts just to have a conversation and learn about me. Lastly, Steven Ochoa- the newest member of the RLC and the diversity internship coordinator- has drastically improved my experience here. Prior to his arrival, it kind of felt like I was the only POC at the park and was alone. After his arrival, Steven taught me so much about not only what it’s like being a POC working for the NPS, but also just about his life experiences and how that’s shaped who he is today. Having these talks with him really made me feel more comfortable at the park and much less alone. Its difficult to put into words, but just having his presence made me feel much better. Furthermore, since his arrival, we have been meeting up with Ricardo and Lily- past Mosaics interns- which has also been a blast. Again, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to work with such a great team in the Continental Divide Research Learning Center.
Outside of the RLC, I have a few more shout outs to give. Last week I had the opportunity to go camping in the Wind Caves with other interns. At first I was pretty hesitant to go on this trip; prior to the trip, I hadn’t met any other interns and I also had a huge presentation I had to give towards the end of the week. With these reservations in mind, Steven and Paige highly encouraged me to go on the trip- thank goodness I did! Not only did I have a blast at Wind Cave, I also met lifelong friends. When we got to South Dakota, I met Brooke Su- a current Mosaics intern- and Nicole Segnini- a current LHIP intern. Brooke and Nicole are both so much fun! If you ever meet me, I’m a pretty high energy person, so to have fun people who can match that energy is great for me. We had so much fun playing cards, telling stories, and just getting to know each other on this camping trip. Along with Brooke and Nicole, I got to meet and spend more time with Griselda, Shanelle, Paola, and Sheylda. They are all great people whom I very much enjoyed spending time with. Finally, on this trip I had the privilege of meeting the one… the only… YUYAVAN ROBLES! Yuya- an LHIP intern- is the Shrek to my donkey, the Mario to my Luigi, the Yuya to my Will. What I said about me being high energy- Yuya is the exact same. We spent the whole car ride up cracking jokes, telling stories, sharing music, and laughing. When we got to the campsite, we chose to be tentmates (which I regretted later), and just had a fun day. After we got back Yuya and I decided to meet up later that week in Denver (a halfway point between us) and following a night there, he decided to drive up to see Rocky for himself. After a quick tour of the park we met up with Steven, Ricardo, and Lily, and had a very fun dinner full of laughter and jokes. The following morning we got breakfast and then Yuya left.
My experience as a Mosaics in Science intern at Rocky Mountain National Park has been absolutely amazing. Its been everything I wanted and more. Unfortunately, because its been so great, I’m now left feeling all the more sad having to leave. With that being said to Rocky Mountain and to all the great people I’ve met, I have a few words:
“There are no goodbyes for us. Wherever you are, you will always be in my heart.” -Mahatma Gandhi
Moving forward, I’ll always remember the people I’ve met and the experiences I’ve had. Although its goodbye for now, I know we will all meet again. To summarize my experience as a Mosaics intern, I’ll quote the romcom (I absolutely love romcoms) Fools Rush In:
“You are everything I never knew I always wanted”- Alex Whitman Fools Rush In
Thanks for making it this far, if you have any questions about my research or anything else, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]