I had been invited down to the Forest Service offices by Cindy Gervasoni to learn more about the Whitney Lottery process and photograph a few of the steps. Upon arrival and signing in, Cindy led me upstairs to their office, where I met the people behind the phones, Anna, Liz, and John. The small office had a number of boxes
for organizing the onslaught of applications: one for charge cards, one for checks, one for the current day's mail. Envelopes
from around the world, some screaming, "Pick me! Pick me!" covered the office door. Stamps of all shapes and sizes, organized by content, were reglued onto the huge application bin
. One side of the box
had a map of the world with arrows and stamps all pointing to Whitney.
At the end of the workday, the box
was dragged into the back stairwell, all of us positioned down the stairs to make sure no applications were lost. Cindy stood poised with the leaf blower as John dug deep into the bin. All heck broke loose as John lofted
the armful of applications into the air and Cindy blasted them with the blower, paper fluttering in all directions around us as I ducked and swerved to avoid getting covered, clicking pictures as fast as my flash would allow. As the chaos settled
around us, we all gathered the papers
at random and dumped them back into the bin, then dragged it back into the office. New applications would be pulled from the pile on Monday morning.
Cindy allowed me the honor of pulling one application
(David, from Sparks, NV, watch for the hit on your credit card!) and processed it as I was there.
There is a full-time staff of two, supplemented by four work-study students and shared employees. The mountain of applications looms in the corner as they slowly choose, then enter the information one by one. They have an office pool where they guess how many applications can be processed in a day by each of them, interspersing the entries with answering phones to make all other reservations as well. Two large windows look east above Bishop to the White Mountains, allowing for natural light to fill the office space. Hundreds of applications processed, but the dent in the thousands of applications never seems to grow. Slowly, they are picking away at the pile. Patience is key.
And I can attest to the fact that there is NO preference for the locals... but I will say that they have a certain paperweight on their main table...
According to Cindy's stats:
5525 mail received
797 reservations made, now pending the fee collection stage
0 unsuccessful applications so far (some people are starting to get their second choice dates)
Thanks, Cindy, so very much for inviting me to see this process, and thanks to all those in the Forest Service office for working hard to protect our Sierra!
From the luckiest girl in the world: Pick fast, type faster! Can't wait to see the results!!