Writen & Photographed by Don Macanlalay, Social Media and Marketing Manager
My days started early in Shenandoah National Park in the heart of Virginia. As a 2009 Student Conservation Association and Park Ranger Intern, I led hikes and gave talks out in nature throughout the beautiful central district of the park. One of the perks of being a ranger intern at a National Park was living in the park, in my case, a lovely 3-bedroom cabin tucked in the forests of the park.
Every morning, I’d head over to one of the overlooks, enjoy the morning fog and smell the dewy air. This lasted just long enough before I realized I had to leave to prepare my hikes for the day. It sounded like a great idea. Hike all day, be one with nature in an absolutely gorgeous national park. There was something romantic about cabin life, but it wasn’t enough. I wanted to reach a bigger audience and share stories, photos and videos of the many amazing places in nature.
Despite the glamour of living in the park, I was restless. There was something isolating about it. Before long, I found myself visiting my family in my nearby hometown of Washington, DC.
I’d talk to them about the park, its beauty, of my personal moments out in nature. Coming back to the park, I spent my nights online reading blogs about other parks and eventually it turned out that was the middle ground that I was seeking.
It was amazing that I was reading stories from someone I had never met, making me want to visit places I had never been or heard of. The heart of exploration was found, each and every evening. It took me away from the “moment” of being in one particular park, and showed me a new way to explore and share nature.
I realized I wanted to be a storyteller, but not in the traditional sense of a park ranger going on hikes. But connecting with people who aren’t anywhere near me, who don’t have access to where I am but one day might.
Now I tell stories via social media and through the web as a Social Media Manager at The Nature Conservancy. When I see a photo of someone out in nature, I want to be in that spot and take the same photo, experience a similar thing. Working for an organization with a mission to strengthen the bonds between people and nature is amazing. This wouldn’t have happened had it not been for those restless nights in a cabin at a national park in Virginia.