Park Ranger Profile: Jan Stock from Bryce Canyon National Park (UT)

Saint Patty’s Day is right around the corner and now is the perfect time to go GREEN! The folks here at Let’s Go Chipper are going green by celebrating the noble work of Park Rangers everywhere with weekly ranger profiles to help inspire future rangers and increase interest in parks.

This week we are looking at Jan Stock, a Park Ranger Interpreter for Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. Currently working as a Volunteer Coordinator, Jan has been with the National Park Service since 1978 (over 30 years!) and been apart of the Bryce Canyon family since 1986. Jan was kind enough to answer a few questions for us with her expertise, explaining why park rangers are so important and giving a  wonderful description of how fun it is to work in the great outdoors for a living. Here are her responses:

1) What inspired you to become a park ranger?

I grew up in northern Connecticut with five siblings.  My parents didn’t have a lot of money, so family vacations were spent doing things that didn’t cost much:  hiking, camping, picnicking, swimming, etc.  Sometimes, we’d vacation in national forests, sometimes in national parks.  As long as I can remember, the thought of being a park ranger and GETTING PAID to work and play in these special places intrigued me!  Even though my Dad tried to talk me out of it (telling me that being a park ranger probably wouldn’t pay much — and he was right!), I decided that it was more important to do something I loved for little pay, than to do something I didn’t like just because it paid more.  So I pursued becoming a National Park Ranger.  I always have, and always will, LOVE the great outdoors.  Our national parks help protect natural and cultural resources so they’ll be unimpaired for future generations to enjoy!

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

National parks are some of the most beautiful places on Earth, and there are days when I practically have to “pinch” myself as a reminder of how blessed I am to be living and working in these spectacular sanctuaries.  My career is what some people only dream of doing!  A typical day for me is full of variety.  I might spend a couple of hours working at the visitor center information desk as I answer questions and help visitors make the most of their time here.  Sometimes I go out in the park and offer an interpretive program to a group of visitors.  We offer a number of different walks and talks, including:  geology talks, snowshoe hikes, rim walks, canyon hikes, kids programs, full moon hikes, astronomy programs, and campfire programs.  I also do a lot of “behind-the-scenes” work, including:  managing the park’s museum collection as the Park Curator, producing interpretive publications and exhibits, maintaining the park’s website, supervising visitor center volunteers, and serving as the park’s
Volunteer Manager.

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

Bryce Canyon National Park is best known for its “hoodoos.”  Hoodoos are odd-shaped pinnacles of rock left standing by the forces of weathering and
erosion.  Although hoodoos ARE found in many places around the world, Bryce Canyon has the largest and most colorful collection of hoodoos that you’ll find anywhere on Earth!  Some of our hoodoos have been given names based on what they look like.  Here at Bryce Canyon, we have an alligator, a hunter and rabbit, Queen Victoria, a sinking ship, the Pope, the Poodle, and Thors Hammer — just to name a few.  We encourage visitors to use their imaginations and name other hoodoos they believe look familiar to them. Many of our visitors have found (and named) a particular hoodoo in the park
— “E.T. the Extraterrestrial!” 🙂

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

Slow down, take your time, relax and enjoy yourselves.  Don’t try to do too many parks in a short time, or you’ll end up spending all your time in the car — rushing from place to place and getting totally “burned out!”  There are many different things to do here:  hiking, horseback riding, attending ranger programs (including astronomy and/or moonlight hikes).  If possible, we always encourage visitors to take a hike.  Not only is it a good way to get some exercise and “family-bonding-time,” but hiking “immerses” you in the resource — you get up-close and personal with our beautiful and bizarre hoodoos.  If all you do is gaze upon distant hoodoos from the viewpoints then move on, you’re missing out on the unique and amazing experience that our hiking trails have to offer.

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

As I mentioned above, national parks are sanctuaries — set aside to protect resources to leave them unimpaired for future generations to enjoy. These national parks belong to everyone — not just Americans, but all citizens of the world!  National parks do an amazing job, not only of protecting natural and cultural resources, but of telling important stories, too — whether it’s the story of immigrants coming to America seeking freedom and opportunity (Statue of Liberty), or the story of Pearl Harbor being attacked in 1941 (World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument).  It is our hope that these special places will serve to remind us of the beauty and fragility of both our species and our planet, and instill a sense of stewardship so that all may experience these special places forever.

It is also Chipper’s mission to instill this sense of stewardship in future generations so we can keep our planet healthy and beautiful! Taking the time to enjoy our parks is one way to do encourage children to appreciate nature for years to come. Thanks to our wonderful park rangers like Jan Stock, there are numerous Junior Ranger programs for kids at parks all over the world, including at Bryce Canyon.

The Bryce Canyon National Park is only one of thirteen National Parks in the State of Utah that receive around 9 million visitors annually (for more information on Utah’s park highlights and numbers: Visitation is the main source of revenue that keeps these parks alive and benefits the Park Rangers that run them.

Bryce Canyon is even more beautiful in the wintertime! For the casual visitor, hopping in and out of their warm car at the overlooks to see the striking contrast of white snow, red rock, and blue sky might be thrilling enough. However, for the more adventurous winter recreationists, many opportunities beckon. BEFORE setting out on one of the adventures described below, stop at the Bryce Canyon Visitor Center to get up-to-date weather and safety information. The best time of winter to visit Bryce Canyon is during the Bryce Canyon Winter Festival. This annual event is usually held over President’s Day Weekend.

Ever wonder why the rocks are red? Where we got the name hoodoo? What’s a deer’s favorite food? Well, you’re not alone! Check out the FREE Park Ranger Programs to learn all sorts of fun facts about Bryce Canyon to expand your imagination and your exploration of the park. Their summer schedule is packed so visit their visitation page today to plan your next outdoor adventure!