|What is it like to work or live in a national park?
Permanent Vacations, published by Bona Fide Books, is a group of twenty
essays by writers who’ve experienced the western national parks from the inside.
There are many ways to read a collection of essays. I started in the middle,
reading about Denali National Park, the most recent vacation park I’ve been to.
I loved Christine Byl’s description of Healy, Alaska, a gateway town to the
park. She came to work as a seasonal on a trail crew, came to understand Denali
but eventually left the Park Service. Still Byl stayed in Healy and now runs a
construction company with her husband. “If you stay in Healy in the winter, you
become a local,” she says.
Her essay goes through the four seasons but winter takes up half
Cassandra Kircher was ten when her father took the children camping in Grand
Teton National Park. Seven years later, they head to Glacier National Park. The
children hiked while the father fish. But in the third part of the story, A
Portrait of my Father in Three Places, Kircher is the one in charge. She’s
been a ranger for six years in Rocky Mountain National Park when her father
visits her. He stays in her backcountry cabin but he’s getting older and
feebler. He manages to catch two trout but he can’t kill them and the author
can’t seem to talk to her father about it.
But the stories are not all by rangers and writers. Most western parks have
lodges run by concessioners and need all types of service personnel.
Nathan Rice rolls off his bunk at 5:45 AM to flip pancakes, fry hash browns,
and scramble eggs for guests at Mount Rainier National Park‘s Paradise Lodge.
He’s here to explore the park and doesn’t just wait for his day off. One
evening, Rice and his buddy who works the dinner shift, start climbing up Mt.
Rainier at 9:00 PM. They make it to the true summit at 14,410 feet to watch the
sun rise. It’s a difficult climb when you’re fresh and rested, but to do this
climb after a long day of work is amazing.
Kim Wyatt, publisher of Bona Fide Books, explains that the essays in the book
were arranged in an arc, from an essay by the most transient employee to the
most permanent. This is the first book published by this small press in the Lake
Tahoe Basin, though there are several more in the pipeline.
But what about stories on the Smokies, Acadia, Mammoth Caves…? There’s now
a call for stories from Eastern Parks. They’re restricting themselves to
National Parks, so no stories from the Blue Ridge Parkway or Carl Sandburg
National Historic Site. The publisher writes:
Bona Fide Books now seeks stories about national parks from east of the
Mississippi. Whether you spent your time hitting the trails or
alligator-proofing your cabin, we would love to read your experiences. We
welcome tree-hugging epiphanies and reflections on the daily grind. From the
Everglades to Acadia, we want to hear the societal, environmental, and
existential implications of living in the park. What happened there? How did you
get hooked? What keeps you coming back?
Essays should be approximately 5,000 words or less. Writers will receive $100
for their essay and one copy of the collection. They are accepting submissions
through January 1, 2012. For all details see their website.
You can buy Permanent Vacation on the Bona Fide website, in western park
bookstores and of course, on Amazon.