%224%left%"Did you know that it's good luck to kiss a banana slug?" Heather Boothe '94 asked playfully, right before retrieving one of the yellow creatures to demonstrate a good luck smooch for a visitor.
Good luck has blessed Boothe. She spends her "working" days as a park ranger in Muir Woods National Monument, just 12 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge.
"People need beauty as well as bread," Boothe said, and beauty is what they find at Muir Woods, highlighted by scores of redwood trees dating back centuries, even a thousand years. The tallest tree rises 253 feet with a 13-foot diameter, but each one conveys a sense of majesty and wonder. "Redwoods pick their conditions," she explained. "Lots of moisture, not too hot, not too cold."
Boothe's duties include everything from leading tours and wildflower walks to finding lost children; from helping people who have missed a tour bus to crafting publications and Web sites; from greeting visiting VIPs to training new employees at other national parks.
And what does it take to meet these diverse challenges? "Creativity, patience, perseverance," Boothe said. "You have to like people and you have to be a team player."
%223%right%Liking people is a definite requisite, as 5,000 people visit Muir Woods on a busy summer day. On a winter day it might slow to 1,000. "Muir Woods is a national park for people from all over the world," Boothe said with pride.
John Muir, the renowned conservationist, philosopher, scientist and author (and the park's namesake), once wrote: "This is the best tree-lover's monument that could possibly be found in all the forests of the world."
The natural path that led Boothe to the trails of Muir Woods began at Colby, where she majored in American studies and minored in education. While in college she spent two summers at Acadia National Park. After graduation she taught at a private school for two years, working in the summers for the Redwoods National Park. She assumed her first full-time position for the National Park Service in 1998 at Whitman Mission National Historical Site in Walla Walla, Wash., and eventually came to Muir Woods in 2001, a homecoming for this native San Franciscan.
"I have to demonstrate a breadth of knowledge a mile wide and an inch deep every day," Boothe joked, although her intense passion for her work could hardly be termed shallow. "We're introducing most people to their first old-growth forest, providing renewal for the urban weary and giving school kids the chance to experience and understand the values of a place like this. It's incredibly inspiring to share a passion for learning and for the environment with people of all ages from all places.
"I'm addicted to the Park Service. It pulls you in and keeps you here. I'm on a constant healthy high."