Take A Closer Look with Ranger Ellie

 L to R: Interpretive Ranger Interns 2018 Anna Kennedy, Paige Engelbrektsson, and Ellie Thompson at CSNM Information Station.

L to R: Interpretive Ranger Interns 2018 Anna Kennedy, Paige Engelbrektsson, and Ellie Thompson at CSNM Information Station.

    What IS the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument? What is special about this place? Why should we care about it? What should people know about it when they visit? Those were some of the questions that rolled around in my head as I drove up to the Hyatt Lake Campground on a warm June morning. I had just begun my summer internship at the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument as an interpretive park ranger, and I had been tasked with coming up with an interpretive program for visitors at the campground. I knew I wanted my program to be fun and engaging, but I also wanted to leave my listeners with something to think about. I had spent hours poring over books and resources, searching for something that would help me explain the importance of the monument and the value of its incredible biodiversity, but I was coming up empty.     

Feeling slightly discouraged, I parked at the kiosk at the entrance for the Hyatt Lake Campground and hopped out of the rig. And then suddenly, there it was. My inspiration. The most beautiful moth I had ever seen—a Ceanothus Silk Moth (Hyalophora euryalus). I instantly stopped in my tracks and paused to marvel at its beauty up close.     

As an interpretive park ranger for the monument, I get a lot of visitors asking me questions like: “Where is the monument?” Or: “What is it?” It’s true that perhaps at first glance, the monument looks like just any other place in Southern Oregon. Yeah, there are mountains, and trees, and creeks, but so what? What’s the best way to communicate the importance of public lands, and this national monument in particular? Seeing that beautiful moth made me realize something. We can talk and talk about the meaning of biodiversity and the importance of protecting natural areas for hours, but the best way to build connections between people and nature is to engage their sense of wonder.

After having the privilege of being up on the monument almost every day for the past month and a half, I feel like I can begin to answer the question, “What is the monument?”. The monument is the beautiful Ceanothus Silk Moth. It’s the striking Striped Coralroot (Corallorhiza striata) orchid along the Pacific Crest Trail; getting its nutrients from fungi underground. It’s the Western Fence Lizard basking in the sun on a rock covered in five or more species of lichen, and it’s the calm and serene waters of Little Hyatt Reservoir. Sometimes you have to take a closer look to discover what makes a place special and unique.

As an interpretive park ranger for the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument, it’s my job—no, my honor, to speak on behalf of this beautiful place and to encourage everyone I come across to take a closer look.

Come and check out our evening programs every Friday and Saturday night at 8pm until Labor Day, at Hyatt Lake Campground! Learn about the "Cascade Connections" by exploring the unique combinations of habitats and humans that meet here in the monument with Ranger Paige. Check out “Whooo Comes Out at Night?: Superheroes of the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument” to learn about the diversity of owls that call the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument home, and take a closer look at what makes owls so special with Ranger Anna. And learn the answer to the question, “Why So Many Butterflies?” Have you ever wondered why there are so many butterflies at CSNM? Learn about some of the special butterflies that can be found on the monument, and what brings them here, with Ranger Ellie.

And if you are passing through the monument in the morning, check out our Jr. Explorer Programs on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 10am-12pm. Participate in some fun activities, learn about the monument from a park ranger and receive your Jr. Explorer badge!

All of our programs are put on at the Day Use Area of the Hyatt Lake Campground. Our programs are FREE and open to the public!

By Ellie Thompson
Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument Interpretive Park Ranger

Photos by Ellie Thompson