A Park Ranger's Daughter

Written and Photographed by Heather Ferguson, Office Coordinator

Capitol Reef National Park. Big Bend National Park. Cumberland Island National Seashore. Great Basin National Park. What do all these amazing places have in common? My undying adoration thanks to my father. This is just the short list. A few of the many places that we called home throughout my childhood and some of the many reasons why my immersion into nature was so complete. While growing up, my father’s career in the National Park Service gave me a perspective that few others have had a chance to enjoy. He never missed a beat when divining that his daughter was no just in awe, but deeply in love with what surrounded her and always included me in the explorations in which I could take part.

In my very early days, as we lived in the natural wonderland that is Southern Utah, some of my most cherished memories are of Dad and me heading out on a hike through Arches and then Lake Powell, sneaking up on lizards, and playing in secluded pools. During our time in Capitol Reef, tiny though I was, I vividly remember the rich smell of the honey and fresh beeswax, the cherries and apricots that he brought home as he cared for the bees and orchards.

As a teenager, full of the expected angst and often at odds with a man with whom I was altogether much too similar in temperament, we came to terms with each other in natural settings. Our time in Georgia was testament to the healing power of nature. It was a whole new world for us both having spent the vast majority of our lives in the Southwest. Always well read, we ventured through swamp lands and eyed alligators, Dad sharing tales of some natural event pertinent to the location. Had a long weekend? Let’s go check out a different National Park or natural area!

Today, my folks have chosen to settle in a remote valley of Nevada, cherishing the last park where my father served as a Superintendent and finally calling one place “home”. When I go back to visit, I know that he will take me into the Lehman Caves to introduce me to any one of the 17 new species discovered in the last few years. We’ll probably go rock hounding and maybe even fish in the mountain lakes and streams running with snowmelt. He’ll share the familiar stories of his Peace Corps service in Nicaraguan National Parks and his summer of Nature Conservancy stewardship at Idler’s Rest in Idaho. As for me, I’ll be taking my time, relishing every minute with my Dad, and becoming inspired once again to take nature as my refuge.