Park Ranger Profile: Casey Overturf from Mount Rainier National Park, WA

The spring-time snow is finally here and now is your last chance to hit the slopes with the family! Not only is it great exercise, playing in the snow is also a fun, fantastic way to connect with your family and with the beauty of nature this season. Our National and State parks are great resources for you and the family to find  physical and emotional rejuvenation in nature this spring as nature begins to bloom again.

Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State is one park with all kinds of outdoor activities to take advantage of and also see an amazing patchwork of vistas: deep green forests, tumbling rivers, flower dotted meadows, ice-blue glaciers, a snow-shrouded volcano. There are 25 major glaciers on Mount Rainier and numerous unnamed snow or ice patches which serve as important indicators of climatic change, major visitor interpretive objects, sources of water for park aquatic systems, and hydroelectric and recreation pursuits outside of the park. Visit the interactive Mount Rainier glacier webpages of in-depth information on the park’s glaciers to learn more about our dramatically changing landscape.

Mount Rainier was one of the US’s earliest National Parks, having been established on March 2, 1899 as the fifth national park in the United States, encompassing 236,381 acres of pristine forest. The snow there is some of the best on the west coast and thousands of visitors come each year to experience the thrill of riding down the magnificent stratovolcano (also known as a composite volcano) that is Mount Rainier. Click here for daily winter road status.

Considering herself extremely lucky to work in such a beautiful part of the country, Park Ranger Casey James Overturf, who has worked as a West District Park guide for over 6 years, tells us more about about this National park and her important job of keeping it safe and clean for generations to come:

1) What inspired you to become a park ranger?

I could not think of any other job that I would like to do.  I get to live and work in some of the most beautiful and powerful places in this country.  I get to work outdoors at times, always get to learn more about nature and share that with others.  The flat hat is pretty sharp looking as well.

2) What is the best part about being a ranger? Describe a day on the job.

Describing a day would be tricky, every day is different (another part of the job I like).  Depending on the season, the weather and the day of the week what I do during the day changes.  I’d say the most rewarding part is getting to help people.  From finding a bathroom and picking a trail to helping them learn about nature and helping them understand how it works.

 

My two favorite things to do are the snowshoe walks in the winter and the evening programs in the summer.  In the winter we take folks outside on snowshoes, many for the first time, and talk about winter ecology.  I like to have my snowshoe walks play a “choose your own adventure” game where they get to “live the life” of an animal that stays active throughout the winter.  Based on their choices they see if they can survive a winter here at Mount Rainier.

In the summer we go to the campgrounds at night and get to talk to many of the people camping there.  Once it is dark we meet with anyone who wants to in the amphitheater and the ranger gets to share what they love about the park.  Last summer I explained to people how Native Americans have lived in this area for thousands of years and shared some of their stories about this special place.

3) What’s a fun fact about your park you like to share with visitors?

OH! There are so many things I could say!  This is another great part of my job.  The fact that I work on an active volcano covered in the biggest glacier system in the continental United States really excites me.

4) What advice would you give to kids and their parents visiting your park?

Because there is so much to do see and do in the park I would plan ahead before you get here to make the most of your time.  Also be flexible in your plan.  I would always ask a Ranger what they think is special or fun to do.  Some of the best times I’ve had in parks were based on suggestions from the ranger.  They know the “off the beaten path” stuff that most people do not even know to look for.

 

For example one of my favorite places in the “spring” (when the snow starts to melt here usually around May) is on the Westside road.  If you drive the 3 miles up that dirt road and then walk for no more than half a mile you will be glad you did.  Only as the snow melts there are waterfalls coming down Mount Wow that are tall and skinny, thousands of feet tall if you count all the drops.  Then on top of that you can often see mountain goats on Mount Wow during the spring.  Wow actually comes from a Native American word meaning goat.

5) What is the most important thing about parks in your opinion?

That it offers so many different opportunities for many different people.  Some people come to find a challenge, to pit themselves against the elements and see what they are made of.  Some come for the solitude and the chance to escape a busy and stressful day to day life.  Some come in big groups to spend time in a safe place with friends and family.  Some come for the history; the people and buildings that are part of the story of this park, even Wilderness is historic as it is the only place to see early America before it was settled.   A park experience can be almost anything you want it to be, and these extraordinary places belong to all of us.

Come and visit this epic park soon to enjoy it’s beauty and to reconnect you and your family to the wonders of nature with great fun like snow show walks, sledding and sliding, and winter camping! Mount Rainier also has a volunteer program and Junior Ranger books available at all their visitor centers. Complete the activities for your age group, have a ranger review your work and you will be sworn in and issued your official Mount Rainier Junior Ranger badge! Once you start your badge collection, also check out our Chipper For Parks badge we are featuring this April!

Most everyone is familiar with this very beautiful and common plant of the moist woods, whose common name is “Tri-Folwer,” as the leaves and petals are in threes. The petals at first are pure white but turn a dark rose color with age.
Photo by Daniel Keeble

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