In my life so far I have had 21 first days of school and probably a dozen first days at new jobs. Each time I’ve been full of anticipation, excitement, nerves, and have been driven by curiosity about what I was about to learn. My first day as a Parks Canada Public Outreach Education Officer in Kluane National Park and Reserve (NPR) felt similar, but turned to the max because, not only was I the new kid in the park, but I’d just moved 2,000 kilometres north, alone, for a four-year term in a little place called Haines Junction.
My first week passed by in the usual flurry of orientation, IT issues, new faces and names, and moving into my own office space. On week two however, I was handed a park radio. It was then I finally started to understand just how much goes on inside Kluane NPR.
The Kluane region is, without a doubt, a place of extremes. So far I have witnessed the land shake off its summer greens for the riot of fall’s oranges, yellows and reds, and the snow line on the St. Elias Mountains has been creeping steadily lower. The chatter on the radio has proven park staff and their work are no less vibrant and diverse.
The Visitor Experience team are incredibly well-informed as they share detailed answers for the many questions from park visitors participating in guided hikes and tours and registering for backcountry trips.
Radio static clears for updates from Trail Crew, an impressive team of three who care for more than 500 kilometres of trails, not to mention the many other maintenance and safety tasks they’re responsible for. I spent the day with them on a section of the 85-kilometres Cottonwood Trail, where time isn’t measured in hours but in tanks of gas for the chainsaw as the crew clears downed trees and brush.
Parks Canada’s Resource Conservation personnel are less visible to the public than the Visitor Experience and Trail Crew teams, but chances are you’ve seen hints of them and their work throughout the park. They’re out on the water taking samples, in the air identifying key areas for management, or on the ground analyzing mountains of data. While out helping with kokanee salmon carcass sampling, the radio was abuzz with discussion of how best to move the land-based team upstream with the least disturbance to a grizzly bear feasting on spawning salmon nearby. No two days are ever the same for any team in Kluane NPR, but respect and care towards the creatures and landscape of Kluane are clearly shown by everyone.
As the busy field season has come to a close, the radios have gone quiet. Summer students and seasonal team members have moved back to their classrooms and winter work, and Trail Crew and Resource Conservation teams are getting ready for winter and their office-based data analysis. For me, I’m eager to dive into my role; the coming winter will be full of learning, engaging with the community, and preparing programming for next year. I’ll be waiting though, for the return of the full radio waves that will mark the beginning of another busy summer season in Kluane National Park and Reserve.