Just Back from a National Parks Tour

Old Dec 26th, 2006, 09:04 PM
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We woke up at around 9:00 am and got ourselves together for some sightseeing. When we finally stepped out of our cabins, we were floored by the breathtaking setting that Zion Lodge is nestled in.

To oversimplify what we experienced, at Grand Canyon we were looking down into a chasm. At Zion, we were looking up at towering peaks. This was my first trip to Zion, and the park exceded anything I could imagine.

We went to Zion Lodge restaurant for breakfast. There were about ten Japanese gospel singers on the lawn in front of the main building. They beautifully sang "How Great Thou Art" in Japanese. This quite fitting, since Zion is probably one of the world's great international cathedrals.

Zion has a terrific breakfast buffet for $10. Since we are late risers, we opted for the buffet instead of the a la carte menu and decided to skip lunch. Especially memorable were cheese blintzes and biscuits and gravy. There was also plenty of fresh fruit and double thick bacon.

We then took the shuttle towards the Temple of Sinawana. You may not use your own personal vehicle once inside the park. Guests of Zion Lodge are allowed to drive to and from the hotel, but guests are given a special tag for that.

The shuttle driver was very informative and described all the stops. We descended at Sinawana to attempt the River Walk. There are rest rooms at the shuttle stop, only. We used it because it takes about an hour walk each way to cover River Walk.

At the end of River Walk, one could start walking in the Virgin River to see the Narrows. Men and women were coming back soaked with water up to their chests. Given the very hot temperatures, this hike was very desirable that day.

I am not a very good hiker, and I have vertigo. So, I did not attempt the Narrows. Instead, I talked to some lovely German students. They were covering before going to college Zion, Bryce, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and even Hawaii. I wished more young American students would re-discover the beauty in their backyard.

We then decided to return to the shuttle stop, all the while taking photos that I thought I missed. We noticed a family with about seven children walking along River Walk. I noticed them because the mother was dressed like the Mennonites do in Lancaster County. I then wondered if there were Mennonites in Utah.

After returning to the Lodge, we shopped in the gift shop. But, we only found mainly souvenir items along with the requisite pottery.

It was then getting late so we decided to take the shuttle to the Visitors Center to see the rest of the park. It was beautiful ride where you could spot some of the notable Zion landmarks.

At the Visitors Center was a very good film describing the history of Zion Park. It was very clear from the film that the original Paiute Indian and Mormon settlers cherished their magnificent surrounding.

We were getting hungry, so we went back to Lodge to eat dinner. I had reserved a table outside, and I would recommend that to anyone planning to eat dinner at Zion Lodge. The outside tables let you feel like you are dining at the foot of a great mountains.

Dinner at Zion Lodge was a notch above the food at El Tovar. Instead of ordering wine, my husband opted for a beer from a Salt Lake City microbrewery. The beer was great! Salt Lake City must be quite a happening place. I ordered the Prickly Pear Margherita. It had the right level of sweet and tart flavor. We both ordered fish for dinner, and both dishes were fresh and tasty.

After dinner, we walked around the grounds a bit. We noticed some mule deer. So I spent about an hour trying to photograph them. I had to get my telephoto lens because the deer moved away when I approached.

It was then getting dark. So, we decided to read guidebooks for an hour or so until falling asleep.
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Old Dec 26th, 2006, 09:14 PM
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>>I then wondered if there were Mennonites in Utah.<<

There are Mennonites all over the country; there are also women who are not Mennonites, but who dress modestly and wear head coverings.

Lee Ann
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Old Dec 28th, 2006, 12:28 PM
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"In the twelve years since I've been there, the park lodge have been "privatized." " ? Fred Harvey built the hotel in 1905 before there was a National Park. The Fred Harvey company was sold to Amfac, which was sold to what is now Xanterra. It has always been a private company.

"There was once a time when a job in the National Parks was choice because one could build up their federal pension during their summer job. When I was last at the El Tovar in 1994, the employees there were federal employees."

There have never been federal employees working in the hotels, since they aren't federal. And there is no federal pension for park hotel employees! Don't I just wish!

"I have a quick question, yellowmic. Does Xanterra do any recruiting on the nearby Navajo and Hopi reservations? This is not an accusation. I am really just curious."

Hope you don't mind my adding my two cents. Recruiting happens all over the place. But young people are the same all over America. Doesn't matter if they're Navajo, Hopi, Havasu or Supai. They don't want menial low paying jobs, which most of the summer and entry level positions are. They don't want to live without cellphone service and texting. They don't want to live where there's no malls, movies, starbucks, internet cafes, dance clubs, I could go on.

And by the way, there are members of many area tribes working here. But you wouldn't see the people working in accounting, human resources, and the hundreds of jobs that you don't see when you check into a hotel or eat in a restaurant.

"Would Xanterra drop the requirement to live in the dormitories for Native Americans?"

Where would they live instead? Fred Harvey might have built some hotels, but his company didn't/doesn't own the land. It's all federal. This isn't a city with privately owned real estate with subdivisions, homes, apartments, condo's. Believe it or not, in the 21st century, we don't even have postal carrier delivery service! You either have a po box or you don't get any mail (our USPS office here returns our mail to the sender if it has our street address instead of our po box) It's a national park with employee housing. Period.

No, you don't have to live here to work here, but the pay isn't enough to make a 2 hour commute to the reservation affordable. And who would want to have to get up and ready to leave home at 5:30am in order to get to work, then after a 9 or more hour day drive 2 hours back?

Or to live in the closest town (Williams) an hour away - you couldn't afford to buy a house, and there aren't a lot of rentals available, if you could even afford those.

I'm glad you enjoyed your visit, but your image of life in a NP is just not accurate. It's been a long time since a park job was a choice summer job for young Americans. They're looking for an internship at a fortune 500 company, not a summer living in a dorm and washing dishes!
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Old Dec 28th, 2006, 01:23 PM
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(the rest)
I've been here a long time, well before your earlier visits. I was a college graduate, recruited from a town hit hard by recession. There were hundreds of people at the recruiting sessions I got hired from. I don't remember seeing a single college kid looking for a summer job! And the reality of NP life is a shock to most of the people that accept a job here. Some never get here at all (if you don't have a car, the only public transportation is an expensive shuttle service), some can't adjust to sharing a dorm room, some can't adjust to cafeteria food or just having one grocery store. No bigbox-mart, no drugstore, no pharmacy. Get sick? There might be a doctor at the clinic or there might not.

You wouldn't believe the number of people who accept a job, but leave after two days because they just can't take it.

One more thing. The south rim is open year round, so we need permanent employees too. So that's not going to be a college kid on summer break. Like yellowmic said, come on out and work. This is a great place for adults looking to get away from the rat race! If you'd rather hike (like Maverick who celebrated his 80th birthday this year by hiking over 100 rim to rim round trips) than be stuck on a freeway during rush hour, come on out!
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Old Dec 28th, 2006, 07:10 PM
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When we stayed at El Tovar, we booked the bellboy's suite. There was interesting memorabilia in that room including the bellboy's hat and a wall plaque describing of the job.

The plaque explained that the room was situated so that the bellman could see incoming tourists arrive at the train station. It also stated that the bellmen had pensions, federal, I believe, to look forward to after years of backbreaking work. So, at least the bellman would receive a federal pension and salary.

Also, I had visited and stayed at Gouldings Lodge in Monument Valley. Somehow, the Navajos have been able to find other Navajo's to perform menial labor like working the gift shop and cleaning motel rooms.

And, if you are looking for employees who do not demand cell phone service, Starbuck's lattes, internet access, etc., the Hopi and Navajo reservation are full of people who do not require those services for every day living.

In fact, I am ashamed to say that there is no electricity or running water on the Navajo and Hopi reservations, much less lattes and cell phone service. In fact, I travelled throughout the Hopi and Navajo reservations and there was NO CELL PHONE SERVICE.

Are you proud to not employ Americans? Do you think that international visitors are at all impressed with the way that you staff the hotels in the national parks? If these national parks existed in Germany, Italy or England, it would be a national scandal to not to employ the local citizenry.

Btw, the young Russian cashier who told me that her plane ticket was paid for from Moscow, was going to visit California before returning to Russia.

I cannot blame the young Russian girl for wanting travel a little before returning, but she certainly could not afford that if she was making just minimum wage, have dormitory and cafeteria expenses deducted, have taxes deducted, and pay for round trip air from Moscow to Phoenix.

I am sorry for not posting about the rest of the actual trip. Things got hectic at work.

I am not going to respond to any more upset remarks by people who recruit for Xanterra. Apparently, they do not want to change their employment policies, and they have no shame.

Like most of corporate America, they do not care if communities crumble as long as they could make a few more bucks of profit. People who run these companies have no sense community or of civic responsibility.
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Old Dec 29th, 2006, 10:36 AM
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I'm sorry if you misconstrued my attempt to answer your questions. I don't recruit for anybody, I don't manage anything, I am not a spokesperson for any company. I reside in Grand Canyon National Park and was just trying to explain some of the facts of what it's like to live and work in a national park.

BTW, if you'd like to learn more about the Dine people and their nation, they do have a website - http://www.navajo.org/index.htm, and you can learn more about Hopi at http://www.hopi.nsn.us/ and there is a lot of information about the tribes at www.knau.org. This is the Flagstaff public radio station. They did a 7 day documentary series called "Edge of the Rez" which is available on their website.

If you learn a little more about these people, maybe you won't feel that they should be relegated to only "perform menial labor like working the gift shop and cleaning motel rooms."

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Old Dec 29th, 2006, 11:20 AM
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I do not believe that Navajo people should be relegated to performing menial jobs. I just do not understand why we cannot take care of our communities by hiring locally and paying decent wages.

I did talk to several Navajo and Hopi people while I visited your lovely state. There is a terrible problem of poverty on the reservation. Many of the Hopi and Navajo people that I spoke to want cell phone service, electricity and running water.

Also, the jobs at national park lodges were once highly desirable because of the federal benefits. I even recall speaking to a woman who used to visit her father when he worked for Phantom Ranch. He no longer works there because since the job has privatized, it does not pay fairly.

In the 1950's and 1960's, summer jobs at the park lodges were highly desirable, especially if you wanted to work for the National Park Service. So, college students would work summers to build pension credits.

Furthermore, I find it highly suspicious that almost all of the employees are Russian. I believe that Xanterra uses an employment service to recruit from abroad. But, is there a payoff that we are not aware of? Is there a tax advantage to hiring foreign students?

Also, is there a more sinister motive to hire from Russia? Russia, as you are aware, is not a completely free and democratic society. Several Russian oil executives were imprisoned, forced into bankruptcy, and found dead. We are currently aware of the Russian spy who was poisoned to death. Also, although I am certainly no fan of his, Slobodan Milosovich died under pretty suspicious circumstances.

I personally liked the Russian students. I thought that they were helpful and nice. But, I am highly suspicious when a company says that the only people in the world desperate enough to work in the national park lodges are Russian students.
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Old Dec 29th, 2006, 12:24 PM
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Oh good god, yes, there is a Xanterra conspiracy to only hire Russians. <can't find the rolling eyes emoticon> I noticed that first you state that half the employees are Russian, and now it's worked it's way up to being almost all. Which Grand Canyon did you go to? I was just there in November and saw no Russians working at the Watchtower, Maswik Lodge or the cafeteria.

I find your idea to turn over the National Parks to Native Americans because of their "stellar environmental policy" to be somewhat laughable. You must have been asleep (or maybe it was dark) when you left GC and drove through their land on the AZ Strip, because you apparently didn't notice the many junk-filled yards along the way. As for turning the lodges over to them, you've also apparently not seen or heard much about the lodge in the Village of Supai (or the village itself for that matter) - but I can assure you, it is certainly not a showcase with stellar service.

I'll tell you what - spend the next couple of months talking up the Grand Canyon in your community and see how many people you can find that are seriously willing to move out there for a few months and work. If it's as easy as you say it is to find them, you should be able to report back in no time with the solution to Xanterra's "problems".

Sorry for the rant, but OP is just getting more and more ridiculous by the day. Stick to the trip report instead of the ill-informed social commentary.
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