!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: The US National Park System on PBS

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The US National Park System on PBS

I've been enjoying the Ken Burns series on the US National Parks being broadcast this week on PBS, but hadn't been planning to mention it on the Streamline blog until tonight, when one of the topics turned out to be the fine service provided over the years by the Park Rangers.

Shelton Johnson, a Park Ranger at Yosemite, who speaks eloquently in Ken Burns' documentary, The National Parks: America's Best Idea
(National Park Service)

One thing that caught my ear were some examples of surprising questions park visitors have asked the Rangers. Some of the questions quoted on the show were among those compiled by Debra Shore in a brief item published in the May 1995 issue of Outside magazine. My favorites from Shore's list:

At Grand Canyon National Park, "Is the mule train air-conditioned?"

At Mesa Verde, "Why did they build the ruins so close to the road?" and "Do you know of any undiscovered ruins?"

At Carlsbad Caverns, "How much of the cave is underground?" and "How many Ping-Pong balls would it take to fill this up?"

At Yosemite, "Can I get my picture taken with the carving of President Clinton?"

At Denali, "What time do you feed the bears?" "How often do you mow the tundra?" and "How much does Mount McKinley weigh?"

Debra Shore also compiled some amusing anecdotes of visitor misadventures in the National Parks. I haven't been able to find the original source online, but the anecdotes have been posted at a number of websites, such as that of Bob Brooks, a diligent collector of comic material who works at Computing Information Services at Texas A&M.

A couple of Shore's anecdotes:

In 1993 a woman called 911 from the top of Half Dome using her cellular phone. According to dispatch, she reported: "Well, I'm at the top and I'm really tired." The answering ranger asked if she felt sick. "No," she said, "I'm just really tired and I want my friends to drive to the base and pick me up."The dispatcher explained that she would have to hike down the trail she had ascended. The visitor replied, "But you don't understand, I'm really tired." What happened next? "It turned out we got really lucky," the ranger said,"her phone battery died."

A group of European visitors came into the Wawona ranger station in Yosemite National Park and said, "Our car is parked at the trail head and it's been blown up by terrorists." Though rangers expressed some doubt, the visitors insisted that a bomb had exploded in their car and that they could see powder residue from the explosives. Investigating rangers indeed found that a door had been torn off and a powder-like substance — pancake flour — was strewn about the car."They were quite embarrassed when we showed them the bear prints," the ranger said.


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