Thursday, September 28, 2023


RVer annoyed with park ranger’s attitude

RV Shrink

Dear RV Shrink:
I recently visited Big Bend National Park and discovered I may be a curmudgeon. There are a lot of fossils there, but I didn’t want to be one of them. I began to suspect I was getting old and crotchety when I asked a young ranger with a diamond in her nose about a location I wanted to hike to.

She pointed to an obvious location on the map as if I was directionally challenged, then kind of raised her eyebrows. Without saying a word, she was screaming “idiot” with those raised eyebrows reflecting in her nose jewelry.

When I pointed out the fact that I had already been to the area indicated on the map and that it wasn’t actually the historical location, she again pointed to the map as if I had missed it the first time. It was then I asked for a second opinion.

She disappeared into the back office and came back with the suggestion that I buy a book about the historical location I was inquiring about. I explained that I had already read the book and that is what prompted my question. I was trying, with all the patience I could muster, not to be a curmudgeon, but I think I failed.

I know these rangers get all kinds of stupid questions from the visiting public, but once they become shell-shocked the Park Service should give them a little R&R. Maybe with some time off they would actually get to know the area they are expected to be doling out accurate information.

This seems to work for the volunteers managing the visitor center desks. They seem to know everything and actually want to talk to people. They must all be a bunch of curmudgeons like me. —Burnt in Big Bend

Dear Burnt:
You have to put everything in perspective. Maybe this person was having a bad day. Maybe she just had six people before you ask her why there wasn’t an escalator to the top of Emory Peak. Maybe she just came off a three-day search and rescue that didn’t turn out well.

Rangers wear many hats. I am not making excuses for those individuals who truly are rude from over-exposure to park visitors. They show no professionalism and are obviously in the wrong career field. If you could read the reports of things that go on that are generated every day in the Park Service system, you would appreciate more the task that rangers have to hold it all together to preserve and protect.

I agree with you about the volunteers. They have become an integral part of managing our National Parks.

There is nothing wrong with being a curmudgeon. It is a vital part of personal evolution. Just be careful you don’t get persnickety – that’s when you become a fossil. —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink

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4 years ago

I’ve encountered more problems getting the correct answers to questions more problems with an attitude more problems with short answers because I was interrupting a conversation by just standing there waiting to being acknowledged with females than males that take their job seriously. Dont care if she was having a bad day don’t turn your bad day into a bad day for me. Recent camp ground stay was greeted with an announcement that they have changed all check in personnel because of very unfriendly attitudes from them that was reflected in the camp ground reviews. Guess who that was. Just because you can act like that towards your husband or boy friend doesn’t mean you can act like that to me without consequences. She gets paid to answer questions and keep things orderly, with a smile, no excuses or stay home and make babies.

Patrick Granahan
4 years ago

The RV Shrink missed the point…..the ranger is not a unpaid volunteer…..rangers are paid to do a job and that does not include insulting Park guests.

footloose 2
4 years ago

My husband and I were campground hosts in Montana for quite a few years and we were asked lots of questions. Sometimes it was pretty funny and strange, but probably not to them. We answered them and gave them brochures to help them. More often than not….they were back the next year and told us how appreciative they were and how we helped make their camping trip better. We loved all of it and if you think about it, its all about PR. Plus, we are working for them because they own the Natl forest too!

JC Travel Stories
4 years ago

I don’t doubt the negative experiences of other comments above, but I find it interesting that the original poster found it necessary to point out the diamond in a young person’s nose. It it possible the conversation started out with body language that annoyed the Ranger? Not accusing, just curious. 🙂

4 years ago

That was my thought too. The letter writer sounds like he had a problem with this employee before she ever even opened her mouth.

3 years ago

Nose rings look like buggers hanging out

Sink Jaxon
4 years ago

I agree with RV Shrink, maybe she was having a bad day…I suggest a good read, Ranger Confidential by Andrea Lankford, it provides good insight to what Park Rangers go thru on a daily basis. They are truly overworked and underpaid, and I’d put forth they entered their field not knowing what they were really getting into.

4 years ago
Reply to  Sink Jaxon

Great book! Also any of Nevada Barr’s novels featuring NPS ranger Anna Pigeon will give someone a good idea (though with a lot more drama and intrigue) of what rangers deal with. We’ve spent lots of time on many national parks (are in one now, as a matter of fact) and generally have had great experiences with the rangers. Too bad the letter writer ran into someone who gave him a bad taste of the uniform.

Takes one to know one
4 years ago

Suspect no more Burnt. you are one, as am I. I get along with park rangers so poorly anymore I have to rehearse how not annoy them before speaking to them. I’m pretty sure the problem is me. After rehearsing the situation you describe, I might have pointed to the map myself and said, “I walked to this point and didn’t see the thing. What did I do wrong?” This lets the young ranger agree that I’m a fossil and tell me how I missed it. Which is what I wanted to learn so a win, I guess.

Peggy Coffey
4 years ago

You both sound like you’re angry that the ranger was younger than you are. Get over yourself! These rangers deal with people everyday that think they literally own the park. We saw people at Yellowstone allow their children to get close to elk and buffalo, throw things into the pools and on and on. I couldn’t do their job.

4 years ago

There are two types of rangers, interpretive and law enforcement. All park employees are happy to be of assistance but don’t all have the same duties or skills.

If the ranger questioned was law enforcement “Burnt” may have unknowingly been interfering with an investigation or some other duties.

If the ranger questioned was interpretive, they may have simply not been knowledgeable on the subject matter although they should have found the answer from someone else. Sometimes it can be difficult to provide the answer if the questioner isn’t clear in asking.

And then there are the volunteers, the VIPs (Volunteers in Parks) are working for free and have varied levels of knowledge but are instructed to find someone with the answer.

All of the people I mentioned are human first and foremost with human emotions and foibles. In general volunteers or employees are there because they love the parks and want to serve. I suggest that everyone sign up and contribute in whatever way they can to preserve our parks.

Deborah Mason
4 years ago

I’m sorry, wordlessly pointing to the map to answer a visitor’s question is absolutely unacceptable. Regardless of whatever is going on, rangers are trained (or should be) to remember that no matter how many times they have answered the question, it’s the first time the visitor is asking it. For example: I answered the “where’s that tree you can drive through” almost every day for 9 years (5 in a California State Park and 4 more in a national park). No matter how tired I got of explaining it wasn’t where they thought it was, I answered with courtesy and offered additional information. It was their first time asking it and it was my job to answer that question.

4 years ago

A persnickety curmudgeon, now that’s an appellation to be reckoned with!

Sandy Frankus
4 years ago

I’m already a curmudgeon so when we were looking at summer jobs I told my husband I wanted to mow grass. Saves me from questions and the right answers.

4 years ago

I’ve had the same bad experiences with Park Rangers who work in the front office and the same good experiences with Park Volunteers. I now just brace myself to receive whatever written information they hand to me and hope that I can find someone else in the Park later to answer any questions that I have. I really believe that this is a chronic problem and not an isolated case of an over worked Park Ranger.

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