At Age 44, a Ranger Finds Her True Calling on the North Rim

Many people have found inspiration at the Grand Canyon, staring down from the top of its massive rims, but few have decided to make the Grand Canyon their home. In a life-long search for our one true calling, many of us will travel far and wide looking for our one true role in the world, and for one Jessica Pope, the Grand Canyon was home to her inspiration and the job she wanted to have for the rest of her life.

At age 44, Pope had already had two full careers, her first working for the American Heart Association and her second as a director as a Flagstaff rape crisis center. As you may have gathered, the latter job was not an easy one. “The Northern Arizona Center against Sexual Assault was out of North Country Health Care Center and victims of sexual assault would be brought to us by members of law enforcement,” she said, deciding after that to create a change in her life and switch gears. Instead of sticking with her current career, she cashed out on her retirement fund and used that money to pay for a massive road trip from Arizona to Alaska and all the way back.

Over the course of four full months, she made it her mission to see everything the west had to offer, taking in a great deal of Canada and Alaska on her journey. Eventually, she made her way back to her home in Flagstaff and realized that she didn’t know what came next. After her massive border-crossing journey to Alaska, she was stuck with no idea what she wanted to do next. That is, until she found a series of films on PBS.

More specifically, she found a PBS documentary series by Ken Burns that detailed many of America’s greatest national parks including the Grand Canyon National Park and more. She said, “When I was on that trip I went to every national park I could. I had a ball and one day when I got home, I was watching these films and it just dawns on me – ‘I want to do that, I want to be a ranger.’”

The topics explored in Ken Burns’ series on national parks include…
– Yellowstone National Park
– The Grand Canyon National Park
– The creation of the National Park Service
– The explosion of American tourism
– Wolf sanctuaries in Alaska

While this decision seemingly came right out of the clear blue sky, Pope’s drive and advanced skill set meant that, with the right amount of effort and luck, her newfound dream could be a reality. Her first step toward accomplishing her latest dream was to apply to as many national parks as she could, and by January of 2010, she had submitted applications to a stunning total of 54 different national parks all across the country. Out of those 54 applications, three resulted in interviews: one at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, one at Sitka National Historic Park, and one right here at the Grand Canyon North Rim. In April of 2010, Pope was officially employed as a park ranger.

Grand Canyon tours are often enhanced by the presence of a knowledgeable guide, and we’re sure that Pope has turned out to be one of the finest. Have you ever experienced a Grand Canyon tour? If you were to visit the Grand Canyon, what kind of experience would you prefer? Let us know in the comments section below!