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Ramblings of a Ranger- Rangers Ramble and Range- and so should you!

Updated on June 19, 2013

Life in a National Park and other Travels

From The Summit Lake Ranger Station log book, Lassen Volcanic National Park: ...this evening, the big back porch door was open as I silently wrote paperwork- a pine marten scrambled in and sniffed around the front room- I made churring noises with my mouth- (he gave me) a fixed stare, and off he went, unafraid! (Shortly after) a female deer came up to the back porch and gazed in at me- we spoke- she, silently, me, softly calling... we communicated, I know... now, on ranger patrol!

Park Rangers range... you know, ramble, amble, hike, trudge, wander... sweet and simple. Oh, it's a fantastic view from space of this pale blue orb, our Earth, spinning through the Cosmos. From 30,000 feet, in some jumbo liner, the grand views of distance and scale are a wonder to behold. Even ripping along at 75 miles per hour, via automobile, will get you far upon your journeys, but boot bottom to the hard pan dust of a trail, that's the most intimate way to see the world, the natural world, up close and personal. You know, sights set on some distant vista, hanging your hat on a tree and calling that place home... all that romanticized stuff of nature and campfires and the West.

According to Wikipedia, the origin of the word "ranger" dates back to the 14th century, in England, and was drawn from the word "range" (to travel over a large area, of course!) "Rangers" patrolled royal forests and parks to prevent "poachers" from hunting game belonging to the Crown. The use of "ranger" in the modern sense was first put to a reorganization of the Fire Warden force in the Adirondack Park, after 1899 when fires burned 80,000 acres in the park. The name was taken from Roger's Rangers, a small force famous for their woodcraft that fought in the area during the French and Indian War beginning in 1755. The term "ranger" was then adopted by the newly formed National Park Service, which was created by an act of Congress in 1916.

Stephen T. Mather, the first Director of the National Park Service, had this to say about early park rangers: They are a fine, earnest, intelligent, and public-spirited body of men, these rangers. Though small in number, their influence is large. Many and long are the duties heaped upon their shoulders. If a trail is to be blazed, it is "send a ranger." If an animal is floundering in the snow, a ranger is sent to pull him out; if a bear is in the hotel, if a fire threatens a forest, if someone is to be saved, it is "send a ranger." If a Dude wants to know the why, if a Sagebrusher is puzzled about a road, it is "ask a ranger." Everything a ranger knows, he will tell you, except about himself.

These days, many fine, earnest, intelligent, and public-spirited women now serve alongside those ranger men. I've had the great fortune to work with and know some of them. Horace Albright, the National Park Service's second director, called harry Yount, gamekeeper of Yellowstone National Park, the "father of the ranger service, as well as the first national park ranger."

I certainly ranged during my ranger years. Over those 25 years, and even before I joined the ranger division, I was a wanderer. Five western parks I called home for at least a while- but I hiked the rugged cliffs and canyons of the high, dry San Gabriels near Los Angeles, when that was home; over parts of the High Sierra, to the sandstone cliffs and dry washes of Glen Canyon and up to the Virgin River, into Zion National Park, swimming and cliff diving the impounded waters of Lake Powell. Ran the trails of the Anza-Borrego desert, totally loved to hike and run the steep cliff trails of the Grand Canyon country, walking along those magic names: Bright Angel, Hermit's Rest, the Kaibab, down to Indian Gardens, and on to Phantom Ranch,up to the majestic North Rim. Riding the wild flood stage Colorado on a river patrol, or flying across its grand depth by helicopter. Wandering through the canyon country of Lake Mead, into Havasupai, on the Grand Canyon's western edge, where a series of travertine mineral deposits create wild shapes and waterfalls and pools of blue green fantasy, leading back down to that old Colorado River. Over to the windswept Redwood Coast, through Fern Canyon, along the wild Lost Coast and into the Kings Range, I trudged and walked and backpacked and ran, up Redwood Creek and past the Tall Trees grove, and up the side creeks and waterways, I explored. And then, into the Southern Cascades, to the top of Mt. Shasta, camping out at 13,000 feet, and into and Lassen Volcanic National Park, across it peaks and volcanoes and cinder cones, through its meadows and along its rushing streams, always something new to see, to smell, to hear or feel or taste.

National Parks and the park system continue to refresh, restore, and rejuvenate millions of city-weary souls. And to think that I was blessed to live and work in one of the finest parks, that shining jewel named Lassen Volcanic. It's not far away, the 100th anniversary of the national parks, in 1916, and of Lassen's own 100th birthday, created in August, 1916. An area encompassing Lassen Peak had already been declared a national monument by Teddy Roosevelt in 1907, and the upgrade to national park status enlarged the park's boundaries and gave new protections.

That is so grand that for nearly 100 years the National Park Service has helped us to remember and re-experience our nature connections, even if only for a little while.When I served all those summers at Lassen, it was a rush of excitement to be heading back there for another summer, to get back to that rustic, cool, dark old lodgepole pine ranger station at Summit Lake and know that another season of beauty and challenge, never knowing what might come next, lay ahead. In the first years I worked out of the North District of the park, we rangers were stuck in this crappy old trailer, about a quarter mile outside the north entrance station of Manzanita Lake; this was our embarrassment of a ranger station. It was a beater of an old wreck, that trailer, dirty and cramped and worn, with a hole in the floor boards; it sure kept a ranger humble... it was cool to get to work there long enough to see the old buildings around the Loomis Museum be remodeled, the Loomis Museum become a real visitor center, and the old Loomis House transformed into a respectable ranger station.

John Muir was passionate in his love for the High Sierra, and rightly so, but he also traveled and hiked and explored Mt. Shasta and around Lassen Peak and its environs. Here's what he had to say about ol' Lassen Volcanic: Miles of its flanks are reeking and bubbling with hot springs, many of them so boisterous and sulphurous they seem ever ready to become spouting geysers..." That same energy and excitement is still happening there, today.

"Climb the mountains and get their glad tidings," said that same John Muir and he was so wise and so in touch with the 'real' world.A lot changes in this fast paced world, but nature is a balm to the soul. National Parks and wilderness areas, and state and city and county parks,even your own back yard, can offer a break from the crazy world we humans have created for ourselves. And you know, there are many things that have the potential to divide us, but we're all stuck on this big blue planet, together. Ideas of religion, politics, the role of government, laws and rules, thoughts about race and gender and sexual orientation are sometimes powder kegs of feelings and emotion. But, dig just a little deeper and it is obvious that we are all connected, we have the same hopes and dreams and needs, that we all share much more than that which might divide us. The way to go is to find common ground, and I know of some. Put on those boots or hiking shoes, get off the pavement, into the resource, turn your back on the techno-jungle, just for a little while. Walk with me to some vista, watch, no, feel and breathe and be a sunset. Listen to a waterfall, touch some towering old-growth tree, delight your eyes with a field of wildflowers, swim in a high mountain lake... and feel that gentle connection to nature, feel the golden sun, hear the distant thunder, let the ocean;s crash and spray and tumult calm your soul- that's the common ground that we all share, and it's calling to us...

Bailey Creek, flowng from Lassen Volcanic NP
Bailey Creek, flowng from Lassen Volcanic NP | Source
winter ski patrol, Lassen Volcanic NP
winter ski patrol, Lassen Volcanic NP
Morning sky, Southern Cascades
Morning sky, Southern Cascades | Source


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