Skip to content

An Interview with Park Naturalist, Pat Quackenbush

September 23, 2013

When you think of Hocking Hills, what’s one of the first things you think of? More than likely it’s the beautiful trails and parks in our area. It’s no surprise how much we love our tree-lined landscape and the gorgeous State Park. That’s why we’re sharing with you an interview with one of the individuals who not only helps keep our parks in great shape but also keeps our visitors enlightened – Pat Quackenbush, Park Naturalist for the Hocking Hills State Park. If you’ve been to any of our events at the State Park, you probably met Pat and learned quite a few things about your surroundings from him. He’s been known to even imitate wildlife, just so you can get a better understanding of nature.

How would you describe what a Park Naturalist does? Naturalists are education specialists. We’re teachers. As part of my job, I help visitors to Hocking Hills appreciate and better understand the park. There are so many more things to take in at our parks beyond the beautiful trees and waterfalls, and we help visitors see and understand these intricacies of nature. We also do a lot of other things – trail development, species listing and identifying, events, and so on.

birding walkHow many years have you been a Naturalist? I worked as a Naturalist for the Butler County Park system right out of school in 1980, so I’ve been doing this for quite a while! I have been Park Naturalist for the Hocking Hills State Park for a little more than 15 years.

Why do you think you became a Naturalist?  Almost every Naturalist will say the same thing –a love of the outdoors. I love nature and am a curious-minded person.  I want to understand it all.

What is your background? I grew up in Butler County, Ohio and my house was literally at the edge of town. We were on the last street so my backyard was farmland and woods. I fell in love with nature and the outdoors at an early age.

I’ll admit that in high school my grades weren’t the best. I didn’t know what I wanted to do or go to school for and didn’t have the motivation. Then one weekend I volunteered with some friends on a trail and the Naturalist on site immediately saw something inside of me. He ended up taking me under his wing and helped me find my vision. I received degrees in Environmental Science and Wildlife Management and went right into the field. I’ve worked for the county, for the National Parks, for a YMCA camp, etc. But working for Hocking Hills is a Naturalist’s dream.

What is your favorite thing about your job? One of the things I love about my job is that it’s different every day. Here in Hocking Hills, each day is different – sometimes I’m hosting and planning events, other days I’m leading people on trails, some days I’m in different physical locations. Because my job takes me different places, I’m always learning new things. It’s been fifteen years and I’m still able to discover new things in Hocking Hills.

What is your favorite place in Hocking Hills? Hocking Hills is so diverse – I have a few favorite places. My favorite caves are Rock House and Ash Cave. My favorite waterfalls are at Old Man’s Cave and Cedar Falls. I also love Cantwell Cliffs and Conkle’s Hollow for their diversity.

If you had a few hours to kill, where would you spend it?  I’m partial to Ash Cave, not only because of the beauty and unique species, but also because of the history.  You could spend a few minutes at Ash Cave and rub your fingers through the sand and discover pieces of the reed torches that the Native Americans used to light out here many years ago.

Pat Quackenbush loves the Haunted Hocking events in Hocking Hills

Pat Quackenbush loves the Haunted Hocking events in Hocking Hills

You’re very involved with the events in Hocking Hills. What is your favorite event that the Park hosts? I love the Maple Syrup Festival because we’re able to talk about the history of maple syrup and how it’s been tapped throughout the years. My other favorite are our Halloween events, our Haunted Hocking Weekend. Those aren’t so much educational, but just a lot of fun.

When you’re not at work, how do you spend your free time? I have five kids, which keeps me pretty busy – they range from ages 5 to 23 years old. I also love to write. My wife and I wrote the Haunted Hocking books. We have four books out. As you can tell, I love history so it’s been fun writing the ghost stories and sharing the history of the area.

 What’s your favorite TV show? I don’t watch a lot of TV, but my oldest son and I never miss an episode of the The Walking Dead.

What’s your favorite book? I read everything from cultural history to horror stories. I’m a huge Sherlock fan; I’ve read every single one of the Sherlock Holmes stories.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received? “You have to be a Naturalist vampire.” It may sound strange, but it means you have to feed off others’ energy. Naturalists often have long, busy days, so to stay awake, alert and motivated, we have to feed off the energy of the folks we’re with. Visitors are always excited to be in the Hocking Hill and it helps to feed off their energy.

What advice would you give to other aspiring Naturalists? Get outside and learn as much as you can. Informal learning, like digging a ditch and seeing what’s in the earth, is just as important as formal education. Be curious and be brave – don’t be afraid to try anything.

Want to meet Pat in person? Stop by the State Park – or one of the Park’s upcoming events – and he may be there!

Upcoming events:

Grandma Gatewood’s Fall Colors Hike: October 12

Haunted Hocking: October 25-27

Advertisements
No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: