I've recently listened to Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks by Andrea Lankford. This book was one of my favorites of 2017 simply because it kept me laughing while not losing it's serious undertone. My eyes were opened to things I had only speculated about in regards to the National Parks. I've listened to a lot of books this year, and this one is the only one I've been excited to start back up each day. John Muir's books were excellent, but much more fluffy than this. To some, these stories are things they've all heard, but to me I was ignorant to many of the situations that park employees are put in on a daily basis. I've always respected the park ranger, park employee, and anyone else working there that helps me see the beauty of this country. I know most are underpaid, underappreciated, and overworked but this book reminded me with a few extreme examples of why I need to remember their services as that: a service.
Some takeaways from the book:
- Too many people don't grasp the reality of hiking the Grand Canyon despite signs, warnings from rangers, and news stories.
- People just don't respect National Parks and what they stand for
- The general population, myself included, do not understand how hard it is to be a park ranger at a National Park
- Park Rangers inevitably deal with death
- I had no idea how many people visited Yosemite - I mean, I had a general idea, but holy shit.
- The NPS, like any other organization, doesn't always spend their money wisely.
As a tourist, I pride myself on at least a little bit of planning ahead and knowing what I'm getting myself into. In the age of information, we have everything at our fingertips. I can understand wanting a little bit of surprise, but generally a trip can be planned without spoil.
- When hiking, backpacking, etc, know what you're doing.
- Know what it means to change elevation while hiking, backpacking, etc.
- Know the climate you'll be in - prepare for extremes.
- Ask questions, legitimate questions.
- If you're an average person, maybe think twice before attempting an extreme hike.
- Don't drive like an idiot, don't park like an idiot, and don't disobey signs in parks. Seriously, don't feed the animals or drive like a maniac.
- Always let someone know where you're going that isn't with you.
- ALWAYS take water when going on long walks, hikes, or backpacking. Seriously, how do people forget this? Don't drink too much water, either. Also, bring a salty snack to help with sodium replenishment.
- Sometimes it's as simple as changing plans to accommodate an unplanned situation.
I'm no expert when it comes to hiking, backpacking, or the desert but I know enough to make sure I stay hydrated and to avoid exhaustion. Western Texas has some dry, hot places and I've been lucky and learned some valuable lessons in terms of hydrating and planning ahead when hiking. No view or accomplishment is worth dying or putting rescuers lives in danger because I didn't plan ahead.
This book came in with the right message at the right time. I am looking at things from a different perspective and I'm also inspired to be better at planning and communicating.