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Welcome back to another Ranger Talk! This week we’re talking to Dara, an interpretive ranger in Virginia. Just keep in mind, the views expressed here are her own and are not reflective of National Park Service in any way.
Name: Dara Green
Where are you from: I’m originally from Dallas, Texas, but I grew up in Virginia, where I now live and work.
Favorite book: “Cadillac Desert“ by Marc Reisner. I love reading environmental history.
Favorite color, constellation, and conspiracy theory (you don’t have to believe it, it can be one you just like reading about or think is interesting): Right now it’s green but it changes all the time. Ursa Major and Minor along with Orion are about the only constellations I can find consistently without help, so they’ve become my favorites. I like reading about failed conspiracies throughout history. The “what if” factor really fascinates me.
What is your dream trip outside of the parks: Right now, I’m saving up for a trip to Japan. I don’t know when I’ll have the money to make it over there but I’m looking forward to the trip. I’m not looking forward to the flight there and back.
Where do you work, how did you end up here, and what do you do: I’m an interpretive park ranger at Cedar Creek and Belle Grove National Historical Park, which is a relatively new park (started in 2002) in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. I had worked for a local nonprofit partner of the park before, so I was already familiar with the park when I applied for the job. Our interpretation covers everything from the pre-European settlement of the Valley to the Battle of Cedar Creek, which occurred late in the American Civil War on and around the grounds of the Belle Grove Plantation.
What did you do to get the job (degree? volunteer experience? other relevant work experience?): I earned a BA in History from Virginia Tech in 2015. Sometime after that, I got a job working for a nonprofit partner of the park I’m at now. In late 2018, the organization I was working for fell on hard times and they had to drastically cut their staff. It was hard leaving but I’m so happy to be a part of the National Park Service now!
Where else have you worked: I worked a lot of non-career jobs before I found what I wanted to do, including managing a Starbucks in Northern Virginia, but this is the first job with National Park Service.
What is your dream park to work at: I fell in love with Grand Teton on my first trip out there in 2010. I’d love the opportunity to go back there.
Why did you want to become a ranger: I love history and the outdoors! I really believe the best classrooms are outside. There is nothing like being at a site to make you appreciate both the scenic beauty and historic significance of the place. The National Parks provide that opportunity to visitors every day.
How did you get interested in the parks: My mother would take my sister and me to the National Parks when we were young. We were all hiking in Shenandoah National Park last month when I realized we’ve been hiking there as a family for the past 22 years! So it’s always been a part of our family so to speak.
What do you love most about the parks: I love the diversity. You go to every corner of this country and there’s something different to see and explore. It’s amazing!
Top tip for visiting the parks (don’t touch wildlife, go early, avoid holidays, etc): Don’t over plan your trip. You can’t find everything online. Listen to the locals. Don’t be overly destination driven. Build in time for detours; they’re usually the most fun you will have on your trip!
Top five parks so far: Grand Teton, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Alcatraz, Cedar Creek and Belle Grove NHP, so far. There are so many more I haven’t been to yet!
Coolest park experience you’ve had so far (climbing the Teton, rim to rim to rim in the Grand Canyon, seeing a pack of wolves attack a moose, etc.): I’d been living in Los Angeles for the past year when I went out to the Grand Teton for the first time. I remember that first night standing outside in the dark just staring up at the stars. I’d never seen stars like that before. I stood out there until I couldn’t feel my toes or my fingers. It was so cold. I still vividly remember those stars.
Dream park experience (rim to rim to rim, climb Half Dome, road trip to all the parks, etc): I’d love to climb Half Dome and the Upper Yosemite Falls (Yosemite), Angels Landing (Zion), and Bright Angel Trail (Grand Canyon). I really want to see the Northern Lights from one of the parks in Alaska at some point. Those are all dreams of mine.
Favorite hike and/or activity in a park: I will always love Old Rag Mountain in Shenandoah National Park. No matter how many places I go to or how many times I hike that trail it will always be an extra special place for me.
Favorite outdoor activity: Hiking! I’ve done some climbing and caving and that’s fun but I expect to be hiking as long as my legs will carry me.
If you could only visit one park for the rest of your life, which and why: I’d probably have to choose Shenandoah just because it’s home to me, and it holds so many memories for me personally.
Anything else you want to share? Go Find Your Park!
What else would you like to see in future interviews? Have you ever wanted to be a park ranger?
Are you a ranger or do you know a ranger that would like to be featured? Send me an email! I would like to branch out into forest rangers and state park rangers as well, so get in touch if you’re interested!