Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Centennial Edition!

The new centennial edition of Treasures On Your Doorstep is available from today, February 24, 2016!

Having sworn not to do it, I did! The new edition contains updated information about national park properties, new first-person visitor experiences and a section about the history of of the NPS.

It'll be available on Amazon in about a week. If you're really anxious to get a copy, email me at toyd@together.net!



Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hitting the Road

I'm going on a Spring Book Tour!

I've been speaking in libraries here in Vermont but I wanted to branch out, so Spring seemed the time to venture into neighboring state. It took a while to set it up and I've arranged four events in April. 

What do I talk about? My personal journey of discovery of the wonders of the national park system - lots of places that get overlooked!  It's beautifully illustrated, mostly with my own photos.

I'll let you know what happens

The locations are:

Thursday, April 24, 2014, 1:30pm
Springfield Armory National Historic Site, Springfield MA

Thursday, April 24, 2014, 7pm
Pollard Memorial Library, Lowell, MA

Saturday, April 26, 2014, 1:30pm
Women's Rights National Historical Park, Seneca Falls, NY

Sunday, April 27, 2014, 2pm
Saratoga National Historical Park, Stillwater, NY

Friday, October 4, 2013

Bridge Over Troubled Water

This water, Gulf Stream, in Pomfret, Vermont, is no longer troubled, but it certainly was back in August 2011, when tropical Storm Irene ravaged the State.

The Appalachian Trail is very accessible in this area, because it crosses several roads as it undulates up and down over the rocky tree-clad hills between Cloudland and the Chateauguay Wilderness - names to conjure with.

The AT is a trail full of surprises, which is not surprising: after all,  - in 2000+ miles who would expect homogeneity?  

The bridge that was torn away has been rebuilt, two years later. How have hikers been crossing the Gulf Stream for the past 24 months?  I wonder!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

VYP: Visit Your Park

OK, so the parks are shut down. We don't know for how long, but they will open again!

When they do open, let's come out in force to support them - all 401 of them, not just the big well-known ones.

Live in Grand Junction or Montrose, Colorado? 
 Here's your nearest national park - Colorado National Monument.
Yes, there are 401 national park properties in the USA, at least one in every State. That means there's at least one near almost everyone.

You can find your nearest park at:  http://www.npca.org/exploring-our-parks/parks/   It's not a federal page, it's the National Parks Conservation Association, a non-profit, so this page is not shut down like the federal pages.

Let's support the parks by visiting them en masse as soon as they reopen!

VYP! Visit Your Park!

Friday, September 27, 2013

Go for it

Talking parks last night in Montpelier, Vermont with Helen, who used to work as an interpretive ranger at the Grand Canyon. She applied for two jobs and got calls on both of them. When I started out I did two internships, then applied for 100 jobs. I took the first one that called, so I don't know how many calls I would have got, but judging by later experience, not many!

I've met people who say: "It's easy to get a ranger job." That's because their particular experience has been quick and easy. There are lots of stories that trend the other way. How about being a seasonal for eleven years before finally landing a permanent job? How about never landing a permanent job despite oodles of experience?

Becoming employed in the national parks, as a ranger or anything else, depends on so many different factors, it's really a crap shoot. Right now the odds are against most of us because of the economic situation of high unemployment, therefore more competition or every job even temporary ones, and also because of the seemingly huge number of veterans vying for these jobs. Veterans get preference.

So, as I go around talking about my book, people ask me about their prospects of becoming a ranger. "Go for it" I say, "With your eyes open. It's not easy but someone has to do it."

Monday, September 23, 2013

By the time I get to Woodstock . . .

. . . the leaves will be changing and the Forest Festival will be in full swing. All the trees will be trying on dresses of red, gold and brown, and discarding any leaves they feel they can do without. The sun will be shining and maybe a soft rain falling to intensify the colors. Have you seen the desert after a rainfall? The shrubs appear clad in previously unknown shades of red, green and yellow.

Now, it's elegant Woodstock Vermont I'm talking about of course, not the Woodstock of rock festival fame - that's in New York State, half a million miles from here.

I'll be donning a ranger hat for a few weeks (well, I take it off at night) to help out during the leaf-peeping d season at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historic Park, Vermont's only complete National Park property. We also have share in the Appalachian rail, 90 miles in fact, but it is shared with 13 other states. (Can you name them?) And, yes, the AT is part of the National Park Service. . .

. . . as I will be for three weeks. Please come visit me there. It's beautiful (understatement).

Plus, Thursday October 10, at 6:30 pm I'll be putting on a slideshow at the Norman Williams Library in Woodstock (VT) - the show is all about my favorite subject - me! And how I discovered everything I know about the National Park Service - some pretty neat stuff, and nice photos. We could make and evening of it - eat next door at the Woodstock Inn afterwards!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Words of Encouragement

My friend Susan takes me walking on the Blue Ridge Parkway whenever I visit her in North Carolina – which isn’t often! She lives so close to the Parkway land you could throw a stone from her cozy dog-infested cottage onto one of the trails. Not that you’d want to be throwing stones, of course - you might hit a deer.

The Parkway itself is a 469-mile road that wanders along the ridge of the Appalachians through several states. Surrounding it is a total of about 80,000 acres of storied land, full of historic sites and wild trails. I know that I’ve explored only a little of it!

The little I have explored is near Susan’s house. Now, I’m a little older and a little heavier than my sprightly friend, who habitually hikes with a backpack full of rocks in order to maintain her condition. So when Susan suggested we hike up the 5,964-foot Grandfather Mountain near her house I said “Well, I might not make it to the top, but if you can put up with my slow pace, I’ll try.”

Young black bear in the Blue Ridge mountains. Drawing by Jessica Valin
Readers, I made it to the top. Susan turned out to have an interesting psychology of motivation. It’s one I’ve encountered before in India.

In 2000, when I went to volunteer at a community near the city of Pune, I was entrusted with a mission from a friend in Burlington, Vermont. She wanted me to track down an old friend of her father’s whom she’d lost touch with.  

So one day during my stay in India, the community’s driver, Shankar, took me in the old jeep to track down this lady in Pune, a large city. The address we had was, apparently, vague, because locating it proved to be a challenge. Shankar kept stopping to ask the way and every time he asked, the reply, with much smiling, positivity and nodding of heads was that our destination was “just around the corner”.

After going around about 20 different corners, it began to dawn on me that these well-meaning people may, or may not, have had some faint idea of which way we needed to go, but they were much more interested in telling us what they thought we wanted to hear – that we were close! They wanted to encourage us.

And so Susan, who refused to sit down at all during the hike - every time I sat down for a rest she stayed on her feet, rocky backpack and all – kept telling me we were nearly there.  Her encouraging “it’s just around the corner” reassurances must have started around the 3,000 foot mark. By the time we reached the top I’d rumbled her, but the strategy had worked, and we summited to enjoy a beautiful view and feelings of accomplishment!

Oh, and back in India, the dear Hindu gods, after laughing at our performance for two hours, finally took pity on Shankar and me. We finally found a street with a name that looked like the one we wanted. I hopped out of the old jeep to accost a playing child: “Do you know a person of this name?” I asked. The answer was not mere encouragement, it was amazingly factual:  “Oh yes, that’s my auntie, she lives here!”