Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Park Rangers

We owe a lot to park rangers. Every time we visit a park, we stop at the visitors center to ask for suggestions from the people who might know the park best. Most rangers offer a bit of helpful advice and some go a bit further to make suggestions and point us towards locations that we didn't know about. Occasionally we find a ranger who knows the park like the back of their hand - one who wants to share what s/he knows and has a wealth of knowledge that is truly impressive. We've been blown away by the fantastic rangers at some of the visitor centers. So - we depend upon the rangers to offer advice that you just can't find in the literature the parks offer. Thank goodness for park rangers.

Of course, sometimes you get a ranger who hasn't hiked the trails and really doesn't know how to find answers to your questions. Most of the time, they'll find someone who does know the answer, or they'll find a book or even make a call. Unfortunately, we were unlucky the other day. We asked for directions to Devil's Cave, and the ranger gave us a hand-drawn and photo copied trail map - nothing out of the ordinary, there. Those maps are often much better than the ones printed in the bulletins and passed out to visitors. She told us to follow the marked trail to the edge of the map... then, we were to follow the railroad marked on the map until we reached a side trail - she drew a dotted line to show us it's location. The smaller trail would branch off and lead us to the cave, which she marked with an X. I noticed that the trail marked on the map was 2.3 miles, one way, aand that the line she'd added looked as though it added a few miles to the total distance - so I asked her how much further we'd need to hike in order to reach the cave. She told us that the cave was 2.3 miles from the trail head. All right - so I thought maybe her drawing wasn't to scale. No problem. We also noticed that the "old railroad" she mentioned was marked as a road on the map. We asked about that too. She told us it was a railroad - not a road. So we drove over and parked at the trail head. We hiked 2.3 miles along the trail and found the bridge that was marked on the map. Her drawing showed that we should pass the bridge (not cross it) and continue along the railroad. Well... the railroad wasn't a railroad at all. It was a road. Suddenly, we weren't so confident about her directions. We hiked another mile along the road before turning back. No side trail, so cave. Nothing. We wanted to explore as many locations as possible, so hiking along a road (which we could just as easily drive to make the most of our time) seemed pointless. We returned to the visitor center.

The ranger asked if we'd found the cave, and when I told her we hadn't she asked if we'd crossed to the other side of the bridge. But the map she gave us was so clearly marked - showing that we should NOT have crossed the bridge. So... needless to say, we didn't ask the ranger for any more advice. Instead, we returned to our hotel in the evening and did a quick google search for the GPS coordinates of the cave. Devil's cave is located just about 100 yards from an entirely different trail head. Right. Ah well - we had a good laugh. Thank goodness for good park rangers - and nevermind the rest. I'm just glad someone is taking care of the parks. Besides, all that hiking was excellent exercise. :)

Our trip to Tennessee was great - despite the wild goose chase. :) We found some beautiful arches and waterfalls - and enjoyed the fresh air and sunshine. The weather was gorgeous! A nice change from this freezing stuff we've returned to! Cleveland is freezing cold - and we cleared five inches of snow from our driveway when we got home. High winds are making it feel even colder. Ah well - Florida in January. I'm ready!

Happy New Year to all of you. Thanks once again for stopping in to read my blog!

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