How I Turned My Love of the Outdoors Into a Job

How I Turned My Love of the Outdoors Into a Job

I feel like everyone has that one park that makes them feel something special; the one place that stands out above all the rest, and that brings out passion and emotions more than anywhere else. For me, that place is Yosemite National Park. When people ask me what national park is my favorite, I have a hard time answering, because I love all of the parks for different reasons and I hate discounting any of them. But there is something about Yosemite that can bring tears to my eyes and a stirring in my heart unlike anywhere else in the world (that I’ve seen so far). Literally, every time I enter the park and get that postcard worthy view at Tunnel View, I get teary eyed. It is the most beautiful, awe inspiring place that I have ever visited. It was this stirring, this passion that I felt after the first time I visited, that pushed me to pursue a career with the National Park Service (NPS).

After my first visit to the Sierra Nevada, I went back to my home at the time in the Florida Keys, and immediately got online looking for jobs. I knew I had to go back, and I knew that I had to work and live there. My mind and life were completely saturated with the thought of returning. As with most federal jobs, the application process for NPS is extremely long, exhausting, and filled with lots of bureaucratic red tape. I needed to get my foot in the door, and with any luck, that would be in Yosemite. However, the chances of that seemed pretty slim (my dream park on my first shot?), so I applied to over 40 positions with the NPS at parks all over the country. I only found one posting for Yosemite, and added that to my growing list. Jobs for seasonal, summer positions are typically posted around November, with the summer season generally lasting April – October, depending on the park. I spent the entire months of November and December relentlessly applying for every single job that popped up that I was even remotely qualified for.
And then? …NOTHING. I heard nothing for months. I figured it was all a bust, and I would need to start volunteering or get involved with local parks to build some bridges. Instead, I planned on spending the summer thru hiking the John Muir Trail, a 210 mile long trail through the backcountry of the Sierra Nevada mountains (more on this gem later!) That’s how I would get my fix of this wondrous place. Permits for this trail have also become quite the hot commodity in recent years, but I was lucky enough to score one on my first attempt (again, more on this in a later blog.) I splurged and started outfitting myself with the best gear, started training the best that I could living in the Florida Keys, and spent every free moment that I had meal planning, creating an itinerary, and dreaming of those mountains that captured my heart. Then, the following March, I got a phone call from a number with a 209 area code. I thought, “Hey! That’s the area code in Yosemite… OMG THAT’S THE AREA CODE IN YOSEMITE!”

The call was from my soon to be supervisor, yes, in Yosemite National Park. Of all the 40+ jobs that I applied for, my dream job was the one my resume was finally filtered to (thanks, computer!). We talked briefly about the job, and my experience, and boom! At the end of the call she offered me a position working in the park for the summer! Long story short, my JMT plans were put on hold, and thus started my and Dara’s fascination with cross country road trips.
I spent that first summer working as a park ranger, falling even more in love with this amazing park, and building some of the best friendships in my life. When it was time to go home at the end of the summer, I left Yosemite with a full heart, amazing experiences, and the feeling as if I had “completed” a goal. I wasn’t sure if I would return the following year, but kept an open mind. I’ve since returned every summer, and am convinced my heart truly belongs in this incredible place that I’m lucky enough to consider home for half of each year.

Marc Anthony said, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” When I put those green and greys on, and that stereotypical ranger flat hat, I am moved and motivated to share my passion for our wild places with everyone that I can. Working as a ranger in Yosemite has brought true joy and fulfillment to my life. This is a feeling that I believe everyone deserves to experience, and I want to encourage others who love the outdoors to pursue a career that surrounds you with nature. Here are a few steps to send you in the right direction!

Get some resume quality experience


Many of us are self taught outdoorsmen/women, and grew up learning the ways of nature, how to camp, fish, hike, etc. However, this is something difficult to translate onto a resume. A great way to get that resume quality experience is to get involved with organizations specializing in just that. Personally, I spent a summer working for the Student Conservation Association doing trail work in Daniel Boone National Forest. Many of such positions are also part of AmeriCorps, which is a huge plus to add to your resume, especially for federal jobs. There are organizations like this all over the country, and many are geared towards students and new grads.
Student Conservation Association

Get the application timing correct

Many outdoor jobs are seasonal, based on the location. Like I mentioned with federal jobs, summer positions are typically posted almost 6-7 months in advance. This is generally a good time to start investing some time into job searching and making sure all of your materials are updated (resume, cover letter, etc). Check online on a daily basis to make sure you don’t miss short application windows.

Market yourself!

Make connections and build bridges! You’ll find the outdoor industry actually a pretty small world, and word of mouth can make or break you. Get involved locally while you wait for a desired position, and make a name for yourself. This is a great way to get experience and also nab some good references!

Be patient

Because months went by before I eventually heard from NPS, I assumed I didn’t make the cut and in turn made other big plans. The process can be very long, but don’t assume you didn’t get the job just because you haven’t heard anything. If it’s a smaller, local company, it never hurts to send a professional email (just one!) inquiring about how the process is moving along. As far as federal jobs, no email is going to get you much, but until you hear “NO,” you’re still in the running.

Nail the interview

This goes for any job. Once you get that ticket and nab an interview, prepare to wow your interviewer. The older I get, the more I find that truly just being myself (cliché right?) is what grabs positions or promotions. If you are comfortable in your skill set and passionate about the work, you’ll shine!

Remember, it is feasible!

Many people ask me how I manage to do what I do, and live the life that I live. The fact of the matter is, I make it a priority! I’ve never been one to sit by idly in a job that I didn’t love, and I’ve always prioritized doing what I am passionate about (just ask me about the jobs I’ve held in the last 11 years…). There are plenty of us doing it!

So get your passionate selves out there and make a life surrounded by something that makes you FEEL! And if you’re inspired to pursue a career with the National Park Service, or any other federal agency, head on over to the USA Jobs site and start putting yourself out there!

Free Camping on Public Lands

Free Camping on Public Lands

No reservation? No money? No problem! Dispersed camping is more accessible and fun than you might expect.

Would you believe us if we told you there are literally hundreds of free camping options all across the country? Let’s start this one by saying, we do not condone illegal camping. With the increased attendance to our country’s national parks, illegal camping is becoming a huge issue, inside and outside of parks. Having worked in campgrounds for the National Park Service, we’d like to make legal options accessible and easy to find for all!

So what do you do when you are unable to secure that coveted reservation at a popular campground? Or what about when you’re on that 5 week road trip and don’t want to shell out cash every night for a space to park your van?

Find a Free Campsite

Here in the US, dispersed camping in national forests and on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land is typically free and accessible. “Dispersed camping is the term used for camping anywhere in the National Forest OUTSIDE of a designated campground. Dispersed camping means no services; such as trash removal, and little or no facilities;  such as tables and fire pits, are provided…Typically, dispersed camping is not allowed in the vicinity of developed recreation areas such as campgrounds, picnic areas, or trailheads.”

The best way to clarify local regulations and find out where it is the legal to disperse camp is to check online with US Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management, or call/visit your nearest forest service or BLM office/visitor center/ranger station. Rangers are always happy to help.

Check a Map

Generally, public lands are marked in green on maps. Do some research before you go and figure out what public lands are close to your destination.

Keep in mind there are going to be areas that are closed to camping for a variety of reasons. It could be a sensitive ecological habitat, a research area, or simply an area that has been overused. Watch out for posted signs prohibiting camping in these areas. Please respect our public lands to ensure they are available for everyone’s adventures long into the future!

Leave No Trace

Something to keep in mind when disperse camping is to always abide by the Leave No Trace (LNT) Principles. Please visit the Leave No Trace website if you are unfamiliar with LNT ethics. Because these areas lack facilities, it is vital that you leave it exactly, if not better, than you found it. Learn how to find an appropriate location to camp, and always appropriately deal with waste. Yes, even the waste created by your own body! Because there aren’t established fire rings, it is important to check with your local forest service office and obtain the appropriate permits if you wish to have a campfire.

Keep an Open Mind

My boyfriend and I once flew across the country, drove over 10 hours to a dispersed camping spot, only to arrive and find that the road had been washed out by seasonal floods. Dispersed camping doesn’t always go as planned. Popular spots fill up, rivers flood, and seasonal closures affect accessibility. Learn to appreciate the journey and become a better camper and planner because of the obstacles. In our case, we googled the nearest ranger station and managed to grab a ranger who was locking up the building (it was after 5pm). He directed us to another fantastic dispersed camping spot only a couple of miles away. It is still, to this day, our favorite free camping spot, and the only time we’ve ever spotted an elusive ring-tailed cat!

When you wake up to the tranquil sounds of nature, alone and unbothered by crowds that typically come with campgrounds, you will realize that these sites are worth the bit of extra work it takes to find them.

So on your next adventure, travel off the beaten path, sleep under the stars, and this time, do it for free!

Helpful websites:
Free Campsites – Use this site to plan an entire road trip route… it will show you free or low cost campsites all along the way!
Campendium – Compilation of free campsites; organized by state.

Helpful apps:
Free RV Campground and Overnight Parking Lite – O Mecha Online, LLC
ReserveAmerica Camping – Active Network, LLC
RV Parks & Campgrounds – ParkAdvisor, LLC 

WHAT? No Blueberry Waffles at Waffle House?

WHAT? No Blueberry Waffles at Waffle House?

“Dear Waffle House, For the Love of Every Hungry Traveler… BRING BACK THE BLUEBERRIES!” Any weary traveler knows… when your adventures lead you deep into the night, there is nothing more reassuring than those big, black and yellow, unmistakable letters acting as a beacon in the depth of your hunger. Waffle House has been filling the bellies of gazillions with an “unbeatable combination of good food with outstanding service since 1955,” and has become one of the most recognizable signs frequenting the sides of interstates around the country (especially the South). Waffle House is known for their American diner fare and all day breakfast (including their signature waffles), and with over 2100 locations, has become a literal cultural icon in many parts of the US. And, get this. It doesn’t matter what time it is; every Waffle House is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In our line of work, we call that a big traveler WIN!

That is, until last year. Sometime in early 2016, the chain removed blueberries and strawberries as optional toppings for your waffles. What?! Crazy, we know. As a chain known for their delectable waffles and toppings, taking these off the menu was a crime against loyal patrons who had grown to rely on this food source whenever the witching hour arrived and hunger struck. The classic fruit toppings have since been replaced with options like peanut butter, chocolate chip (ok, this is still classic), and pecan. But let’s be honest, none of these can stand up to good ol’ berry waffles.

So what now? Well, there have been a few petitions online, but none have gathered enough signatures to make a difference. We at YetiNotherAdventure want to be that change! Sign our petition to “Bring Back The Berries!” on Help us reach our goal and bring back the beacon of hope for those of us who live a life on the road!