At exactly 6:30AM the second floor of the Hiker Cabin is filled with the sound of Notre Dame like church bells. It is my phone alarm, and it means that it is officially time to start my day and get out of bed. I get dressed and head downstairs because soon there will be curious hikers on my front porch.
Hello all! My name is Haley Doty and you may remember me as one of the Interpretive Rangers stationed at Franconia Notch State Park. For this post, I thought it might be interesting to provide an inside exclusive about what being an SCA New Hampshire AmeriCorps Interpretive Ranger is all about.
7:30AM: The Hiker Cabin officially opens to the public. At this time of day a majority of the questions I receive are from those interested in hiking the Franconia Ridge Loop. These usually revolve around the current trail conditions, the weather “up top” and recommendations on which way to start the loop. I love seeing people here this early in the morning because it means they are getting a good start on this day-long hike.
8:30-9:00AM: The Hiker Cabin is typically pretty quiet during this time because those individuals doing long hikes are on the trails and other day use visitors have not arrived to the park yet. I like to use this time to drink my coffee, catch up on emails and prepare for the impending wave of people that will come later in the day.
9AM-12PM: This is by far the busiest time at the Hiker Cabin, on an average day I talk to 100 people in these three hours. Our small cabin is often filled with different groups studying our trail map information, exploring the Interpretive Center room and asking me questions about the park and surrounding areas. I provide those with questions about hikes with detailed information (scrambling, stream crossings, ladders, etc.) regarding the trails, pictures of the trail as well as other trail recommendations. Those who don’t have a hiking question for me are usually lost. I joke that the White Mountains are a Bermuda Triangle when it comes to directions from GPS units. People trying to get to the Flume Gorge, Cannon Tramway or even the Mt. Washington Auto Road often end up at my cabin. Arguably, the question I am asked most frequently is, “Where is the bathroom?”. My response to this question is usually to ask what trail you are hiking. Please note, this isn’t a test to see how well your memory functions when you have to go to the bathroom, it is me trying to tell you where the closest bathroom is in relation to your destination. As well as interacting with visitors to the Hiker Cabin during this time, I am usually also working on new displays and future lesson plans.
1PM-3:30PM: Compared to the morning rush, the afternoons in the Hiker Cabin are much more relaxed. Visitors during this time are usually just arriving to the campground and/or have just finished a long day of travel. Hiking questions during this time are usually reserved to short hikes like Lonesome Lake. However, this is also the time where Brian (the other Interpretive Ranger in FNSP) and I experience our worst nightmare, aka. someone wanting to hike the Franconia Ridge Loop (in flip flops if we want to be truly terrified). With those interested in beginning such a long hike at such a late time, I usually provide them with all the information possible, ask if they have all the 10 Essentials, and ultimately advise that they wait until another day.
3:30PM: The Hiker Cabin closes for the day. We close at this time so that whoever is staffing the cabin has the opportunity to get out of the cabin and program in the park. Additionally most hikers, unless they are doing the shortest of trails, have finished for the day or are already on the trail.
4PM-5PM: I am somewhere in the park providing interpretive programming. With more than 9 miles of state park to cover, I have a lot of options as far as location goes. One of my personal favorite places to program is the Basin. I love this spot because I get to interact with a ton of people, listen to the river, and look at all the adorable dogs.
5PM: I pack up my program materials and head home because I am done for the day!
So what do we do after work, party like its 1999? Definitely not! Brian and I usually talk about our days, make dinner, hide from the public and enjoy the peace and quiet before going to bed and starting it all over again.
I hope you have enjoyed this inside exclusive of the life of an Interpretive Ranger. Although I only covered my average day, Brian as well as the other Interpretive Rangers stationed throughout New Hampshire have days that are just as busy or even more so. For more information about the Interpretive programs offered at Franconia Notch State Park, click here! Also, as always, feel free to stop by and say “Hey” to me or Brian at the Hiker Cabin.