Conflicting info from rangers

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markskor
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Re: Conflicting info from rangers

Post by markskor » Mon Feb 11, 2013 8:46 am

Rangers - conflicted?
I regularly hike with one of the best (or once was...) and have discovered that one Ranger in particular is seriously conflicted.

On another note, having spent a little time in Yosemite, a big shout out for the Tuolumne Ranger crew. A trailhead hub, hundreds come through that shack daily during the summer season. Greg in particular does an amazing job running the desk, picking/training individuals who: 1) know the backcountry, and 2) have the "right stuff", able to interact with novices and pros, treating all with courtesy, speed, and tact - fricking amazing. The permit process, dealing with the bureaucracy, the same questions too-oft repeated...what a thankless job done well here - indeed seasoned warriors. Quite the opposite in the Valley, where depending on the time of day, you are just as likely to encounter clueless rookies, many never getting out to, or off of, most wilderness trails, or if you get lucky, a weathered vet...or someone in between. As for your question about who answers the phones in Wawona – probably the same crap shoot. Ask for a permit to Edna, Adair, or Bench Canyon and the odds are 50/50 whether you get a clueless stare or a smile of envy.

Thankfully, all the backcountry Rangers, those who are long-time wilderness-stationed seem to know their stuff. Two areas of expertise here – cars/ trailhead/ crowd control vs. backcountry expertise…few have both areas covered.
Mountainman who swims with trout

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Re: Conflicting info from rangers

Post by ndwoods » Mon Feb 11, 2013 9:50 am

I almost always get exactly the help I need, or an honest "I don't know" which I appreciate.

One time....we went to a ranger station to get our permit. An elderly gal finding out our route said be very careful, "the creek" was running high, and she looked a little worried about us when she said it. Then another gal came in ....a younger native american gal and with a smirk told us no problem with the creek. I scratched my head over the smirk but dismissed it. We spent almost 3 days of 4 getting to the creek. It was a loop and after the creek we would be back to the car shortly. The creek was a raging river about 50 feet across...this could never be classified as a creek even in a drought year! It was about 15 ft deep and frothing wild white water that I wouldn't have kayaked! There had been a huge cement bridge you could drive a car across that had been washed out 2-3 years previously. After cursing the gal with the smirk, we turned and hightailed it back 3 days worth in 1 day! The elderly gal obviously probably didn't get out much anymore and was probably a volunteer. The other gal? Just plain mean....:(
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Re: Conflicting info from rangers

Post by SweetSierra » Mon Feb 11, 2013 10:28 am

Markskor,

Like you said, to get good information go to the backcountry rangers. I often ask for the backcountry ranger, and they have always (in my experience) been generous with their time and information. They know exactly what you're asking about and are usally two or three steps ahead of you in offering advice or info. I've had great extended conversations with them about backcountry areas far off the beaten path. I also like the Tuolumne Meadows area rangers and concur about their patience and expertise. I had to change my plans on the fly once. I arrived at the permit kiosk in the morning only to find all the permits taken for my trailhead. The ranger then gave me a couple of good recommendations for other trailheads that still had slots available. I was going solo so it took a little time to decide on the best route. There were people lining up but but they were kind and patient.

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Re: Conflicting info from rangers

Post by Wandering Daisy » Mon Feb 11, 2013 10:29 am

Just a few observations.

Fishing regulations on Forest Service land are the responsibility of the Game and Fish Dept. Unless the ranger personally fishes, they really have no interest in learning these, and it really is not their job to do so.

I have raised kids, have grandkids. I am not sure why this is so, but it seems like at some point (anyone under age 30) young people are reluctant to say "I do not know". It is not that they are mean, they just think that saying something that the person asking wants to hear (and make them feel good) is more important than accuracy or truth. I also think that in the internet age, lots of people rely on hearsay. I do not think they actually have been trained to be skeptical of all the false information out there.

I always ask if something is "legal". Bear cannisters for example. Thay all say a bear cannister must be taken. Then I ask, is this a legal requirement or recommendation.

When office rangers relate backcountry information I always ask - did they see those conditions personally, or who exactly told them, and exactly when was this information told to them. Many office rangers are relying on week old information.

Inter-office communication seems to be really lacking in all the government agencies. The right hand often does not know what the left hand is doing. Inyo Forest is, in my opinion, the exception. They seem to be ahead of the curve on their websites and communicting between offices.

I think it is our responsibility as backpackers to know the regulations and research conditions (do our homework) before we get our permit. The rangers then can fill us in on current conditions or specific changes (such as a fire restriction was put in place this morning).

Half the information I get from office rangers I take with a grain of salt. But overall, I have had some great experiences with absolutely helpful rangers. If the person at the desk looks like an 18-year old, they probably are summer help and tend to lack a lot of training or correct information. I just would like the summer help to be encouraged to say "I do not know" more often rather than just making up something to please us or because they are afraid they would get a bad job review of they say they do not know.

We all seem to want something for nothing nowadays. How can we expect to have expert Rangers when we are not willing to pay taxes to support the agencies they work for?

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Re: Conflicting info from rangers

Post by oldranger » Mon Feb 11, 2013 11:24 am

I don't normally disagree with WD in public but my experience, both as a visitor and a ranger is different. The older people behind the desk are more often the ones that have led people astray re regulations. If they have been around awhile they sometimes don't familiarize themselves with changes or somehow the changes don't register. On the other hand the younger ones seem to think that what is a reasonable days hike for them is equally reasonable for everyone else. Once had a desk person tell someone that the 50+/- Loop from Sunset Meadow TH to Roaring River over Elizabeth Pass to Lodgepole and back to Sunset Meadow TH was a reasonable 3 day trip! For the ranger, possibly, but not for many people.

WD brings up a great point about trail conditions reports. They are almost by definition "out of date." Knowledge and experience helps to interpret trail condition reports. And sometimes reports are based on a short term event, for example dangerous fords reported immediately after or during a thunderstorm or peak spring runnoff after a week of superhot weather. More than once I have had office people tell me that a trip was not feasible but not only was it feasible for me but dozens of other people. These observations are not intended as license to ignore trail conditions reports and advice, especially if you are relatively inexperienced, but to know that all the information available can be incomplete and inaccurate.

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Re: Conflicting info from rangers

Post by Wandering Daisy » Tue Feb 12, 2013 8:45 am

OR - feel free to disagree with me publically! You are very polite in the way that you express disagreement. I think everyone has different experinces. I tend to ask fewer questions regarding regulations versus backcountry conditions. My observation of younger people include more than rangers - clerks in stores, servers at resturants. My own kids! But that is sterotyping, and not always true. I do not think getting multiple answers to the same questions is unique to rangers. I have also read some of those regulations - my goodness, some are really confusing and vague - my eyes glaze over before I get to the second paragraph. I do not see how anyone could answer without discrepencies.

I will admit to a sneaky practice. I ask questions that I already know the answers. If the employee answers these wrongly, then I do not ask the question I that I really need the answer! I do this regularly at REI and other outdoor stores. There is a wide range of expertise among the staff.

You also have to know how to ask the right question to get the right answer. Many people are not specific enough with their questions and thus are misunderstood. Also, polite repectful backpackers got better answers.

I would not make a good ranger. After about two hours of the same question I would probably start to get really snotty.

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Re: Conflicting info from rangers

Post by oldranger » Tue Feb 12, 2013 9:12 am

WD wrote:
I will admit to a sneaky practice. I ask questions that I already know the answers. If the employee answers these wrongly, then I do not ask the question I that I really need the answer! I do this regularly at REI and other outdoor stores. There is a wide range of expertise among the staff.
Me too! Guess that comes from getting old and cagey! Of course your last sentence applies to more than REI!

She also wrote:
You are very polite in the way that you express disagreement.
I know more than a few people are rolling their eyes at that comment! (not the least is my wife!)

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Re: Conflicting info from rangers

Post by LMBSGV » Tue Feb 12, 2013 10:41 am

I will admit to a sneaky practice. I ask questions that I already know the answers. If the employee answers these wrongly, then I do not ask the question I that I really need the answer! I do this regularly at REI and other outdoor stores. There is a wide range of expertise among the staff.
Me too! Guess that comes from getting old and cagey! Of course your last sentence applies to more than REI!
Me three! So is this something done by only us BOF, or most everyone here, regardless of age?

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Re: Conflicting info from rangers

Post by yosehiker » Tue Feb 12, 2013 10:49 am

AlmostThere

Throw "yosemite group limits" into google and hit the first result:

http://www.nps.gov/yose/planyourvisit/b ... groups.htm" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

There's your answer, took all of 10 seconds.

Plus I don't know how "basic" the day hiking limit is. I bet if you asked multiple rangers what the overnight group size limit is you would get the right answer the vast majority of the time. With day hiking limits, I think your response rate would be much lower. It doesn't seem to be an issue most of the time so I bet fewer people know about it. I bet a lot of people on this forum knew the first, but not the second. (I didn't)

And just like any customer service staff in the world, most of the rangers are fine and have good info, while there are a few duds and some excellent ones too. Seems to be a little incident way overblown.

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Re: Conflicting info from rangers

Post by AlmostThere » Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:47 pm

I am looking for seki, not yosemite!!!!

the trip planner on the seki website says one thing, people i talk to say that is just related to backpacking.

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Last edited by AlmostThere on Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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