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Short Stories

Summers In The Parks
by Ihla J. Crowley

I am often asked about my rather ‘exotic’ summer employment in National parks. You might say it is the ultimate mix of business and pleasure. Sure, you work while there, but on your days off, look what you have at your doorstep.

My first experience was working at Jackson Lake Lodge in the unbelievably spectacular Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. From that moment I was hooked. Let me tell you, spending time at places like this, the Grand Canyon, and working for Holland America, in Alaska on their McKinley Explorer tourist train, ain’t bad.

Have you ever wondered how to go about doing something like this? Well, in some ways, it’s easier than you might think. Just go to a web site called There you will find a listing of jobs available with the concessionaires operating in most of the National Parks, as well as many other tourist-oriented locales.

Once you have picked a location that interests you, and have chosen a company, you click on the link to their site for more particulars and details about how to apply. It’s really that simple. You will either print out and send in an application, or do it on-line. A couple telephone interviews later, and you should be on your way to making plans for a fun and memorable working vacation.

Before you make the plunge, however, here are a few words of cautionary advice.
  • These jobs are primarily for the young. Young people, especially those drawn to the transient lifestyle of seasonal work, drink and party.
  • Not all the jobs are fun and/or glamorous. You may have to settle for less than your favorite position the first time around. January or February is the time to apply for the following summer’s positions. If you give them enough lead time, and emphasize your maturity and responsible work ethics, you should be able to secure one of the more dignified positions, such as front desk, or retail.
  • Employee housing, although usually free, is most often quite primitive.
  • Work schedules vary. Check out the number of days per week you will be required to work, and the hours. If you are expected to work six or seven days a week, you won’t have much time to take advantage of why you are there in the first place.
  • Be ready to have your conception of vacation and resort facilities changed forever. You will be seeing the flip-side, or underbelly, of this industry.
  • And finally, you can’t expect to get rich at this. In most cases you will be earning minimum wage. Your reason for going must be to enjoy your surroundings and have a mostly fun and unique experience.

Still interested? Here are some of the good things.

  • This is a very nice way to get out of the summer heat.
  • Falling asleep to the accompaniment of coyotes singing and elks bugling a few feet from your window… breathing crystal clear air… close encounters with deer and moose and bear… vistas so gorgeous they will take your breath away… spending your leisure hours walking and hiking, fishing, hunting, or just lolling in virtual paradise for that matter.
  • Participation in the activities offered by your concessionaire and their affiliates free, or at reduced rates, space allowing.
  • Opportunity to meet some very interesting people, many of whom have fascinating backgrounds and wonderful stories to tell.
  • There are a few exceptions to the low wage rule, especially if you’re willing to go to Alaska.

So there you have it. Call me a gypsy, but I have thoroughly enjoyed these experiences the past several years. If you feel the spirit to do the same, I hope this information was helpful. For the unabridged version of this story, photos, and much more, please visit

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