Canyon de Chelly National Monument’s summer season is in full swing! Sunscreen covered visitors are meandering in, and Park Rangers are busy conducting presentations of Navajo Culture and leading hikes into the canyon. Luckily the Division of Interpretation’s workload is shared by 5 student volunteers who kindly spend their summer break helping to keep park operations smooth and efficient.
The interpretation volunteers begin their day by boiling cowboy coffee underneath our chaha’oh (shade house), and chatting with visitors getting their daily dose of caffeine. Afterward, they take turns presenting a 15 minute program concerning our park’s demonstration Hogan—the traditional Diné home. For many of our volunteers, this is probably the scariest task they are asked to complete. After all public speaking not something many people (especially high school aged students) find high on their list of activities to engage in. At first our volunteers may fumble with words or forget the next point of their presentation (although I’ll be honest even I still do this), but by the end of the summer their confidence and quality is improved.
During the afternoon hours, the volunteers can do a variety to tasks depending on daily needs. They often hold down our front line, answering phone calls, handing out park maps, and keeping the Visitor Center tidy. Other afternoons they’ll escape the air conditioned VC to enjoy the outdoors, and connect with visitors on rim or trail roves. Finally, at the end of the week the volunteers get the chance to accompany a Park Ranger on a Ranger-led hike. Sometimes on special “training” days, they even get to traverse lesser known trails and explore the back country with rangers who, I suspect, just want to avoid the office.
Last, as the fair season on the Navajo Reservation looms near, the volunteers have begun to focus their time on creating decorations for the monument’s parade float. A fun but time-consuming task. Goodness knows, our float would never look as awesome as it does if only our small Interpretation staff of 5 tried to do all the work. So a big canyon-sized thank-you to our Interpretation Volunteers who keep our cogs turning during high season!!
For Pics, check out the slideshow below!