When you are working at a National Park Visitors Center, you never know what you will see. Here are some random things that didn’t fit into any of my other posts about Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.
A big part of our job at the Information Desk was taking reservations for tours. Starting at 9 a.m., we would get lots of phone calls from people wanting to reserve a space on the Gap Cave or Hensley Settlement tours. Gap Cave was the most popular because it took up less of the day and more people could go. Keeping the registration sheets in good order was very important. Because you didn’t pay for the tour until the day of, many people made reservations and then didn’t bother to cancel them. If visitors happened to be in the Visitors Center at the time of the tours they might be able to get on the tour. No-shows were a problem that seemed to get worse as the summer went on.
We had lots of Junior Rangers come through the Visitors Center. Cumberland Gap didn’t have minimum requirements for completing the book, so lots of kids took did what they could and received their Junior Ranger badges. I love telling people about the Junior Ranger program and giving them a book.
Ranger Miriam did a lot of work on the flower beds around the Visitors Center. She especially liked pulling weeds on rainy days when the soil was soft. This is what she looked like one day after she had been pulling weeds in the rain. Aside from some occasional garden club volunteers, Ranger Miriam was the reason the flower beds stayed nice looking.
Usually there were three people at the Information Desk. A ranger, a volunteer or intern, and someone from the bookstore. Here are a couple of pictures of unusual gatherings of people. Four rangers at once! and lots of people hanging around the desk.
Sometimes authors would come in and be very pleased when they saw their book for sale in our bookstore. This is Aaron Astor who has written several books on the Civil War in the Cumberland Gap area. He brought in a group of students from Maryville College in Tennessee, where he teaches.
Sometimes we had unexpected visitors, like this frog who hitchhiked on a bucket or this stick insect who attached himself to our car. There was a family of five turkeys who hung around the field next to the Visitors Center all summer. We watched the babies grow up and become full-sized. There was also a doe with twin fawns who was often in the field when we arrived at work in the mornings. Tom felt he was frequently upstaged by the turkeys or deer.
In order to spend their budget, the park ordered new furniture for the rangers’ offices. Unfortunately all of the furniture showed up on a Friday, two days before the regional Superintendent was coming to visit. This meant that all the furniture had to be put together and in place before the regional Superintendent arrived. Everyone pitched in to get the furniture in place, including Tom and Ranger Stormy, seen here putting a bench together.
I liked working in the Visitors Center at Cumberland Gap very much. It is always good to talk to visitors and we enjoyed the camaraderie with the rangers.