It was an interesting question posed by a reader which got us both to thinking in a far deeper manner than we first thought it would. We had been at Petrified Forest National Park, PEFO in Parkspeak, for two months and were preparing to leave when the email arrived. We are used to getting a good deal of email from readers, all of which we try to promptly answer. This particular email, cause us to pause, then got us talking to each other on a far more deeper level than usual. Not because it was more significant, rather it was because we had been doing some soul searching ourselves over the past several months on this very same subject. Yes indeed, just exactly why did we stop at PEFO? What follows will serve as the answer to the email, not just to the reader who posed the question, but to ourselves as well.
It was something that did not have a simple answer, not that there wasn't a simple answer, we were looking for something to do and so checked the volunteer.gov/gov website and it turned out to be the first listing for Arizona. But that is not the real answer. The real answer involves the way we want to live our life. We quit or jobs, bought a motorhome and took off on what might be called the eternal vacation. Except that was not what we did. Oh, we certainly quit our jobs and bought a motorhome, but an eternal vacation, no, that was never in the cards for us. What were we thinking then? We were simply looking at living the rest of our life in a manner different than we had for the last 40 or so years. Some call it freedom, others the lure of the open road, or the adventure of a lifetime, we simply saw it as living our lives in a different setting.
Because of that, we weren't sure what to expect other than the ability to go where we wanted, when we wanted and for as long as we wanted. One thing quickly became clear not long after we began our second chance at life; neither one of us is what you would call a daily traveller. We found that our preference was to set in one place for a while, get to know the area, then move on. The problem was that our first six months of travel saw us doing just the opposite. That is, except for our time workamping at Mountain Stream RV Park in Marion, North Carolina, a place we came to call home for March and April of 2006. However, in June of that year when we left Ohio, where we had both grown up, things changed. We slowed down and started to stay for more than just a day or two at many of our stops. Not because we didn't want to move on, but because we enjoyed where we were.
The time we spent at Umpqua River Lighthouse in September and October of 2006 was like icing on the cake for the year. It was while we were there that we began to truly look at what we were doing in a different light, no pun intended. It also made our decision to return to the Oregon coast the following year an obvious choice. Our East coast foray meant that while it would be two or three more years until we returned once again to that area of the country, we still didn't really know what we wanted to do with the rest of our life. We knew we had really enjoyed our time in both North Carolina and Oregon, but was it something we could repeat? We didn't know, so our decision was to only commit to return to the Lighthouse in the fall of '07 and see what transpired in the meantime.
It was with this in mind that we found ourselves in Quartzsite in early 2007 when we first got to thinking about what we wanted to do in the coming year. Our first thought was try to see if we could find something for the next couple of months in Arizona, a quest that quickly proved to resemble a page from Don Quioxte. All the volunteer jobs were long ago filled and there was a waiting list for any vacancies which might occur. What we had searched for were jobs in the State Parks, then we thought about National Parks, which was how we discovered the openings at Petrified Forest. That is the how did it happen part, but not the why did it happen part. For that we have to look elsewhere.
One, we weren't sure we wanted to travel that much between the first of February and late May, second we weren't sure where we were going to spend the time, and third we looked back at last year when we decide to just sit for several months in North Carolina and realized it had been just right for us. That was when we decide to do it again, only this time on the short grass prairie of Northern Arizona at Petrified Forest National Park, PEFO for short.
As we first grew into our jobs, then came to love what we were doing at PEFO, it began to dawn on us that we were doing something very, very special. We had always looked at Parks as places to visit, but for the first time in our lives we began to see them for what they really were. A place that had to be "lived" to be fully experienced and appreciated. For two months we saw things, did things, heard things and experienced things that were simply dreams in our former life. It was through this process of really living that a transformation took place, one that is going to greatly impact our future travels. We discovered we had come to embrace the volunteer lifestyle. Already we will being experiencing something new in August when we are hosts at a wildlife refuge in Oregon and we have also committed to returning to PEFO next spring. Beyond that we are trying to get a position in Texas for next winter.
One of the things we like about this lifestyle is the ability to put down roots, no matter how temporary they maybe. Another is the chance to see new places and experience new things, not superficially, but in depth. One of our goals is to find a position which will allow us to do living history sometime next year. Another of our goals is to experience places and things we never thought possible. After all, never in my wildest imagine did I think that I would be leading Ranger tours at a National Park. So why exactly did we stop at PEFO? I'm not really sure of the answer, but when Sara N. Dippity became our guide, we learned that following her is the best thing that we could ever do. Life is meant to be lived, that is what we are doing and just maybe, that was the real reason we stopped at PEFO, even though we didn't know it at the time.