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November/December 2005

Yosemite @ $7.38 An Hour: Seasonal Work in the National Parks

Our scribe-turned-pizzaman labors in the land of granite and pulls back the curtain on the seasonal-employment fantasy.

But here, as everywhere, letter-of-the-law fairness is balanced by the magic of human networking. Graham and Cody got their gigs through a connection with a professor at Vermont. The morning I stop by, Dan is in the rafting office, being interviewed. And lo and behold, he eventually is able to squeeze between slim and none and get himself hired.

But even a dream job requires certain tradeoffs. Before the crew can open the raft stand, the Merced has to warm up to 45°F, lest tourists be exposed to hypothermia risk. But the water is still in the high 30s, and it could be weeks before the stand opens. Inevitably they’ll run out of prep work soon, which means they’ll have to take temporary jobs in order to get paid. “%#*^ that!” says Cody, who’d already spent a few weeks as a Curry Village janitor before his rafting job started. “If that happens, I’ll just head up into the mountains until it’s time to work.”

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