Friday, June 25, 2010

According to the "Knoxville Sentinel" and the link below at officials at the Great Smokey Mountains National Park had to euthenize a black bear after it bit a photographer. See the details at the link below.

Following an investigation by Park Rangers, the photographer has been charged with interfering with and molesting wildlife. It was discovered that the photographer approached within one foot of the wild bear to get a close up. The bear reacted to this threat and bit what appeared to be an overly aggressive human on the foot.
The bear was put to death due to a park policy that any bear that causes injury to a human will be destroyed.
Learn more about being safe around wildlife and what you can do to help protect them in National Parks in my book "A Park Ranger's Life: Thirty Two Years Protecting Our National Parks."

Joys of Rural Living

Over the years we have entertained many overnight visitors who comment on how rural the area we live in appears. I have to admit that our local options for goods and services are somewhat limited, but it is not as remote as it may seem. After all, we do have our own telephone book issued every year by Verizon that include the “Superyellowpages.” We just received our annual edition for Raphine, Virginia in the mail yesterday.

Here are some facts that bust that middle of nowhere myth:

Our phone book includes 12 pages of instructions on how to use your phone to make calls.
This is followed by 11 ½ pages of residential telephone numbers.

The “Superyellowpages” are much lengthier at 35 pages.

Within those 35 pages are 5 full page and 44 other ads for the “Superyellowpages.”

We have 4 restaurants to choose from listed in the ads:
Burger King, Frank’s Pizza, McDonalds, and Wendy’s (all located near the interstate)

There are also 4 Septic Tank Services listed in the book.

With all these services and the telephone company at our side, I would argue that we are not quite so cut off from society as some may believe.

And think about the next time you want to show off your upper body strength. Wouldn’t you rather rip our phone book in half than yours?

2010 Raphine, Virginia Telephone Book

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Murdered Park Ranger Remembered on The Blue Ridge Parkway

The following is taken from the National Park Service Morning Report for June 24, 2010-
Rangers salute Joe Kolodski and his sacrifice at the site of his murder, Big Witch Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway NPS photo.

This past Monday, June 21st, marked the twelfth anniversary of the murder of Ranger Joe Kolodski.
Kolodski, a ranger at Great Smoky Mountains, was shot and killed responding to a report of a man with a rifle threatening visitors at Big Witch Gap on the Blue Ridge Parkway. He was ambushed and shot as he stood beside his patrol car.
At 2:50 p.m., the time at which Kolodski was killed, over 25 rangers and officers from the Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smoky Mountains, and nearby cooperating agencies, gathered at the site. The Blue Ridge and Smokies dispatch centers broadcast notices asking for a moment of silence to remember the tragedy and to honor the sacrifice he made.
On a memorial outside the Blue Ridge Parkway Headquarters Building, the following words are inscribed: "On June 21, 1998, while protecting visitors from harm, United States Park Ranger Joseph D. Kolodski was slain in the line of duty. His service and sacrifice to the National Park Service and the people of this country will never be forgotten."
By continuing to remember, we continue to learn and grow as an agency and as a team. Please take a moment to honor Joe by remembering him and the sacrifice he and his family made; Joe left behind a wife, Florie, and three children, Rachel, Sarah, and Samuel.

Name: Lena Boesser-Koschmann, Assistant Chief Ranger

Joe, your sacrifice is not forgotten.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Core Ops Budget Process DOA

For years National Parks have been required to go through a directed budgetary exercise called Core Ops.  This process involved a trained team of facilitators coming to a park for several days to lead the park’s management staff through a budgetary process to focus their attention on the core mission of the park.  This process has a well meaning description, but the underlying purpose was to force park superintendents to make deep cuts into already strapped budgets and staffs.  The visiting teams and regional offices were never satisfied until the teams identified major expenditure cuts and reductions in staffing. 

A park superintendent who was already doing an outstanding job in managing their budget and keeping all funded operations directly related to their mission were still required to make even more cuts to satisfy the money gods in Washington.  The park rangers and other employees in the field were left with the perception that the underlying purpose of this program was to show politicians that the National Park Service could do with less money and thus look good.

It is interesting all the emotions that the Core Ops topic brings out.  I remember going through a very painful few days of a Core Ops workshop on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Although the park's managers could exhibit reams of cost saving measures that had already been taken and lists of positions (as many as 60 permanent jobs in this one park) that were being left vacant the team wanted more and more cuts no matter what the cost to the mission of the agency.  One division became defensive and after a breakout session decided that everything they did was core mission and that they should suffer no cuts and money should be taken from other divisions to support their operations.  The result was not a team building exercise but the creation of derision within the park. The budget processes that the Core Ops team kept pressing were already dogma on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

With the limited budgets that parks are given, managers are making core mission decisions on a daily basis.  If they are not basing decisions for expenditures based on the agency’s mission, then why are they in their positions? 

As tax payers we want our government to be conscious of frivolous spending and our officials responsible to the job they were hired to do.  Core Ops was a very expensive overkill to obtain political budgetary compliance.

The final result of my experience with Core Ops was a huge bill to the park to pay for the Core Ops Team, their multiple trainees, and special observers and guests from the regional office visit Asheville, N.C.  Where is the money savings in that?

John Jarvis the Director of the National Park Service has put an end to Core Ops.  I say bravo to Director Jarvis for putting this expensive politically popular giant to bed.  National Parks will not longer be subject to this expensive and painful process.

To learn more and have a better understanding to the subject, go to the National Parks Traveler web site at:

Fellow Writer Reviews "A Park Ranger's Life"

The following review of "A Park Ranger's Life" was written by former National Park Ranger and author Andrea Lankford.  Ms. Lankford has published four books related to National Parks;

Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks
Haunted Hikes: Spine-Tingling Tales and Trails from North America's National Parks
Biking the Arizona Trail: The Complete Guide to Day-Riding and Thru-Biking
Biking the Grand Canyon Area

Bytnar's chilling story about the haunted colonial mansion was alone worth the price of admission. But, as readers of A Park Ranger's Life will discover, historic haints and wayward bears addicted to Kentucky Fried Chicken are the least of a park ranger's worries. 

In Bytnar's book, A Park Ranger's Life: Thirty-Two Years of Protecting Our National Parks, the veteran ranger tells the real story behind what it is like to patrol the Blue Ridge Parkway, a 469-mile long park through some of the best scenery the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and North Carolina have to offer. 

At times Mr. Bytnar's misadventures with wily fugitives, inept sheriffs, and park managers who make rattlesnakes seem cuddly are hilarious for us to read. Although these events must have seemed less funny at the time Bytnar was experiencing them. "Living in a national park is not the ideal situation that most people envision," the veteran park ranger tells us. "You end up living with your job 24 hours a day." 

With his modest and articulate voice, Bytnar epitomizes what we would like our park rangers to be. Sturdy, good-humored, and fearless, he is a real-life Dudley Do-right who adores his family and pays for the apple coveted by a hungry but penniless boy inside a country store. But even for the likes of Bytnar something has to give. 

For more about Bytnar and his book, A Park Ranger's Life, here's a story that appeared in National Parks Traveler (an excellent webzine on National Parks).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Conditions Along the Mexican Border

A very interesting and informative article about the affects of illegal activities along our border with Mexico on public lands can be found at:

The article references the murder of National Park Ranger Kris Eggle at Organ Pipe National Monument in 2002.

A marijuana grow operation as described in this article and accompanying video was found on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Virginia several years ago.

A friend recently forwarded this photo of a sign in Arizona placed near the Mexican Border by the Bureau of Land Management

Park Rangering in Africa

National park rangers in the Democratic Republic of Congo killed two soldiers after the troops killed an elephant at a protected site, one of the rangers said Monday.
The rangers "killed immediately" the soldiers from the 18th Brigade of the Congolese army in the clash on Sunday in Virunga National Park in eastern Congo, one of the rangers said on condition of anonymity.
"One of us is injured," the ranger added.
A local group, Innovation for the Development and Protection of the Environment, said the incident happened two kilometres from the park's Rwindi Bridge.
According to IDPE, soldiers killed 12 elephants in the area in May and have armed young people to encourage poaching on the site.
Set up in 1925, the Virunga National Park is classed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and it is the oldest game reserve in Africa.
It is home notably to 200 mountain gorillas and a small population of plains gorillas, a species strongly faced with the threat of extinction.
But the park, on the northeastern border with Uganda, is a base not only to army units but to warring militia groups and rebel forces, all of whom kill animals for food and chop down trees for charcoal to burn.

To read this story at its original site go to:

New Template and Format

For you returning readers, you may have noted the change in the appearance of this site.  I have made some updates and used a new template.  What do you think?  Let me know in the comments section below.

Indiana Road Trip

I have not been on the blog for a week since my family and I have been on the road to Northern Indiana.  My cousin’s son has just graduated from high school and we went to attend the festivities and enjoy Hoosier farm land hospitality and cooking.

On the road trip from Virginia we passed through Nelsonville, Ohio the home of Hocking College.  This brought back fond memories of the several National Park Service employees I hired who graduated from this school’s Seasonal Law Enforcement Training Program.

We stopped overnight in Columbus, Ohio the home of Ohio State University one of the colleges making use of my book in their curriculum teaching resource protection.  While cruising from our hotel looking for a promising place to eat, we happened upon one of those wonderful surprises you do not expect.  While stopped at a light I looked to my left and noticed an attractive brick lined business district.  It looked like someone had plopped a small New England town in the middle of Ohio.  We later discovered that this is exactly what had happened back in 1803 when the first white settlers moved into the area from Connecticut and Massachusetts establishing the town of Worthington.

In the midst of this picturesque business district we found the “La Chatelaine French Bakery and Café.”  The authentic French cuisine was incredible, the baked chicken to die for.  We enjoyed the food and atmosphere sitting in the street side café so much that a return the next morning for breakfast was mandatory.  In fact, our return journey several days later was structured around another visit to “La Chatelaine.”  This food experience made such an impression that my wife is now checking real estate prices in the area.

Once in Indiana we made a quick stop to check on Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.  This is an oasis of natural Lake Michigan shore line preserving the mountainous (by flat Indiana regional standards) sand dunes.  The park land is sandwiched between the industrial might that built our country with power plants on one side and steel mills on the other.  Along with the habitat of the dunes you will find swimming beaches, historic farm buildings, campgrounds, and nature trails.  This park is almost next door to Gary, Indiana (the birthplace of Michael Jackson) and about an hour and a half from Chicago (the home town of the Cubs.  My family would disown me if I did not get that plug in here).

Now back in Virginia there is gardening to catch up on as well as blogging to be done.  So let the writing begin!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Blue Ridge Parkway 75th Anniversary Event

Drawing by Carlton Abbott
On Sunday June 13th I attended an event to celebrate the opening of the Nelson Scenic Loop and the 75th Anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway at Skylark Farms in Virginia. About 300 people enjoyed a day of traditional mountain music, kite flying, picnicking, displays, presentations, and an opportunity to purchase a signed copy of my book “A Park Ranger’s Life.”

Notable amongst the presenters was the renowned landscape architect Carlton Abbott. Mr. Abbott’s father was Stanley Abbott one of the initial designers and first Superintendent of The Blue Ridge Parkway. Carlton Abbott is an award winning architect and land planner recognized for his talent as an artist through his pen and ink architectural drawings. The audience was captivated by Mr. Abbott’s stories of his father and growing up with the Blue Ridge Parkway in its early days.

I was pleased that one of my books was purchased by Carlton Abbott to add to his personal collection. I also got an inside scoop that he is working on his own book about the Blue Ridge Parkway that will feature many of his incredible drawings. I plan to add that book to my collection when it is published.

Shown in the Photo Above Doris Broker from the Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway, Carlton Abbott, and Bruce Bytnar at the Nelson Loop and Blue Ridge Parkway 75th Anniversary Event at Skylark Farms

Interesting Blue Ridge Parkway Facts gleaned from the presentations:

10% of all the bridges in National Park Service areas are on the Blue Ridge Parkway

37% of all the tunnels in National Park Service areas are on the Blue Ridge Parkway

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Park Ranger Tips – Key to Safety in National Parks; Awareness

Since February 2010 National Park visitors have been permitted to carry firearms in parks based on the state and local laws where the park is located. This change in regulatory control of firearms which has been in place since the 1880s has sparked a debate about crime in our parks. I have several thoughts to throw in on this conversation.

Crime does exist in our National Parks. Criminals and those who can be provoked into criminal acts visit parks just like anyone else. Even gang members have been known to take vacations and have meetings in National Parks. The crime rate in National Parks is not any higher or more violent than the areas that surround them. Some parks are near or within easy driving distances of heavy crime urban areas. One such area is Lake Mead which is near Las Vegas, Nevada. What happens in Vegas does not always stay there as their ads claim. At times it starts there and ends up at Lake Mead.

When a violent crime occurs in one of our parks, we take it personally. Some liken it to having a crime committed in their own back yard. Visitors often have an inflated sense of protection and safety while traveling in National Parks. There are not enough park rangers out there to ensure complete protection for each of the more than 275 million people who flock to our parks each year.

Many visitors who travel to National Parks come with a naive sense of safety thinking they have left crime and other dangers completely behind. The result is that they do not take the precautions that they may take at home to protect their families and themselves. They forget simple practices such as keeping the family together, locking vehicle doors, not leaving valuables visible, and listening to their own inner conscience when a situation does not look right to them. Cues that may spell danger to a person at home are ignored and disregarded while visiting a National Park.

In his book "The Gift Of Fear," Gavin DeBecker eloquently describes how to perfect and listen to your inner voice in recognizing threats that can be applied at home and while traveling. I highly recommend this book to everyone who wants to improve their ability to protect themselves and their families.

Other visitors do not take into account that they are entering a natural and uncontrolled environment. They come with a mindset that no matter what they do; how lost they get, how over their head they get climbing a mountain, a park ranger will come and rescue them. Caution is thrown to the wind to get that adrenalin or testosterone thrill and bragging rights.

A point was made recently by one of the pro-firearms bloggers that I have to agree with in concept. Ultimately each individual is responsible for their own safety. There will never be enough National Park Rangers and other staff to be there for you every minute of your visit. Personal awareness, good decision making, listening to your conscience, avoiding possibly dangerous situations, and common sense may prove to be a much better way to protect yourself than relying on a firearm to get you out of a situation.

All that said, National Parks are no more dangerous than any other vacation spot in this country. Being fully prepared for your visit can ensure a fun, educational, and safe memory.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Fathers Day Gift Idea

Looking for a gift for that dad who likes the outdoors, national parks, and adventure?  Perhaps your dad always dreamed of being a park ranger.  These are some of the reasons people have already bought copies of "A Park Ranger's Life: Thirty Two Years Protecting Our National Parks" as a gift for holidays and even this coming June 20th Fathers Day.

Here is what a few readers have said about "A Park Ranger's Life;"

"Anyone who loves National Parks would love this book."

"I could hardly put the book down, good pace and chapter length."

 "Excellent examples, great stories, and life lasting experiences...."

"Highly suggested to anyone with a passion for the outdoors."

 "...once you start a story you can't put it down until you finish. Makes you feel like you are there and part of the story."

"Recommended book for all ages."

"This book is awesome. I have already read it all and enjoyed it thoroughly."

"If you ever wanted to be a park ranger this is a must read for you."

"This was very entertaining, honest and gives the average person a very readable book on just what a ranger faces everyday."

 "Bruce Bytnar's book is a masterpiece of behind-the-scenes life in the National Park Service."

The University of Ohio, Slippery Rock University, and Northern Arizona University have all made "A Park Ranger's Life" required reading for those studying resource protection and working toward a career as a National Park Ranger.

For ordering information, look to the right hand column of this blog.

Another Assault on Federal Land Mangement Officers

The following is taken from the National Park Service Morning Report for June 9, 2010


NPS Ranger Assists BLM Rangers In Shooting Incident

A supervisory ranger from the Southeast Arizona Group provided backup for BLM rangers who’d been shot at near Fort Bowie NHS on the afternoon of June 7th. Two BLM rangers took high-power rifle fire while in their vehicles, but were able to return fire at their assailant’s vehicle. He then fled and was believed to have barricaded himself in his residence. The NPS ranger was among the first on scene, and, with others, set up a perimeter and controlled access to the area. Law enforcement officers and agents from the Border Patrol, FBI, Arizona Department of Public Safety, the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office (including their SWAT team) and others also responded. A woman inside the house fired on the SWAT team members, but surrendered after OC and CS gases were employed. The house was searched, but the man was not found and is still at large.

My Review of Ranger Confidential

Originally submitted at REI

Ranger Confidential offers a behind-the-scenes look at the life of a ranger in America's national parks.

Retired Park Ranger/Writer's Perspective

By bwbytnar from Raphine, Virginia on 6/9/2010


5out of 5

Gift: No

Pros: Easy to read

Describe Yourself: Professional/Guide

Even though I spent more than 32 years as a National Park Ranger and lived many experiences similar to those depicted in Ranger Confidential, I found the book exciting and riveting. Andrea Lankford is a gifted writer and story teller who passes on experiences she lived first hand in some of our most popular and risk filled parks. The risks portrayed in this book are taken by park visitors and result in the danger and stress placed on park rangers attempting to protect them from the park, themselves, and other human predators.
I remember hearing of many of the adventures in this book in National Park Service Morning Reports and at ranger training courses and meetings. Ms. Lankford relates the inside back-story of these incidents in an accurate and colorful way. I found the book hard to put down.
The book honestly reflects the emotional and physical consequences of being a National Park Ranger. Although I was not there hanging off Half Dome or the edge of the Grand Canyon with these rangers, this book stirred many of the same emotions, frustrations, and challenges I faced in my career.
I highly recommend Park Ranger Confidential to anyone interested in our National Parks or what it takes to be a National Park Ranger in a major park today.
Bruce W. Bytnar, Author of A Park Ranger's Life: Thirty Two Years Protecting Our National Parks


Monday, June 7, 2010

Park Ranger Assaulted at Gulf Islands Over Dog Off Leash

The following is taken from and dated June 6

A couple were arrested Saturday after a man reportedly pepper-sprayed a National Park Service ranger at Johnson Beach on Perdido Key.

The man, David Watkins, 39, of Pace, is charged with aggravated battery on an officer. His wife, Janna Simon, 41, address unavailable, is charged with battery on an officer and resisting an officer with violence, Dane Tantay, Florida district ranger for the Park Service said.

The couple are being held in Escambia County Jail. Watkins was being held on $50,000 bond. Simon was being held on $5,000 bond. A court date is set for June 25.

Here is what park rangers say happened:

At about 1:30 p.m., a female ranger approached Simon near Pavilion H at Johnson Beach and began to write her a ticket for having a dog on the beach. The National Park Service would not release the ranger's name.

"We don't allow dogs in Escambia or Santa Rosa County," Tantay said. "Gulf Islands National Seashore follows suit."

The ranger also began questioning Simon about an open container of alcohol in her hand, Tantay said.

That's when Watkins allegedly pepper-sprayed the ranger, who drew her gun.

"When an officer is under that kind of duress and gets pepper-sprayed by an individual, they have the authority to protect themselves and others," Tantay said.

However, witnesses said the ranger pulled her gun right after she ticketed the couple for having an animal on the beach.

Witness Tricia Simon, Janna Simon's sister, also said she thought the ranger was reaching for a Taser stun gun to shock the couple's dog, Abbey. Tricia Simon said the dog had approached the ranger in a friendly, nonthreatening manner.

The investigation is ongoing, Tantay said.

Tantay said bringing pets onto the National Seashore's beaches is a petty misdemeanor.

Violators face up to $85 in fines.

"It's a huge problem," he said. "Especially this time of year. We have our shore bird-nesting season. Dogs can be detrimental to the birds."

Tantay said pets are allowed in parking lots, but only if they are leashed. And they cannot be left in vehicles unattended.

Overlooked Story of the Blue Ridge Parkway

When stories are told of the building and development of the Blue Ridge Parkway the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) is often cited for their contributions. Another group who also had a part in the construction and development of recreation areas throughout the park was Conscientious Objectors (also known as CO’s) during World War II. The draft laws of World War II allowed for “those by reason of religious training and belief" opposed the war to be exempt from military service.

During the war 25,000 CO’s served in non-combat roles in all branches of the military. Some worked in understaffed mental institutions.  Other volunteered to be subjects for medical experiments on hunger. Another 20,000 fought forest fires and worked on conservation projects in rural areas through the Civilian Public Service agency. This later group was placed in camps which had been previously used by the Civilian Conservation Corps that was disbanded in 1942 as most of the 18 to 24 year old men in that program were taken into the military.

The CCC participants were unskilled labor recruited from areas with low employment due to The Depression. The Conscientious Objectors were made up of men who were from a variety of backgrounds including successful farmers, craftsmen, and intellectuals. CO’s came with a variety of skills that were put to work on many rural improvement and park projects.

One CO Camp was located at Sherando Lake in Virginia. This was a former CCC Camp on US Forest Service property. Out of this camp men worked on the Blue Ridge Parkway in the area of Humpback Rocks on trails and construction of stone walls such as those found at the Humpback Rocks Parking Area (MP 6) and Reeds Gap (MP 13). The military started to accumulate prisoners of war from mainly naval engagements. They needed facilities to accommodate these growing populations and consequently the Sherando Camp was transferred to the military and the CO’s moved to Camp #121 in Bedford, Virginia. There the men began work in the Peaks of Otter area of the Parkway. Once again they constructed trails placing stone steps and what were called fire lanes to help contain forest fires. Stone work was also done on walls and around buildings. Today if you visit the Peaks of Otter Nature Center you will walk on a stone patio that goes across the front of the building, through the breezeway, and to the rear of the building where you will find picnic tables. At the front of the building there is a flat stone with the letters “CO” carved. This is one of the few signs left by this group of men who served their country in an alternative way during World War II.

Thanks to Dave Benavitch, USFS Ret. who first told me the story of the CO’ of WWII
Photos From Wikipedia

Friday, June 4, 2010

Blue Ridge Parkway 75th Anniversary Event

A Celebration of the 75th Anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway will be held at Skylark Farms on June 13th from 12 noon to 3pm.  Skylark Farms is located at mile post 25 on the Parkway near Montebello, Virginia.

The event will include a picnic, music, and presentations by Landscape Architect Carlton Abbott and National Park Officials.  There will also be vendors including the Friends of the Blue Ridge Parkway.  I will be on hand with my book, "A Park Ranger's Life," to answer questions and sign and personalize your copy.

The event is sponsored by Oakland Museum, Friends of Blue Ridge Parkway,Washington & Lee University and Rockfish Valley Foundation.

For more information go to:

Reader Review for "A Park Ranger's Life"

The following is taken from the National Parks Traveler Website.

Submitted by Benjamin Lord (not verified) on June 1, 2010 - 1:08pm.

Bruce Bytnar's book is a masterpiece of behind-the-scenes life in the National Park Service. He has written a fun and compelling work that best reveals a perspectice from the field. I bought the book on the Blue Ridge Parkway and enjoyed his experience and commentary. If I ran a park area I would insist every park employee read this book. His discussion of "government fads" whether it be cars or policies is worth every penny in cost to purchase.

However, I would also say that park management deserves a right to explain their side of this fascinating story, and that the Blue ridge PKWY itself is one of the most complicated managment units in the national park system itself.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Park Ranger Tips – Deer vs. Car Collisions

The National Safety Council reported in 2003 that there were 530,000 car collisions involving animals. A major portion of these are wildlife and the largest part of those involved deer. Deer are a common factor in many motor vehicle collisions in National Parks. Most areas administered by the National Park Service provide habitat for white tail and in the west mule deer. A favorite food of deer is the tender new growth of grass along road shoulder after it is mowed. This brings these popular yet hazardous representatives of nature in close proximity of fast moving vehicles.

Here are a few tips that will help you understand the dynamics of deer movement and how to avoid collisions that can cause serious property damage and at times personal injuries.

• Deer are most active at dawn and dusk. This is when they like to feed so you are most likely to see deer on road shoulders.

• Remember that deer can also be encountered any other time of day.

• Drive the speed limit or below when in areas frequented by deer. This applies to most park areas.

• Be alert scanning tree lines and road shoulders for deer including the reflection from their eyes at night.

• Once you see deer or the reflection of eyes, slow down, and stay alert for movement.

• If you see deer running across the road in front of your vehicle, do not follow where they are going with your eyes. Instead look to where the deer came from. Deer do not travel alone and more deer may come from the same direction.

• At times deer will run down the road in front of your vehicle in a zig-zag pattern. Drivers are often confused by this behavior. Their natural instincts are kicking in and this is how they attempt to escape a predator. If you stop your vehicle, they will finally run off the road.

• Should a deer jump into the road in front of you, hit your brakes and stay in your lane. More extensive damage and more serious injuries can result from swerving to avoid the deer and striking a tree, rock, or oncoming vehicle.

• You will see devices sold that you can place on your vehicle that make whistling sounds to scare deer away. It was my experience that these do not guarantee safety and I saw many vehicles with this equipment in place still have collisions with deer.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Crime on The Blue Ridge Parkway

An article written by former National Park Ranger Andrea Lankford appears on the National Parks Traveler web site dealing with crime on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  The article references the book, "A Park Ranger's Life" and other sources as it discusses some of the more serious murder cases that have occurred in the park.

You can access the full article at the link below:

Andrea is also the author of several books about our National Parks.  Her most recent publication is the book "Ranger Confidential: Living, Working, and Dying in the National Parks." I highly recommend this honest and heartfelt study of the work done by park rangers and the price it extracts from these dedicated protectors of our National Parks.  Even though I lived many experiences similar to those illustrated in her book, I found it hard to put down and it produced many hard to explain or ignore emotions.  I highly recommend this book which you can find available on

The National Park Visitor Experience

A visit to any area of our National Park System generates different experiences for each individual. The memories of your visit will imprint specific meanings and values within your mind. Recently I was able to view a microcosm of these phenomena for myself while visiting Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine. Fort McHenry is a small inner city area of only 42 acres, but its significance in our nation’s history as the birthplace of our National Anthem establishes its place among our National Parks.

I have to admit that this place also holds important personal significance to me since I started my career as a park ranger here in 1975 and met my future bride while working there.

During our two hour visit I witnessed a number of people experiencing the park in their own personal way.

As visitors were asked to help raise the flag, there was a small child that crawled under the reproduction of the 30 by 42 foot banner that flew over Fort McHenry during the battle of 1814. She sat there basking in the red, white, and blue tinted sunshine that flowed through the modern nylon flag. You could see the joy on her face and not help but know that this would be a memory that could last a lifetime.

Then there was the small group of visitors on one of the walls listening to a park ranger dressed as a soldier of 1814 telling of the impending approach of the British fleet. I could see in the eyes of the audience as at least some were being transported back to that time as they looked out across Baltimore Harbor.

Inside one of the original buildings of the Fort is an exhibit on many of the military residents that occupied this army post from 1776 to 1946. A young African-American couple was standing in front of an exhibit about an ex-slave who served as a soldier at Fort McHenry during the early days and growing pains of our country. I could tell by the way they were reading the narrative of the exhibit to each other that they were finding it fascinating and illuminating forming a personal link to their heritage.

I was also privileged to meet several seasonal park rangers who were completing their first week working for the National Park Service. I found them to be excited, enthusiastic, and full of the sense of purpose that I remember from a day in June 1975 when I stood in these same shoes. That memory will be placed indelibly in my mind and I thank them for that gift.

If you have not taken the time lately, you need to visit a National Park Service area near you. I guarantee that you will come back with memories that will help carry you above the fray of everyday life.

Grizzly Bear Shot and Killed By Hikers

The following is taken from the National Park Service Morning Report for June 1, 2010.

Two backpackers, a man and woman, encountered a grizzly bear last Friday evening while hiking in the dense brush along the edge of Tattler Creek, which is at the west end of Igloo Canyon, approximately 35 miles from park headquarters. The man, who was in the lead, drew a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol when they heard a noise coming from the brush. When the bear emerged from the thicket and ran toward the other hiker, he fired approximately nine rounds in its general direction. The bear stopped, turned, and walked back into the brush, where it quickly disappeared from view. The backpackers ran and hiked approximately a mile and a half back to the road, where they encountered a National Park Service employee who called in the incident to the park’s communication center and transported them to the Toklat Road Camp. A ranger there did a short preliminary interview with them around 10 p.m. Because of the concern that a wounded bear was in the area, four backcountry units were immediately closed and bus drivers were instructed to not drop off day hikers in Igloo Canyon on Saturday. Early Saturday morning, rangers and wildlife technicians flew to Toklat via helicopter to conduct a secondary interview with the two backpackers. Afterwards they flew over Tattler Creek and all of side tributaries, very low at times, to determine if there was an active, wounded bear. No bears were seen during the overflight. Late in the afternoon, three rangers hiked into the site and found the bear dead in a willow thicket approximately 100 feet from the pistol casings. The bear’s body was transported via helicopter to a landing site on the park road and brought back to headquarters on Sunday, where park wildlife biologists are assisting with the investigation of the bear carcass. The backcountry units have been reopened. The case is still under investigation, and the names of the backpackers are not being released at this time. Park wildlife biologists and rangers are trying to determine if there was a justification for shooting the animal. It is legal to carry a firearm in the former Mt. McKinley National Park portion of the park, but it is not legal to discharge it. This is the first known instance of a grizzly bear being shot by a visitor in the wilderness portion of the park. The estimated grizzly bear population in the park north of the Alaska Range north is 300 to 350 animals.