The people caring for and protecting our state and national parks are some of the hardest-working people you will ever meet. Through Quiet Adventures, I have had the privilege of working with these individuals behind the scenes to organize our trips, secure permits, and talk over logistics. I’m amazed by how these stewards of the land ensure that our experiences are inspiring, educational, and memorable.
I’d love to introduce you to these incredible human beings and have you see through their eyes the beautiful parks they work in.
This week we interviewed Michelle D’Ulisse of Lassen Volcanic National Park, one of California’s hidden gems and one of our favorite adventure locations. Michelle shares simple steps you can start doing today to protect your national and state parks, as well as helpful advice for women who want to start getting outdoors more.
Enjoy this thoughtful and informative interview!
With love and gratitude,
Founder, Quiet Adventures
Name: Michelle D’Ulisse
Hometown: Red Bluff, CA
Current location: Mineral, CA
Profession: Supervisory Revenue and Fee Business Coordinator, National Park Service
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about simple things and a simple life. I have always been passionate about the National Park Service in that it keeps places the way they are for the future. I am passionate about my job and find peace in things such as art, reading, spending time outside, and yoga—and I have a strong passion for all animals.
Tell us about what you do at Lassen Volcanic National Park.
I manage and oversee the fee program which includes the entrance stations and campgrounds within the park. I hire the staff for the fee program and directly supervise one of the entrance stations. I create the Commercial Use Authorizations and Special Use Permits for the park and work closely with the permittees throughout the year to assist in planning their trips and events and ensuring all activities are in compliance with Federal and National Park Service Policies.
Much time in winter months is spent in the office doing other duties and attending meetings, but most of the summer is spent in the park, which is really what I love about the job...that I get to do both.
I have worked in other great parks, but the visitors and staff here at Lassen are the nicest people I have come across in my career. Side duties include many things, but my favorite of them is being co-chair of the Lassen Park WE Team (Workplace Enrichment Team). We organize many projects throughout the year that other park employees and people in our community join us in. Twice a year we hold a highway clean up along a portion of Highway 36 we have adopted with Caltrans. We also organize the Feds Feed Families Food Drive for the park, in which all donations go back to local towns; during Christmas we adopt seniors and/or veterans to get gifts for; we create employee surveys to help better the workplace; and this year, we will be participating in local 4th of July parades with a float built by park employees to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of both Lassen Volcanic National Park and the National Park Service.
What’s been your best experience in Lassen Volcanic National Park?
One of my first summers, a group of us hiked the Cinder Cone Volcano on a full moon. The hike itself was beautiful and I highly recommend it on a full moon! After we spent some time at the top, all but three of us stayed a little longer than everyone else and a fox showed up within ten feet of us. He was a good-looking fox and we backed up and gave him more space. We watched him for a good fifteen minutes before he took off. The rest of the group had a hard time believing a fox would be at the top of Cinder Cone, but we saw him and it was the only time I’ve seen a large mammal on top of a volcano.
What should everyone know about Lassen Volcanic National Park?
Lassen is a hidden gem. Although visitation has increased over the years, it is still one of the less populated parks in which it is easy to hike most trails and still find peace and serenity. Most people stay to the popular trails such as the Lassen Peak trail, hydrothermal areas or waterfall hikes, but every trail in Lassen has something special and if you choose to explore the less popular trails, many times, depending on the time of year, you can still have it all to yourself. It is not a big park, but the trails offer a variety of different landscapes. It is a great family park and a very safe place to explore the outdoors.
What’s the craziest question someone has ever asked you?
A few years ago, a nice lady called to see if we could issue her a permit to bury her pet turkey in the park. At first I thought it was a prank call, but then realized it was genuine. The lady sincerely loved the turkey and wanted the grave site to be in a beautiful place like Lassen. Although we could not grant the permit, I really appreciated her sincere request.
What steps can people take to help protect our national and state parks?
Educate themselves about the funding sources and get active and participate as much as possible. With social media, now there are many ways to stay active in the everyday lives of the places you care about. Keep up to date on rules and regulations of these certain places before you visit them. I hope to see more people think of state and national parks as museums rather than amusement parks. I feel many people, and I noticed this more often at the bigger parks I worked at, felt as though things were no longer wild and were there for their amusement. I have watched visitors approach massive elk for pictures before we reminded them of the dangers. It saddens me to have seen so many squirrels, ravens, raccoons, coyotes, foxes, bears and one poor bobcat become daily beggars of food due to visitors feeding them so much they became dependent on humans, and didn’t survive long after the food was cut off. I do wish more people would stop littering, pack in what they pack out, and treat it like their own home.
What advice do you have for women who want to get outdoors more?
Go for it! The energy and peace the outdoors provides can make all the things we stress about in life less worrisome. At least for me, going outside and spending time in nature helps make the minimal things that can seem so big sometimes in day-to-day life much less important, and helps me refocus my attention on what I feel is important. I highly recommend taking a book by Edward Abbey, Terry Tempest Williams, Craig Childs, or any other nature writer with you. Don’t rush your time outside and stop long enough on a trail to take in your surroundings.
Also, visit us this summer at Lassen Park and join us in celebrating the 100th Anniversary of Lassen and the National Park Service! The Centennial Brochure is available to download on the park website at https://www.nps.gov/lavo.
Lassen is a super special spot that receives much less traffic than other parks in California, which is why we love it! Get a sense of what it’s like to hike and camp among these clear mountain lakes, jagged peaks, and volcanoes by exploring these pics. We're heading to Lassen this summer and fall, for both camping and backpacking adventures. Learn more here.
Photos courtesy of Lassen National Park.