Ever wonder what a park ranger does all day? A lot, actually. In fact, when we heard that Grand Canyon National Park Supervisory Park Ranger, Lisa Hendy, was awarded the National Park Service’s Harry Yount National Park Ranger Award for excellence in the field of rangering, we wanted to spread the word… you see, what Ranger Hendy does day-in and day-out isn’t exactly what you’d do at a typical 9-to-5 job.
On any given day she could be found rappelling over the edge to stabilize a patient, working with the park’s Special Response Team to do a building sweep, responding with the structural fire engine to a burning RV, providing advanced life support care as a paramedic, being short-hauled into a victim on the river, or patrolling the backcountry – checking permits, stirring toilets, assessing archeological sites, and the list goes on.
The award, named after the nation’s first park ranger, is the highest honor that can be bestowed on a park ranger, so needless to say, this is a HUGE deal.
Below, we talked to Ranger Hendy about her work, why more folks should consider rangering as a job and what this award means to her:
How did you get into this line of work? Did you always know you wanted to be a ranger?
I was initially a criminal justice major at Auburn University, and I came to the realization I didn’t want to be stuck in a city or a car all the time. I had a good professor who suggested I look into the land management agencies. I got an internship in Yosemite, and when I got a look at what the National Park Service had to offer for emergency services, I was sold. I changed my major to Park Management before it was all said and done, but honestly that would not have mattered much. Either would have done.
What is the biggest misconception people have about your work?
That this job is all play all the time. Don’t get me wrong, we have it very good… people save up their vacation time to go do what I do at my job. But the hours are long, and the terrain and weather are unforgiving. It is hard on your body, and the emergency responses are often very stressful. I love my job, but it is definitely work!
What is the most extreme thing you’ve had to do as part of your job?
We have this nasty habit of making the extreme routine. I think something we do frequently that is also really high risk are the low level flights over the river. We do so many MEDEVAC’s off the river, it is easy to forget what the consequence of error would be.
Why should someone consider getting into your line of work?
Because it is the most fun job in the world! The challenges never cease, and no two days are ever alike. The caveat is that they must be willing to start at the bottom and work at it. Also, it helps to have no real internal clock since the pager does not seem to be able to tell time.
You said that your career is built on the teaching and wisdom of your predecessors… What piece of wisdom sticks with you most?
Take care of your buddies. You have to trust your coworkers with your life. We need to look out for each other in the day to day small stuff. That is the number one rule for the guys I supervise, and it is something I try to take to heart daily.
Tell us what this award means to you?
The award is extraordinarily humbling. I work with serious professionals. Many of them would be more than viable candidates for this award. I am honored that my peers thought enough of me to choose me, but I am aware that representing them is a tremendous responsibility. Of course, it makes me feel very honored. These people are my heroes. To have their respect is one of the most meaningful gifts they could give me.