>How to Tick Off a Park Ranger

January 16, 2010 at 3:13 pm (Uncategorized)

>Now Boys and Girls… (picture the Church Lady from Saturday Night Live)

One would assume that coming to a national park implies a certain amount of respect for the park resources, and that respect means following the rules. Fortunately, being Way Out In the Middle of Nowhere, Texas, Big Bend National Park doesn’t attract as much riff raff as some of the other parks situated near large population centers. However, there’s always that handful of folk that make you wonder about the human race.

For instance, TP Cairns. A cairn is a little rock monument built to mark a trail. Sometimes people build them just because. TP Cairns are those little rock mounds attempting to hide evidence of one’s bowel movements or bladder relief, complete with wads of toilet paper peeping between the rocks. Eeew.

People who hike a lot generally know to carry out used toilet paper in a plastic bag (we don’t allow burning in the park) or to dig a deep enough hole to deposit one’s, er, deposits. If one must use a rock for a lid, at least avoid the TP cling-ons.

Another way to tick off a park ranger is to ignore all the No Pets on Trails and Pets Must Be On Leash signs. Especially if it’s Ranger Cindy’s day off and she has to be the one to tell Fido and Fifi’s humans (nicely) that they must remove the free-roaming dogs from the trail and put them on leashes when in approved areas. And then she has to call Dispatch because the dog’s owners have ignored her, since she wasn’t in uniform, and they feel entitled anyway.

Park rangers manning entrance stations get really ticked off if you don’t stop at the stop sign right outside their window, if you blow past – coming or going – despite the speed limit signs, or if an employee or park resident impatiently zips around the booth (into the opposite lane) because he or she can’t wait an extra few minutes for the visitors to be processed in. Heck I feel like this Taco Stand needs a row of sand-filled barrels like those that protect toll booths on the interstates, the way some people drive.

Also if you know you’re coming into a park, and you stashed your Senior or Annual Pass in the trailer you’re towing behind you, and have to hold up the line running back to rummage through it so you can get in for free, entrance station rangers work hard to be “warm and enthusiastic” when you do that.

Being loud and noisy on a hiking trail is likely to tick off a park ranger (on duty or off), because we are often birding, hoping to see a panther or a bear, or enjoying the peace and quiet. It’s not unusual to hear entire conversations from a quarter mile away on some of the popular trails in the park. Of course, if we are in the group that is having a good time, that’s different.

And if you see someone photographing a bird or an animal, don’t just blow past them and then say “sorry” after you’ve scared the animal off. Do you know how hard it is to get a Bewick’s wren close enough and in good lighting? You could have stopped your headlong rush for a moment until I was done photographing it, couldn’t you?

Another way to tick off a park ranger is to leave your Most Important Name etched on a prickly pear pad or a Texas madrone tree bark, or on a stone next to Indian petroglyphs or pictographs. I’m making a photographic collection of this kind of graffiti, and will make a voodoo doll and conjure up spells upon Kevin and Lacey and Gunther and whomever else so blatantly disrespected nature and park property.

This park ranger in particular is ticked off when passed by a vehicle driving 10 to 20 mph over the park’s 45 mph speed limit. Having had many near misses with cottontails, jackrabbits, deer, and birds, I can’t help but think an extra 10 mph of speed would have resulted in roadkill, especially at night when people think they are safe from the law under the cover of darkness. Once I was passed by three high speed vehicles in a row. Imagine my delight when 20 minutes later I saw Law Enforcement had pulled one of them over. Yes! (The excuse given for speeding was “Everyone else was doing it.”)

Of course, even park rangers don’t always do things the way they’re supposed to. And when I do something ignernt or stoopid, that really ticks me off.

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