Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Building a life #21. Nightlands.

Being a Park Ranger on night patrol has its advantages as well as its drawbacks. While I have to work all summer and miss camping trips with the family to Portland Island ( except on my weekly days off) and have a lot of hassles with ‘party-hearty’ campers I do get to continue work on the house building project during the daylight hours. Building a house all by oneself is an enormous project but I hope to get the building closed in by next winter. I will then get laid off from Parks work until next Spring and I can continue to work at building all winter too.

Work in the Park is not all bad either, because I find that talking to people as I collect their fees comes easily to me and there is so much basic education to be done about how people should behave in this natural setting. Hey, as a Park Ranger I`m a teacher again, but a more subtle, conversational kind than when I taught in the school system. The difference between the walk-in waterfront park, (Ruckle),where campers must leave their cars and carry their kit through the woods to the fields by the shore, and the drive-in campground in Ganges ( Mouat) is sometimes striking.

In Spring, before I start night patrols, I collect camping fees in the morning while doing the general maintenance. Early one morning in Ruckle Park I visit a young man sitting cross-legged facing the sunrise over the ocean. He is in bliss and I take his money as quietly as possible. Later that morning, having driven into Ganges to Mouat Park I find a big shiny car and silver trailer parked beside a roaring campfire. There is no one around. They have not put their camping fee envelope in the safe, so I tap on the trailer door. “Hello, I’m collecting fees.”, I say and the father digs out his wallet. As we deal with the paperwork I notice a strange bird song and look over my shoulder, puzzled. “ Do you hear that bird?” I say. “Oh, that`s on our tape deck” he replies. This family is so insulated in their caravan that nature comes from a sterio. The pity of it is that they think they are experiencing it first hand! And they are burning up all that free campground firewood I have split!

Some dry summer nights at Ruckle Park I must also fit fire patrols into my busy schedule. There are still many smokers who drop their butts or the occasional camper out of bounds busy lighting his own private fire amidst the tinder dry grasses. I walk the back trails at top speed and on bright moonlit nights I can turn off my flashlight ( so much the better for catching wrongdoers unawares) and stride quietly beside the sparkling ocean over sandstone ridges clothed in twisted Garry oak and arbutus. One night the moon is covered momentarily in a drifting cloud and, if I pause and set my eyes just right, I can watch tiny star ships leave the shore of one bright cloud and voyage across the gulf of space to the far shore of a new cloudland. I begin to dream of doing a version of that myself someday.

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