Archive for the ‘Ranger Doug Roadtrips’ Category

Malala, Mountains and More Parks….

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016


An early fall morning in Jackson Hole gives me pause…it’s time to head south in the Ranger-Doug-Mobile, my 1948 (serial #3) Airstream.  The annual American Dental Association is in Denver this year and even though I’m retired, off I go to hear the guest speaker……


….who is Malala Yousafzai, the 14 (now 19) year old Pakistani girl who was shot in the face by the Taliban for encouraging girls to attend school in the Swat Valley.  She is also the youngest person to receive the Nobel Prize.  This is one remarkable young woman, who will become President of Pakistan some day perhaps.  Of the 3000 in the audience, about 1/3 filmed her talk on their cell phones–a great distraction of bobbing lights and occasional flashes, especially after being asked to stow these devices beforehand.  I snapped this during a minutes-long standing ovation after her talk.  A truly remarkable young woman….


My turn to speak is next, at the Denver Service Center, National Park Service. The Denver Service Center is the central planning, design, and construction management project office for the National Park Service.  I didn’t get 3000 in my audience, only 40, however these were a most enthusiastic bunch.  I spent a total of almost three hours there complete with a tour of the facility.


After Denver, it’s backtracking to Estes Park, the gateway community to Rocky Mountain National Park where I gave a talk last month. This is one beautiful place.  This photo is from a very windy and steep access road to Pleasant Peak where I took a short hike.


My “rope-mates” are Tom and Kathy Hornbein and Steve Komito, bootmaker extraordinaire–saving soles one boot at a time.  I last saw Steve 48 years ago when I climbed Longs Peak.  In those days we were required to have a back-up rescue team as no one in the NPS could climb the “Diamond” or vertical east face.  So my climbing partner, John Brottem, and I scouted all the available area climbers and brashly presented their names to the NPS so we could get through the gate and on the East Face….  Steve got a chuckle over this.   We climbed about 2/3 “Diamond” before falling ice suggested to us that we retreat.


It was Tom and Kathy who, during a climbing stay at our NPS cabin in the Tetons 45 years ago,  convinced me and my (then) wife, Liz, to attend Medical and Dental school.  Thanks to you both–you changed our lives!  They endured 24 hours of my story telling and I got an earful (and eyeful) about Mt. Everest from the last surviving West Ridge team member.


The “Diamond” is partially eclipsed by the shoulder of Longs Peak.  I made a WPA style poster print for Rocky Mountain National Park which  shows this perspective which you can see here.


Heading south again, I drive along the Colorado Mountain Front to Boulder and am not surprised to be greeted by the suburban sprawl.  Fifty years ago, it was actually a nice little mountain town…..   I’m getting old.


I had never visited Great Sand Dune National Park and Preserve and it’s right on my way–that is to say–in the middle of nowhere.  It is my 176th park unit visited.  This is one beautiful place and preserves a whole ecosystem on the eastern edge of the San Luis Valley.  The wind carries sand up against the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, creating the tallest sand dunes in the country.  Go there!


Someone’s lonely abode in the middle of the San Luis Valley.


The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, billed the “Best Train Ride in America,” is located in the small southern Colorado town of Antonito.  This amazing museum runs a steam passenger train all the way to Chama, New Mexico.  They were rolling (literally) up the carpet when I arrived, pushing cars by hand and forklift out of the winter weather.  But, I’ll return.


It’s Santa Fe for a week’s R&R–I’m frazzled with all this park travel.  I give a talk Saturday morning 9 am at the Santa Fe Hotel, downtown to the Association of National Park Rangers; attend if you can.  This is my 66th formal NPS talk in 14 months.  I’ve driven over 40,000 miles, on my second set of tires on my second car.  Three weeks to go!  Stand by!

Mt. Lassen & the Reno Air Show

Saturday, September 24th, 2016


I decide to climb Mt. Lassen with an old friend Rich, who like me, just turned 70.  Rich (on right) just retired from UC Berkeley where he was Dean of Chemistry.  Joining us are two colleagues, Ezra and Leila.  And off we go!


2500 feet later, we’re on the summit with Mt. Shasta on the north horizon.  Mt. Lassen erupted in 1915 and created such a sensation that it was made a national park in 1916, the same year the NPS was formed.


The summit crater is a scrambled mess (an orogenic omelette), but still has a trail that circumnavigates the rim.


The trail is very well maintained switch-backing up the south ridge.  It’s about a 3 hour round-trip.


After this strenuous climb, it’s time to kayak.  I roll mine over in the middle of Almanor Lake but keep my glasses, hat and my wits.  Ezra saves my life–when the kayak rolls like a squirrel cage.  My life jacket jambs into my chin–keep those straps tight!  The water was warm!


After this triathalon (climbing, kayaking, swimming), it’s off to the Reno Air Show–a two hour drive to the south.   What an incredible show–with everything from a C-17 and C-130 to this radial engine with a bajillion pistons–imagine the torque!


This is a rocket car capable to speeds of up to 400 miles per hour.  It raced a biplane on takeoff…..


….upside down!  The biplane won.


The Blue Angles put on an incredible show–much more intimate with jets buzzing the crowd.  if you like big, loud machines, this is the place!  The louder, the better….


Loop the loop in formation.  What a show!  Next morn, I drive back across Nevada to Flagstaff where the trailer is stored to resume my NPS speaking tour.


You can tell when you’re in Nevada–there are tractors everywhere…..  This is a 1951 Allis Chalmers–sweet!


And brothels.  This was Sky King’s last flight……Stay tuned!


Rocky Mountain High

Friday, September 23rd, 2016


Once again, I leave Jackson, Wyo. threading my way south through Flaming Gorge, and out onto the Colorado Plateau.  First stop is the “Wall of Bones” in Dinosaur National Monument.  We’ve done a bang-up job with our WPA-style poster design here.


At my talk in Rocky Mountain National Park, I reserve a front row seat for an old friend, Tom Hornbein, of West Ridge Mt. Everest fame. As a teenager, Tom offered me weekend rides down to Mt. Rainier where he guided for Lute Jerstad after Everest.  I was volunteering with the Camp Schurman project on the NE side of the mountain.  It was Tom who coaxed me to apply for dental school–thanks Tom!  He’s now 85 and with two new hip replacements, we’re planning on tying on a climbing rope next month….stay tuned for this one!


Also at my talk (Beaver Meadows, Estes Park NP), was Pat Yeager Washburn, daughter of Dorr Yeager who promulgated the WPA poster series of the National Park Service….and one of my all time heroes.  I signed her poster and she signed her father’s autobiography, “Bob Flame–Rocky Mountain Ranger.”  You never know who is in your audience…..  Thanks Pat!


The next exciting stop was Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, formed first as a National Monument in 1933.  It is spectacular–like the Grand Canyon squished together to within a mile.  This vertical perspective looks 2000′ straight down!   Ranger Mike gave me a personal tour.  When asked if base jumpers had ever tried here (it is illegal, btw), he simply stated that there is simply no place to land–and I believe him.  I’m doing a WPA-style silk screen poster of this magnificent National Park, numbering my 150th park unit visited!


After Black Canyon of the Gunnison, I push on first to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon where I attend the Condor talk which preceded my WPA talk.  I did not see any condors, but am told that there are about 435 birds now back in the wild in several states, after the remaining 22 were captured in 1987 for a captive breeding program.  Here on the South Rim, I ponder the Moran View perspective–also used by WPA artists for the source of their design.  If you compare this photo to the poster, it is the river and the distant cliff (upper left) that defines this perspective.  It took a Grand Teton, Jenny Lake Ranger to figure this out, I might add……


Leaving the east entrance to Grand Canyon, one is greeted by the Vermillion Cliffs area–eye candy for a geologist. Vermillion Cliffs was designated a National Monument in 2000.


Millions of years of Mesozoic deposits are stripped away here by ancient rivers and wind revealing all sorts of wonder.


Navajo Bridge is part of the Glen Canyon NRA, one of 413 NPS units, built in 1927-9 to replace Lee’s Ferry and dedicated with a bottle of ginger ale as it was then during prohibition. I’m standing on this bridge looking at the new version completed in 1995. California Condors, now numbering 435, perch here looking for carrion.


This is the new Navajo Bridge Interpretive Center–it opened in 1997–worth a visit for sure!  Stay tuned–Mt. Lassen is next!