Our First Week at Scotty’s Castle

Scotty's Castle
Scotty’s Castle

We started working this week at Scotty’s Castle, but the first two weeks are training.  We will be interpretive guides, which means that we need to learn all about the Castle and lead tours.  We have been shadowing other guides, reading all the material we can find, and learning the ropes.  As far as we can tell, we are the only volunteer interpretive guides.  Everyone else here is a National Park Ranger, some of them seasonal and some of them full-time.  So they are treating us pretty much like employees – aside from the getting a paycheck part.

Our day starts at 7:15 with opening the Historic District.  We have keys to the Castle and surrounding buildings and we unlock the gates, open the buildings, and turn things on.  The two rangers who are on our same shift have been terrific about showing us how to do this.  We are learning how to turn off the alarm for the Castle, open the safe, and run the cash register in the Visitor Center.

An important part of our duties that takes place before guests arrive is cleaning.  We dust and vacuum and make sure tables are wiped off.  We also check the traps – looking for mice and packrats.  It’s not my favorite part of the job, but we don’t want the guests to be on a tour and see a packrat lying dead in the trap, or have a mouse run by someone’s foot.

Because Scotty’s Castle is a historic district, we have to dress in period clothing.  The year is 1939.  Tom didn’t have any problem finding a costume – I will include pictures when we start leading tours – but I couldn’t find any dresses that were long enough.  A woman my age in 1939 would not have worn anything at or above the knee and all the dresses that fit me in other places were too short.  So I may end up making a dress.

The Visitor Center opens at 9:45 with the first tours beginning at 10 a.m.  So far Tom and I are spending a lot of time following the other guides on their tours and asking questions afterward.  We have to write our own scripts and we are learning all we can.  Each guide has their own style, their own story, and their own information that is included in the tour.  We are encouraged to find a “character” that we can develop and write our tour around that.  The gates close at 4:15 and we are able to head home soon after that.

We went to Human Resources at Furnace Creek (an hour’s drive) and signed some papers.  While we are “on duty” we drive Park Service vehicles and we thought it was funny that they gave us keys to the Castle and let us drive the car the second day we were working.  We had a housing orientation meeting, spent an afternoon on safety procedures, and learned SOP (standard operating procedure) for many different circumstances.

We work Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturdays.  The weekends are the busiest times right now.  This past Saturday there were 341 people that came through to tour Scotty’s Castle and the other guides said this is nothing compared to Spring Break.  Fortunately Tom and I have a month to get good at timing our tours before Spring Breaks start.

Right now we are overwhelmed by all we have to learn and do before we lead our first tours, but we are excited by the challenge.  We are learning a lot of new things and stretching our minds in some new directions.  We are also meeting a lot of people and trying to keep our fellow workers’ names straight.  Scotty’s Castle feels like a good place to be for the winter with interesting work and opportunities to try new things.

  • Kristine Moye

    Hi Karen! I’ve been enjoying your blogs and pictures…. You and Tom look great and very happy 🙂 Question though… What the heck is a castle doing in the middle of Death Valley?

    • Karen

      Keep reading and eventually I will answer that question!

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