Marisol Morales

Marisol Morales

Friday, 26 July 2019 19:00

Take a Hike!

A wise woman once sang, 

“Always gonna be an uphill battle

Sometimes I'm gonna have to lose

Ain't about how fast I get there

Ain't about what's waiting on the other side

It's the climbbbbbbb!” 

Ok, so maybe Miley Cyrus wasn't literally talking about hiking, but I totally felt this song while I was hiking this weekend. I came to the sudden realization that this internship is half over and I still hadn’t done many of hikes in the area! So during my weekend, I did three hikes totaling about 20 miles in two days! 

My first hike was to Big Stump. I hiked through a historic logging area to the Mark Twain Stump, a stump of a sequoia tree that you can climb on top of. The trail was pretty empty, however, I was recognized! Despite having a hat, sunglasses, and totally different clothing from my work uniform, a couple from my talk the previous day recognized me and proceeded to ask me questions for 20 mins. Not going to lie, it was kind of awkward. But they were nice and eventually they left, so I spent some time climbing around the stump. 

I decided then to lengthen my hike and do the Sunset Trail. This was the first hike that I did all by myself so I was a little nervous, but also determined! This trail was very pretty and it had about 1000 feet in elevation change, so by the time I got back to the Visitor Center, I was pretty much dying. I felt very accomplished and like I could do anything, even all by myself! Although did get lost a couple times, I made it back eventually! 

The next day, I hiked the Mist Falls trail with Evelyn, another LHIP intern. This was a very beautiful hike!! The first part was really exposed and HOT. I didn’t realize before, but direct sunlight while hiking really saps away your energy. Eventually, we walked along the river (where we got attacked by mosquitos) and made it to Mist Falls! This hike was very long but definitely worth it! 

After these hikes, it felt like my feet were going to fall off so I might take a little break before I do intense hikes again! However, now I feel like an experienced hiker and more confident in my survival skills (lol). It feels good to know that despite how hard a hike is, it’s important to enjoy the journey and push through it!

Monday, 22 July 2019 18:18

Arboles Grandes

As part of my internship, I have developed two different programs, A Big Tree Talk and a Giant Tree Walk. Translating these to Spanish was actually more challenging than I thought! There are lots of "nature words" that I don’t typically use, so I had to look up tons of specific words. For example, I didn’t know the words for sapling (plantula) or waterfalls (cascadas). It’s made me rethink how fluent in Spanish that I actually am haha. It's definitely been a challenge, but I've improved my Spanish vocabulary for the better. Now I can talk about all the cool nature stuff when my parents come to visit! I look forward to giving my talks in Spanish and reaching a bigger community of Spanish speakers. 

On my first day here, as Ranger Meredith was driving us around to see both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, I began to think about the Native Americans who lived here. We had just visited Hospital Rock [pictured], a boulder painted with Native American petroglyphs and a site that had bedrock mortars in which the Native Americans would grind acorns into a powder and eventually make into food. I knew about Native Americans and the tragic history associated with them, but it was an abstract idea to me, kind of like Ancient Egyptians or the Aztecs; they were people from a long time ago that I only had a vague and general idea about. 

As we were driving up the curvy mountain, it seemed crazy to me that Native Americans navigated these mountains by foot without the option of paved roads or clearly marked signs. I could barely walk around in hiking boots and with a map in hand! The idea that people could live and navigate these mountains for thousands of years, really stuck with me! I wanted to know more! 

So I began researching about the Native Americans and found out that in California alone, there were more than 500 tribes that lived here for thousands of years. Approximately ⅓ of Native Americans lived in California prior to European contact. There were two main groups of people found in these National Parks, the Western Mono and the Yokuts. The Western Mono are thought to have come from the other side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, somehow becoming separated from the Eastern Mono, and adapted to the lifestyle here. The Yokuts were a much larger group, occupying the foothills of the mountains. 

Native Americans were pretty in tune with nature. In the winter, they would live lower at the foothills of the mountain where there was no snow and in the summer, they’d live higher up on the mountain where it was much less hot. They even set prescribed fires in order to promote growth of plants that they ate and that the animals they hunted ate. 

Beginning in the late 1700's into the 1800's, especially with the Spanish missions on the coast and the Gold Rush in the mountains, a majority of Native Americans were killed either by violence or disease. White settlers stole their land and committed mass genocide, not only in California, but all over the United States. Much of the cultures, languages, and histories were destroyed. To say it’s heartbreaking is an understatement. It also upsets me to hear people credit white European settlers with “discovering” things *cough* Columbus Day *cough.*  It goes without saying that white settlers didn’t discover anything at all, except a continent already established by diverse indigenous people. It’s important to acknowledge the negative history of this country and to look at history from varying perspectives. I’m glad that I’ve learned more about the indigenous people in California and that they aren’t just a vague general idea to me anymore.

Monday, 08 July 2019 16:05

Deerly Bear-loved: Wildlife in Kings Canyon

Walking to work I often hear the *snap* of a branch and turn to find a deer, both of us briefly startled by each other as we go about our day. Deer are very common here in Kings Canyon, I see them almost everyday! A whole family of them live behind my cabin, sleeping and eating while I watch them creepily through my window. They are like a forbidden dog, cute but I can’t touch or feed them haha. As cute as they are, my supervisor Val told me the only death caused by an animal in the park was a man getting kicked in the head by a deer… sooo I keep my distance. I feel super privileged that on my walk to and from work, I get to see not only deer but a ton of wildlife! I see a variety of birds (including woodpeckers the size of a crow!), butterflies, and lots of chipmunks! 

Just the other day, I was complaining about not having seen a bear to really anyone who would listen. Well I must have spoken it into existence! I was walking home from the visitor center, lost in thought, when I saw an animal on the side of the road ahead of me. At first, I thought it was a really big deer, and then I thought “huh, that’s a really funny looking deer.” When I realized it was actually a bear, I froze and I couldn’t believe my eyes!! I also realized I had gotten a bit too close so I backed up the road and watched it from a far. It was a black bear with blonde hair and it was pretty small (for a bear at least). Something about this bear sighting must have unleashed some ~bear magic~ because a couple days later, I saw a momma bear and her two cubs while I was hiking! 

So happy I get to live in a beautiful place and that I get to share this space with the incredible animals that live here! 

¡Hola a todos!

When I am not giving interpretive programs, you can most likely find me at the visitor center answering visitor questions and trip planning. I hadn’t realized this before but working a visitor center desk, you need to know a LOT of information. Like an encyclopedic amount of knowledge. 

My first shift at the desk, I did not know much about anything at all. I barely knew where I was on the map (which I had to read backwards btw). And I was kind of worried about it! No one likes not knowing the answer to questions, especially when you’re supposed to be an expert!

But I soon realized the secret to why I didn’t have to worry. 

Each visitor had the same questions! Mostly it’s “I just got here, what should I see?” or “where’s the bathroom” (despite passing it on the way in haha). So it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be! 

There’s still a couple people per day that ask me very specific questions like “If I have a 32.5 foot RV can I camp at Death Valley National Park?” or “Can my dog go fishing on National Forest land or does he need a fishing license?” Ok so maybe the questions aren’t so ridiculous but sometimes I have no idea how to answer them. Thankfully, I have the very knowledgeable staff consisting of the Sequoia Park Conservancy and the National Forest Service that I can ask for help!

Besides questions, manning the visitor center gives me the chance to interact with a variety of people. From swearing in Junior Rangers to giving directions to retired elderly couples wearing matching T-shirts, most people are very nice and grateful for the help. I have also translated a few times for Spanish speaking visitors. I’ve realized I don’t know a lot of camping/nature words in Spanish so I need to practice! 

So far I’ve had fun talking to all the people at the visitor center and look forward to a summer full of questions!

¡Hasta Luego!

Monday, 17 June 2019 22:48

I Am the Lorax, I Speak for the Trees

¡Hola a todos!

As an interpretive intern, my first program is the Big Tree Talk. It is a 20 minute educational talk all about Sequoia trees, the biggest trees in the whole world!

To prepare, I’ve researched and shadowed the interpretive park ranger’s talks in order to get ideas. My talk focuses on the Sequoias survival at each stage of their life and the negative/positive human history associated with the trees. Sequoia trees produce millions of seeds and less than 1% of those seeds even germinate. This is because of unsuitable conditions or the seeds get eaten by squirrels. Despite multiple obstacles, these trees grow up to more than 250 feet high and 29 feet in diameter. They can also live up to 3,000 years old!

In the 1850s, people started cutting down the trees for wood. However, the wood was so brittle, up to 80% of the tree shattered when it hit the ground. A lot of the tree was wasted and they turned the salvageable wood into fence posts, pencils, and toothpicks! TOOTHPICKS! As you can imagine, turning the world's largest trees into toothpicks made a lot of people angry. Local citizens petitioned the government and in 1890, these trees became protected and the area turned into two National Parks, Kings Canyon and Sequoia.

A park ranger, Meredith, told us that as interpretive staff, we are like the Lorax from the Dr. Seuss book. "We speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues!" By talking about these trees, we spread awareness and ensure that these trees will continue to be protected for many years to come.

So far I’ve had three programs! I’ve also been working on my second program, the Grant Tree Walk. This is a 45 min walk and talk about the Sequoia trees.  Eventually, I will be giving these talks in Spanish for the Spanish speaking visitors which I am very excited about! Stay tuned!

¡Hasta Luego!

Tuesday, 11 June 2019 18:02

Getting to Know Kings Canyon National Park


Hello again!

My first day was an adventure to say the least. After checking into my housing, a lightning and thunderstorm hit as I was unpacking my car! As soon as I was safe inside I realized that my roommate went away for the weekend. Totally fine, except there was a sudden *CRACK* *BOOM* and the lights went out. Suddenly I was 200 miles from home in a dark cabin in the woods and completely alone in a thunderstorm. I guess you could say I was a little overwhelmed to learn that I was living out the plot of a horror movie!

Despite the initial fright, I relaxed and found that my new home was beautiful, dynamic, and very alive! I noticed lots of new birds I’ve never seen before and even one deer munching on some grass by the side of the road. My initial panic turned into an awe of the awesomeness of nature! 

My first week has been jam packed with exploring both Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park! The interpretive staff at Kings Canyon NP is very welcoming and helpful so I’m excited to become part of the team. So far, I’ve been doing lots of research about the Sequoia trees in preparation for my first interpretive program this week.

Kings Canyon National Park is located right next to Sequoia National Park! Kings Canyon is about 97% designated wilderness so most of the park isn’t visible unless you go backpacking! The parts that I have seen this week are beautiful. The Sequoia trees are so huge, it’s hard to believe, even with my own eyes! I feel humbled and lucky to be in their presence. There’s also lots of rivers, streams, waterfalls, and cool rock formations. Very excited to get to know this place more and more.

¡Hasta luego!

Thursday, 30 May 2019 00:02

Start of Something New

Hello everyone!

My name is Marisol Morales and I am going to be an Interpretive Intern at Kings Canyon National Park this summer!

I was born and raised in Southern California. Growing up, despite living in a beautiful environment, I didn’t really know much about the “outdoors” except that I liked going to the beach occasionally! It wasn’t until college that I was able to travel, learn, and explore nature in depth. It was then that I realized nature’s beauty and importance.

I recently graduated from University of California, Irvine where I studied Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. While attending classes, I interned with UCI’s Center for Environmental Biology where I was able to work on ecological restoration research and educational outreach programs. In those two short years, I gained extensive knowledge about ecology, research, and education. It made me fall in love with working with nature!

In addition, I took an immersive field course with the UCNRS called California Ecology and Conservation Summer. During this 7 week course, I camped and researched a range of different California ecosystems. Although it was intense, it was incredibly rewarding! I did research on species like plants, deer, sea lions, insects, and intertidal species! This course truly taught me how to be a scientist and to approach the natural world with curiosity.

Back on campus, I joined a club called Hermanas Unidas, a non-profit organization devoted to supporting Latina women in college. By participating in this group, I felt a deeper awareness, appreciation, and connection to my culture. It reinforced my pride in my Latinx cultural identity.

With these experiences in mind, I was drawn to this internship because of the beauty of the forest and the opportunity to connect with the Latinx community at Kings Canyon National Park! I hope to apply my passion for nature while researching and developing interpretative programs and interacting with the public. I will be driving up to the park in a few days and I’m very excited for my work to begin!

¡Hasta la próxima!

Wednesday, 15 May 2019 14:31

Marisol Morales

I am a first generation graduate from University of California, Irvine (UCI) where I majored in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. I was born and raised in beautiful Southern California, which inspired my love for nature at a young age. While in college, I worked as an intern for UCI’s Center for Environmental Biology, where I helped with ecological restoration projects as well as education & outreach programs. I was also part of Hermanas Unidas, a non-profit organization devoted to supporting Latina women in college, which reinforced my love for my culture. I’m passionate about science and education, so I’m very excited to get to work with Kings Canyon National Park as an interpretive intern. I look forward to combining my love of science, education, and nature in order to better reach the Latino community at Kings Canyon National Park!