Much love to park rangers, staff members and volunteers

On Valentine’s Day, many of us will share gifts and cards with loved ones, all in the name of Saint Valentine. On the eve of this Valentine’s Day, let’s show some love to the saints of our public lands, the park rangers, staff and volunteers! 

High five to all the people taking care of our nation’s parks! 

High five to all the people taking care of our nation’s parks! 

When my husband and I plan our national park vacations, Google is our best friend, from the Google Doc we create to store our itinerary and ideas to Googling terms like, “best hiking trails in (fill in the blank).” We consult our National Geographic Guide to National Parks of the United States, and, depending on the size of the park, we may buy a National Geographic map. And we check out trusted websites (like Hashtag 59!) to see what other hikers have enjoyed in the park. 

The first stop: the Visitor Center. 

The first stop: the Visitor Center. 

Even with all the info available prior to the trip, there are some other sources we rely on: the park rangers and volunteers. Like most national park guests, our first stop is typically the Visitor Center, where we pick up our ceremonial patch and stop by the information desk. Even with a wealth of digital knowledge at our fingertips, there’s nothing like talking with these folks, most of whom have been on the trails and can offer their perspectives. 

Here are just some of the ways rangers and volunteers have helped us over the years. 

I learned a lot about  Crater Lake,  thanks to an entertaining presentation by ranger Dave, who shared the “Top 10 Reasons Why Crater Lake Isn’t Just an Ordinary Lake” from the Sinnott Memorial Overlook. 

I learned a lot about Crater Lake, thanks to an entertaining presentation by ranger Dave, who shared the “Top 10 Reasons Why Crater Lake Isn’t Just an Ordinary Lake” from the Sinnott Memorial Overlook. 

At  Kings Canyon National Park , a friendly park ranger advised us to snowshoe the Panoramic Point trail. Check out that view! 

At Kings Canyon National Park, a friendly park ranger advised us to snowshoe the Panoramic Point trail. Check out that view! 

Undecided about where to camp at  Petrified Forest National Park,  a ranger warned us about muddy conditions and advised us to hike on the south side of the park. We were glad we did, enjoying solitude and sunset from our backcountry site.  

Undecided about where to camp at Petrified Forest National Park, a ranger warned us about muddy conditions and advised us to hike on the south side of the park. We were glad we did, enjoying solitude and sunset from our backcountry site.  

At  Big Bend National Park , volunteer Jimmy Duke advised us on which trail to take to get to the Colima Pass Campground, encouraging us to “buck up” and take the more challenging Pinnacles Trail. It was a tough hike for sure! But our knees appreciated taking the more gradual route back to the trailhead. We were grateful for Jimmy’s advice and had fun chatting with him. 

At Big Bend National Park, volunteer Jimmy Duke advised us on which trail to take to get to the Colima Pass Campground, encouraging us to “buck up” and take the more challenging Pinnacles Trail. It was a tough hike for sure! But our knees appreciated taking the more gradual route back to the trailhead. We were grateful for Jimmy’s advice and had fun chatting with him. 

The rangers and volunteers are so much more than knowledgeable resources. The national parks have many challenges to be dealt with, from problematic visitors to potentially life-threatening situations. In addition, countless staff members take care of administration, concessions, facilities, maintenance, and a whole host of other needs. So, in a spirit of appreciation and admiration, I offer this (admittedly cheesy but still heartfelt) Valentine to park rangers, staff and volunteers, and I hope you’ll join me in showing them some love and appreciation. And next time you’re in a park, consider dropping some money in the donation box as a thank you to their role protecting and helping us enjoy “America’s Best Idea.” 

Bolton Valentine's Day poem to NPS.png

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Because Adventure Travel Feeds the Soul,
Holly B and the Hashtag 59 Team