What It’s Like to Work Outside 40 hours/week
From chainsaws to harbor seals, working as a Park Ranger II with San Mateo County is about as far from a 9-5 office job as one could imagine— hold on, that didn’t sound quite right— Don’t worry, we don’t ever mix chainsaws with harbor seals…
Let’s try that again: As a Park Ranger with San Mateo County, I work outside all 40 hours of my work week. That means my “office” is decorated with cypress trees and sea anemones instead of ikea furniture and photos of my sister’s dogs. It also means that the only decisions I have to make about my outfit every morning are, “T-shirt or badge shirt,” and “hiking boots or steel toes.”
Working outside means I’m up against the elements all day, as well. When it rains, I get wet and when it’s sunny, I get freckles. Different weather is conducive to and necessitates different activities in the parks: for example, nice weather allows us to do any kind of maintenance project but it also means we will likely need to provide educational services to visitors at the marine reserve (while simultaneously providing bodyguard services to the harbor seals and tidepool creatures). Similarly, rain and stormy weather prevents us from doing some projects and necessitates that we clear out culverts and trail drainages to make sure everything is flowing properly.
Now, at this point you might be thinking “Holy moly, how could you ever handle that?! You get wet and you get freckles?!” I know, I know, it sounds rough—but somehow I make it through the day just like everyone else. In all seriousness, though, this job is pretty hardcore. We do everything from cleaning park bathrooms (not for the faint-hearted) to cutting hazard trees to educating park visitors about local flora and fauna. It involves an incredible amount of mental and physical energy and I’m usually pretty exhausted when I get home. Though I’m an outdoors addict and love hiking and backpacking on my weekends, I’ll admit I’ve never felt less guilty about those not-so-occasional binge-watch-an-entire-show-on-Netflix kind of weekends.
All in all, working outside is absolutely incredible and I recommend it to anyone who has the opportunity to do it. Whether that means getting a job that involves “field-work” or volunteering a couple days a month in an outdoor setting, the rewards are countless.
(Shameless plug: visit https://parks.smcgov.org/volunteers for volunteer opportunities.)