Photo Essay: Explaining a Hiatus

First posted in April, 2002

Well, faithful reader, it has indeed been a long time since you read anything new. Quite a bit has changed in the past year, and my life just kind of moved on to other things. I'll try to do my best to tell you what I did this past year.

January, 2001

Because I can't remember what happened when, I'll start with the beginning of 2001. Last winter, I worked as a municipal police officer for the City and Borough of Yakutat, Alaska. At right, you'll find a rather humorous photo scanned from my commission. It's the only photo of me in a YPD uniform, to my knowledge. (Note: My hair is pulled back so that people don't grab it while I'm breaking up a fight or something... I have not chopped off my hair)

I've wanted to do law enforcement for the National Park Service for some time, so I decided I'd get some experience in law enforcement through the city while I was in between Park Service jobs. I actually really enjoyed the job, despite the fact that the city underpays its police officers, offers no overtime or compensatory pay, understaffs its department, and asks far too much for the staff it does hire (and yes, I hope someone from the city reads that... it's the truth, though things have improved considerably since I left the department).

Summer, 2001

So, the National Park Service offered me my seasonal job back as an archaeologist for the Kennecott National Historic Site in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve (southcentral Alaska). I enjoyed that job, but hated being away from Yakutat (and Jon), so I turned them down. Fortunately, I got picked up as a pathetically paid emergency-hire interpretive ranger right here in Yakutat. I made about the same money as I did when I started for the Park Service in 1994, but at least I was at home, living in my own house, with things that are familiar to me.

One of the first really great things I got to do in this new job was work with the school and the public quite a bit. In this photo, I'm working with fifth grade students from Yakutat Elementary, teaching them about the migration patterns and habits of grey and humpback whales. I absolutely love to play games, as everyone knows, so I try to integrate games into my programs whenever possible, especially with kids. The idea for the game shown in the photo came from a book, but the board, graphics, everything else are my own creation. I've made some original games as well, about things like outdoor safety and glaciers. The kids seem to really enjoy it, and they also seem to retain the information much better. By the end of the summer I was hired on as a regular seasonal, so I made a bit more money, which was nice. It really didn't matter - I just enjoyed the job so much that I really didn't care as long as my bills were paid.

August, 2001

Some of my family decided that they wanted to see where I live, so we met in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and embarked on a week-long cruise of the Inside Passage.

On the left here are two generations of the women in my family... my grandmother and great-grandmother. I wish my mother had been here, so that we would have had four generations together one last time, but, alas, that was not to be. Unfortunately (and very unexpectedly), my grandmother died this past January, so I'm very, very glad that I got to take this last vacation with her. We had an absolutely wonderful time.

Fall, 2001

Yes, I enjoyed the summer job as an educational/interpretive ranger, but I decided that I really did miss all of the things I'd enjoyed when working at the Great Smoky Mountains - hiking long distances for searches & rescues, reporting resource violations from the field, that sort of thing. The way to get back into that was to become a law enforcement ranger. So I decided to put myself through the Park Service's seasonal law enforcement academy.

I spent the autumn of September through December of 2001 living near Franklin, North Carolina, where I attended one of the NPS seasonal academies. Unfortunately, I was borrowing a very old car from someone, and could only really use the vehicle for when necessary, so I didn't make it over to see my friends in Gatlinburg and Knoxville, Tennessee. So, if you're reading this, and I didn't come to visit while I was there, that's the bulk of the reason. Here is a photo of our very surly looking class, on a day when we were learning to track people. We're normally much friendlier-looking. I am in the first row, far left, kneeling:

I did get to visit some of my old haunts in the Smokies, but only when tagging along with other folks from the academy. I was the only "local" in the class, and people wanted to see some of the area, so fortunately I could make people drive me to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park if I promised to take them on a hike or something. In this way, I was able to lure people to Shuckstack fire tower to see the fall colors, up Noland and Forney Creeks to go fishing, and to Cataloochee so I could see the new elk herd that's been released. I even made it out to the Dan Cook cabin one afternoon to see the new fence they'd put up (here's a picture of me hiding in the Dan Cook cabin). I think I dragged my friends Janet Cook and Alyssa Carraciolo on at least thirty miles worth of hikes, but they asked for it!

Also while in the lower forty-eight, I was able to work a bit more toward completing my pilot's license. At left is a photo of me just after my first solo flight. Pretty wild being up there alone... but there really wasn't much to it. I completed the solo take offs and landings at an airport in Tacoma, GA - a really nice little airport with no terrain around it, little air traffic, and, on this occasion, seemingly no wind. All those factors made for a pretty stress-free first flight. The plane was a slightly problematic Cessna 172 that would cut off the gas above 5000 feet if you didn't switch to one tank or the other, and it also had a nose gear that shimmied like crazy, making for occasional excitement upon landing. Fortunately, both these things were manageable. After the flight, they took this photo of me with a shirt that the certified flight instructor had signed. You can't read what it says in this polaroid, so I'll quote it here: "On December 5th, 2001, Jacqueline Lott, having put up with much crap, did train at Franklin, NC, did her first solo! at Tacoma, GA in N2470U."

For what it's worth, this pilot training thing has been going on for a long time, and the photo in the above paragraph wasn't really my first solo. On the left is a photo of me during my first actual solo flight. I'm in the back, and it's quite obvious that the chick in front of me is paying absolutely no attention whatsoever. I am clearly the pilot in command of this bird.

December, 2001

Jon came down from Alaska to spend the holidays with me and his family in North Carolina. Since we were so close to the Carribbean (relative to Alaska, that is), we caught a cool web special and went on a week long cruise. Two cruises for me in one year - Yay!

We flew to Miami and sailed to Playa del Carmen, Mexico. I fulfilled a life-long dream to see the coastal Mayan ruins at Tulum. We spent the evening in Cozumel, drinking very expensive margaritas and enjoying a very smooth Cuban cigar (I think they saw the Americans coming from miles away). I got to practice my Spanish, too, which was muy muy bien para mi!

We sailed from Cozumel to Georgetown, Grand Cayman. I went snorkling for the very first time, which was absolutely amazing. Perhaps the neatest part of all was that I got to do some more archaeological site seeing. I swam out - alone - over this old ship wreck (don't worry, mom, it wasn't far from shore). Swimming over that old ship and not knowing what was going to swim out of it was kind of spooky... one of the most haunting experiences I have every had.

From Grand Cayman, we sailed on to Jamaica. There, like everyone else, I climbed the world-famous 600ft Dunn River Falls. I *still* have not gone through my photos from this cruise (aside from the underwater shots, which were in a different camera), so perhaps I'll post those shots in a future issue.

January-February, 2002

I've been back in Yak more or less since January. I had applied for a permanent position with the Park Service, and, through some stroke of luck (and the fact that the other people they offered the job to didn't want to live in the middle of nowhere), I got the job. I worked January and February, and am currently (very much) enjoying a two month furlough from work.

March, 2002

So, my furlough is now coming to an end. Soon I will be back in uniform, back in the office, doing something I really enjoy. Everyone keeps asking what I did with my two months off. To be honest, the answer is: "Very little." I did, however, get some flying in, went to the beach, went for walks, and learned to program. If you're interested in what sort of program I made (it's a game) you can find out more by clicking [ here ].