Interpretation from Desert View, a closer look at a ranger's life along the Watchtower
GRAND CANYON, Ariz. - Maci MacPherson has always loved plants, animals and the outdoors and knew always knew she wanted a career that would allow her to interact with all of those elements on a daily basis.
From the first time she spent timewith rangers, as an intern in college MacPherson knew she wanted to be a park ranger.
"My degree was Wildlife Biology and I ended up getting an internship at Grand Teton as a park ranger," MacPherson said. "I always knew I loved national parks and park rangers and I was like, 'I don't really know what this is but I'm going to try it' and I loved it and that's all I've done since 2006."
From her initial introduction to the world of rangers as an interpretive intern MacPherson built an idea of what kind of career she wanted within the national park.
She ended up going back to Grand Teton National Park for the next four years as a seasonal ranger. She went on to work at Glacier National Park in Montana and Great Basin National Park in northeastern Nevada before arriving at the Grand Canyon National Park.
Her job in each of the parks was to work as an interpretive ranger.
"We gave cave tours (at Great Basin), as kind of our main program there," MacPherson said. "It was a very neat resource, the very opposite of here - where they only get about 80,000 visitors the whole year. So I went from that to this (Grand Canyon National Park)."
MacPherson said it was a huge change for her to go from a park with 80,000 visitors a year in comparison to Grand Canyon's annual visitation that can see around five million visitors per year.
"I'd worked at other busy places but it was a little bit of a culture shock from being at a really quiet park to the Grand Canyon," she said.
While MacPherson's primary work and main responsibility is interpretation occasionally she will volunteer to work with wildlife or search and rescue operations.
MacPherson said her love for interpretation was immediate and is something she wanted to do for the rest of her life.
"The second I started doing interpretation, I loved it and at the time it was all brand new to me and I didn't really know what interpretation was," she said. "After spending a summer learning about it I knew this is what I wanted to do."
According to Donna Richardson, chief of interpretation at Grand Canyon, the role of interpretive rangers is to be a direct link to the public and provide key information and educational information for them.
"We are the ones that the visitor seeks out to have their questions answered," Richardson said. "Ninety-nine percent of visitors that come here want to learn more, they want to know how things happened, why it happened, what are the plants, what are the animals and I think our job is unique in that we get to answer all those questions."
MacPherson works as an interpretive ranger at Grand Canyon's Desert View Watchtower and Tusayan Ruins.
Dersert View is located about 30 miles from the South Rim entrance and is about a 30-minute drive from Grand Canyon Village. Rangers at Desert View are responsible for supplying personnel for the east entrance of the park.
According to MacPherson working and living at Desert View is a lot lower key than other areas along the South Rim - something she said she appreciates.
"There was something about Desert View that really drew my attention," MacPherson said. "I like being out away a little bit. Even though we still have a lot of visitors out here, it's very busy and we are very active - you still have that quiet area out here too. It's pretty nice."
Interpretative rangers at Desert View are responsible for the 15-mile area reaching from Grand View Point to Desert View Watchtower. Currently, there are five interprative rangers at Desert View, however in the busy summer season three to six additional interpretive rangers will be added to the staff. Rangers at Desert View have offices located at the Tusayan Museum, located about three miles west of Desert View - where many rangers give ranger talks.
"It's a little museum on the south side of the road that is kind of hidden, but we (the park) have our only ancestral pueblo and ruin we like to share with visitors, so we like to give tours of that throughout the year," MacPherson said.
There are around 35 people living at Desert View, which includes park employees, employees of Delaware North - the concessionaire for Desert View and employees of Grand Canyon Association.
According to MacPherson when seasonal employees return to the Canyon, around mid May, the number of employees will double.
Living and working at Desert View over the last few years has given MacPherson a unique perspective of the Canyon and an appreciation of the community she calls home.
"The really unique thing about the Canyon at Desert View is that you can see the Colorado River really well. The Canyon opens up a little wider," she said.
With no cell phone service, limited internet access and no night life to keep them entertained the Desert View community spend time together, pick up hobbies and take time to explore, learn and appreciate the natural setting and beauty around them.
"It's a little different for some people, but for the most part we have little community get togethers and the whole neighborhood is invited, it's nice because it is a small community," MacPherson said. "I really like it, because during the day when you are at work it's super busy and hectic and then when you go home you have that peace and quiet and you can walk around out in the woods."
MacPherson said she enjoys painting landscapes, taking photographs, mountain biking, reading, watching DVDs and bird watching.
"Sometimes on my days off I like to go and sit by the rim. I have my own little trail through the woods to get there, where you're out there by yourself, which is nice and sometimes I'll plan hiking trips into the Canyon and then sometimes I just go the other way and I'll go explore some drainage (area) and see where it goes," she said. "It's nice to get out in the woods too and it's definetly different than being out along the rim. There are different sights, different smells and no people usually."