The following is written by Hailey Doucette, an intern at the PLHC during the fall ’19 semester. Learn more about our internship program.

A day in the life of a cultural resources manager

On October 2, 2019 I had the opportunity to shadow Rocky Mountain National Park’s Cultural Resource Program Manager, Kelly Dick, and a seasonal employee in cultural resources, Emilio Santiago.  We spent the day in the field at Lake Irene on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park. We looked at everything from a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)-era mess hall, to different artifacts, to photos from the late 19th century.  I helped the team measure different sites and record data pertaining to multiple foundations where different structures likely used to stand.

The cultural resources team

When I arrived at Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, on the East side of the park, Kelly greeted me and introduced me to Emilio as they began to prep for the day of field work ahead.  As we left the visitors center and headed for the park, my excitement for the day grew.  We drove about an hour to Lake Irene, which held a CCC Camp in the 1930s. As we arrived, we came upon a sturdy structure that looked like it could house people even today.  I learned that this was a mess hall in the CCC years and that the NPS had recently restored it. The resource management team had even added cracks in the new timber to make it look aged.

Emilio had been working at Lake Irene all summer and had extensive knowledge about the history of this area.  He showed Kelly and me multiple sites. These ranged from trash pits, to foundations (likely for tents or cabins), to areas with aged nails scattered around.  After our tour of the area we ate lunch and enjoyed the scenery of Lake Irene.

Standing within history at Rocky Mountain National Park

Following lunch we walked down to Lake Irene and Emilio pulled out a photo of a group of well-dressed men on horses. One of the men was shooting a gun.  I was shocked when Emilio held up the photo; it was clearly taken from the exact spot we were standing 129 years earlier.  From there, we began to survey some of the sites Emilio identified.  I helped to record data and look for artifacts.  One of the highlights of my day was finding an aged tube of toothpaste that still had dried up toothpaste in it.

As the day wrapped up, we loaded up the van and headed back to the Beaver Meadows Visitors Center.  I came away from the day with an appreciation for archeology, a newfound desire to learn more about the subject, and motivation to one day work with cultural resources in a national park.

  • Emilio explains to park volunteers what archaeologists do in the field.
  • Selfie of Hailey Doucette, Emilio Santiago, and Kelly Dick in Rocky Mountain National Park.
  • Kelly and Emilio record data about a foundation.
  • Lake Irene
  • Hailey and Emilio look at an old piece of equipment near the Lake Irene parking lot.
  • Emilio and Hailey looking at a mess hall from a 1930’s CCC camp that was recently restored.