Betty Jane Hagan Heads West For Adventure

Posted on: Wednesday, June 19th, 2013 by Brent Treash

Betty Jane Hagan (E&H ’67) decided to check out the website coolworks.com. Now, she’s in Wyoming working the summer season at Jackson Lake Lodge in the Grand Teton National Forest.

When you ask her how she got there, she’ll tell you in perfect Betty Jane-style: “On April Fool’s Day 2012, I left a 40-year career in IT.  With a 2013 summer job in hand, I retired my professional wardrobe, cleaned out the pantry, packed up the tent, sleeping bag and Camelback and headed west on May 4.”

Betty Jane, not being the “retiring type,” was much more likely to be found doing maintenance on the Appalachian Trail rather than sitting in a rocking chair. She found the Coolworks website to be just the ticket for adventure. CoolWorks is self-described as being “central to the summer job and seasonal job market niche.” The site specializes in helping people find seasonal jobs in, well, cool locations. They especially highlight jobs in National Parks, resorts, ranches, camps, cruise ships, etc. and they seem to have particularly good success with people who might qualify themselves as “older and bolder.”

Her route west was just the beginning of the adventure. I admired Carl Sandburg’s birthplace in Galesburg, Illinois, stood where Ronald Reagan’s father once managed a shoe store, “climbed” to the highest elevation in Nebraska (5424 feet), visited with friends in Iowa, admired immense midwest wind farms and discovered pretty great little restaurants on urbanspoon.com. I focused my camera on skies quite different from those of Virginia and arrived in Wyoming on May 8.”

She jokes that her little room at the lodge is like “rediscovering dorm life – shades of Weaver Hall – and much of her dining experience is the local equivalent of the E&H cafeteria.”

But when she talks about the work, you realize the benefits are worth the “itty bitty living space.” Her work is primarily about being responsible for helping visitors to the lodge. She welcomes guests, explains how to maneuver around the lodge, and offers pointers on things to do and see in the region.  It’s hard work but it provides free access to activities like river rafting, lake cruising, horseback riding, guided tours, ranger programs, biking, hiking, and star gazing. On her days off she explores the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.