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Your Life Calling

Ex-Geologist's Rock-Solid Passion for New Career as Yellowstone Guide

Barbara O'Grady and her "bold and irreversible step"

Q: Tell me about your favorite places at Yellowstone. Where do you most feel connected to the beauty of nature and have peace?

A: My favorite place in the park has to be what we call "the southeast arm of the lake." It's pretty far off the beaten path, and takes a little more effort to get down there because it's accessible by canoe, kayak or hiking. When I'm down there, I'm usually with someone and we typically don't see anyone else except who we're with. You will see tracks from wolves and tracks from grizzly bears, and you really feel like you are part of the ecosystem; no longer at the top of the food chain.

Q: What recommendations do you have for travelers 50 and older?

A: Don't come to Yellowstone and just drive through the park and see what you see, because you'll be missing so much. If you don't have a lot of time, definitely go with someone who knows the landscape, who can give you in a short amount of time things that might take days and weeks to find on your own. The 50-plus are absolutely able to get off the beaten path and that's the other key to knowing Yellowstone. Even if it's a day hike, or more like a day of fly fishing or maybe to take a class, but something to delve into the park in a more profound way than just staying on the boardwalks and pavement.

Q: Any suggestions you have for grandparents wanting to take grandchildren to Yellowstone?

A: The Yellowstone Association actually has family programs where you can go with a parent or grandparent on a multiday trip around the park with several activities for kids. The Park Service also offers a junior ranger program and a grandparent usually learns as much as the kids, or maybe more, going through that program.

Q: What advice can you give to people who are still searching for their calling?

A: Find time in your life when you can be introspective. For example, reading poetry or writing. I think writing is something that benefits everyone. What are you thinking right now? How do you feel right now? Where are you? Are you in despair or are you feeling exhilarated and happy? My recommendation to anyone would be to keep a journal.  

Q: What does the future have in store for you? What are you looking forward to now that you're living your dream?

A: I intend to give tours and be an interpretive guide as long as I can. There's so much to learn. I have piles and piles of papers and reports and things that are so fascinating that I want to learn more about. I never go into the park and come out without learning something new. Hasn't happened yet and I don't think it will ever happen.

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