Photo copyright Smtunli, Svein-Magne Tunli – http://www.tunliweb.no/SM/English/sm_eng.htm
As I may have mentioned here in the past, I’m an information junkie. However, I’m an information junkie cursed with a terrible Swiss Cheese of a memory, possibly caused by an old gypsy woman, and therefore I’m a fan of tour guides. Part of it is respect for knowledge, part of it is the ability to communicate that knowledge, and another part of it is their sheer enthusiasm for their subject(s).
That respect was born out of encounters with the US National Park Service rangers on Alcatraz Island. Now, Alcatraz is a pretty cool place to visit, but amid the tours covering the history and law and order aspects of the place, we had one tour guide enthusiastically telling us about a colony of oysters that was developing off one of the piers. That Park Ranger genuinely loved his job, bubbling over with enthusiasm and geeky joy in his subject. That’s actually the thing that most stands out from that particular tour, even twelve years later.
In many ways, the role of the rangers straddles two worlds that often feel too separate: it’s a cool, outdoorsy job, but it’s also got a sense of the geek spirit, in the most postive way – the idea that this stuff is cool, it’s good to be enthusiastic about it, and there’s nothing wrong with communicating that enthusiasm to the millions of visitors who pass through the parks every year.
So, to the National Parks Service, happy birthday from Britain. You helped make my trips to the States memorable, and long may you continue to inform, preserve and protect.