Finding My Park In The Rockies

June 10, 2015Stefanie MathewNPF Blog

When I was asked to travel to Colorado on behalf of the National Park Foundation to participate in the Student Conservation Association’s NPS Centennial Volunteer Ambassador orientation program, I whole-heartedly answered “yes!” I was excited to spread the word about NPF and our Find Your Park movement, and this trip gave me a chance to visit the state and one of its incredible national parks for the very first time.

The NPS Centennial Volunteer Ambassador program, a partnership between the Student Conservation Association and the National Park Service, recruits young people for yearlong community-oriented internships in national parks.

Young adults from the Student Conservation Association and the National Park Service

In these roles, the ambassadors are embedded into national parks through the Volunteers in Parks program, bolstering community engagement by coordinating opportunities for the public to support our treasured parks through both national and local volunteerism. They will help people find their park all across the country, and NPF is thrilled to be working with such a passionate, dedicated group of conservation advocates.

On the second day of the trip, following orientation, I struck out on my own to find MY park by taking an incredible tour of Rocky Mountain National Park. I’ve lived on the East Coast most of my life, so I really don’t have much experience with mountains. I was amazed at how beautiful the Rockies are, and how much diversity there is in the landscape from lush green meadows dotted with elk, to stark, snow-covered peaks.

Woman standing at foot of Alluvial Fan waterfall

On my tour, I hiked to the Alluvial Fan waterfall where I learned about the long-term impact of a 1982 flood. Making my way up the mountain, I also spotted several cool birds that are native to the park, including magpies, Clark’s nutcrackers, and a Great Horned Owl. It was great to take this short but rugged hike on National Trails Day!

As the tour continued, I enjoyed the stunning views from Trail Ridge Road, which is the highest paved road in the country, cresting at over 12,000 feet. I stopped at the Alpine Visitor Center, where I learned more about the mountain landscape and had a chance to talk with a few rangers about Find Your Park.

Views from Trail Ridge Road of the Rock Mountains

The air was cool and crisp at such a high altitude, but I learned to walk very slowly and breathe deeply to make sure I was getting enough oxygen. On the drive back down, I also got to witness just how quickly the weather can take a turn in the mountains, as an intense storm with sleet and rain rolled in. These were all very new experiences for me!

Rocky Mountain National Park is a real treasure and it is celebrating its 100th birthday in 2015. I am thrilled that I was able to visit in its landmark year and collect another stamp for my passport book. I hope to get back there soon!

After this whirlwind weekend, my advice is to get up, get out there, and find your park!

Woman poses in front of sign, \"Rocky Mountain National Park, Established in 1915, 100th Anniversary"

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