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How and why did you become a Park Ranger?

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How and why did you become a Park Ranger?

A Journey Less Traveled

I started my journey into the field of science in the usual way:  an early interest, love, and compassion for animals.  This included bringing home strays, trying to save baby birds by feeding them moistened bread bits (literally “stuffing” the poor things to death), even an odd event in which I sympathized so terribly with a squirrel that had been hit by a car that I had carried the dead squirrel a mile to my Chicago suburb home (with odd looks from passersby) in order to “give it a proper burial” … in my mother’s front garden.  I continued with my interest into college, graduating with a degree in biology, still ultimately interested in the science field, with park ranger as a header in my daydreams of “what do I want to do when I grow up.” 

However, I was not solidly sure what I wanted to pursue and I wanted to follow in my family’s patriotic footsteps of serving in the United States of America’s military. So, I enlisted in the Marine Corps.  Surprisingly, many hours in a compartment dubbed “the hell hole” refocused my efforts in figuring out what I wanted to do as a long term career.  The occupation of park ranger came ringing back to me time and time again.

While the Marine Corps brought me down to the beautiful state of North Carolina, it was the North Carolina’s state parks that kept me here.   After my initial enlistment in the USMC was finished, I began applying for park ranger positions around the state. Kerr Lake State Recreation Area opened its arms to me.  The job was and is more than I could have imagined.  There is not a day that is the same.  As a park ranger you have a dozen (if not a multiple) job responsibilities. 

We do everything from cleaning a toilet to forest fire-fighting, from law enforcement to giving environmental programs, from natural resource management to search and rescue.  I found my niche through the lens of a camera.  One aspect of our job is to record any and all species of flora and fauna we see.  We load these onto a database called the NRID (Natural Resource Inventory Database).  You can choose to only record the numbers, but you can also add a picture to the record.  As I am a visual learner, I wanted to help others that were as well and upload as many photos with my species records as possible. 

What started as just point-and-shoot, basic photography has escalated over the years as I started taking some pretty amazing pictures.  I blame any and all success of my photography on nature itself - I have been just lucky enough to push the button at just the right time.  This aspect of my job has morphed into exhibits I have created at local museums to highlight fellow rangers and my photos, and has led me to the world of another camera:  videography. 

This is my niche, sharing what I get to see on a daily basis with the rest of the public.  I truly feel that I have found my life’s purpose and calling, a way in which I can contribute to the world around me.  The vein of science has allowed me this journey and I am forever grateful. 

Not a bad life for a salty old Marine!

Picture of large brown and white bird looking down and right at the viewer.
An inviting trail at William B. Umstead State Park

William B. Umstead State Park

8801 Glenwood Avenue
RaleighNC 27617
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Latitude: 35.890500
Longitude: -78.750200

Map of North Carolina


The gate at the Crabtree Creek entrance will open at 7am daily as part of a pilot program to allow early access to the trails system. From March 15th through December 1st, the family campground gate will remain open an additional hour after the park closes so those campers have access in and out the park during that time. 

Crabtree Creek Entrance:
November-February: 7am - 6pm
March, April, September, October: 7am - 8pm
May - August: 7am - 9pm
Closed Christmas Day

Reedy Creek Entrance:
November - February: 8:00am - 6pm
March, April, September, October: 8:00am - 8pm
May - August: 8:00am - 9pm
Closed Christmas Day

William B. Umstead main park gates are closed and locked promptly at posted closing time. No entry or exit is permitted after this time except for law enforcement or medical emergencies.

Park Office/Visitor Center
8am - 5pm
Closed Christmas Day

Exhibit Hall
Located in the Visitor Center
January - December, 9am - 4:30pm
Closed Christmas Day

Tent and Trailer Family Campground
Season of Operation: March 15th - December 1st