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As Rainier Prepares to Reopen, A Few Words of Appreciation for Park Rangers

Park rangers are some of the nicest people you'll meet in some of America's prettiest places.

Approximately 4,000 of them will be on hand to greet and assist visitors this weekend at the country's 397 national park units, including Mount Rainier National Park, which reopens Saturday (Jan. 7) at 8 a.m. PT after being closed since the almost unimaginable events of Sunday, Jan. 1. That is the day when ranger Margaret Anderson was shot and killed by a man who failed to stop at a tire-chain checkpoint inside the park.

Helping on a trailLike everyone who loves the outdoors, we here at REI's home base, barely 70 miles from the park's main entrances, share in the sadness caused by the tragedy. We're led to reflect on the vital roles rangers play at our parks—caretakers of the land and genial hosts for the outdoor playgrounds millions of people enjoy. We realize that we're just like them; we really dig spending time in fantastic outdoor places. Thus we feel the hurt when a dark moment casts a pall on a beautiful park, home to such lovely place names as Grand Park, Wonderland and Paradise.

Accordingly, as the park readies itself to reopen, everyone at REI wishes to convey our condolences to Anderson's family and friends, the Mount Rainer community and the park's ranger staff, and to express appreciation for their service.

RainierA memorial service for ranger Anderson will be held Tuesday (Jan. 10) in Tacoma, Wash., at 1 p.m. at Pacific Lutheran University, 12180 Park Ave. S. In lieu of flowers, her family requests donations be sent to the Margaret Anderson Fund at Key Bank. The address:

P.O. Box 159
Eatonville, WA 98328

Ranger Margaret AndersonChecks should be made out to Margaret Anderson Donation Account.

The park asks the public to please direct all condolences, offers of assistance and inquiry e-mails to

According to a Seattle Times report, ranger Anderson, 34 and the mother of 2, is the ninth National Park Service law-enforcement officer killed in the line of duty since 1916, the year the NPS was created. Other rangers without law-enforcement credentials have also died while in service and are noted in a list compiled at

Ranger cleaning a trailLike librarians, park rangers are among the most gracious, friendly, resourceful and service-minded members of our species. In hundreds of visits to national parks, I've had probably a few thousand interactions with rangers and park personnel, and I marvel that on nearly all occasions rangers maintain unfailingly upbeat outlooks as they deal nimbly with the wildly diverse personality types and oscillating attitudes of park visitors. Often I find their good cheer and accommodative spirit as impressive as the scenery I've come to see.

I recall one hike many years ago on the South Kaibab Trail that drops off the South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park. I was about 2 miles into it and had just come around a switchback near a precipitous drop-off, where a young uniformed ranger was patiently explaining the rationale of backcountry camping regulations to a dusty, animated fellow who was insisting that it's his birthright to camp wherever and whenever and however he pleases.

Climbing rangersThe young ranger (estimated weight: maybe 160 pounds, after lunch) handled this situation so much better than I could, patiently explaining how a heavily traveled area of a popular park, if no regulations existed, would be negatively altered by free-form camping, open fires and a whatever's-handy approach to waste disposal. I opted to drop my pack about 80 feet down the trail and retie by boot laces maybe 8 or 9 times, just in case the agitated visitor elected to give the young ranger's hat a spin.

Mt. Rainier visitor centerFinally, after much jawboning and more patient explanations, the young ranger prevailed. I was so impressed, and so grateful for his patient, even-keel persistence. A soft answer, it seems, really does turn away wrath.

Rangers come from all walks of life. Many of them are volunteers who contribute their time because they simply love parks, such as this incredible volunteer couple at Mount Rainier we featured in The REI Blog last year.

Helicopter rescueRangers sometimes fill the role of serving as hall monitors of our parks, and that can be a challenging, tiring and, as we've just witnessed, dangerous task. Yet they willingly do it, and they do so with what seems to be indefatigable patience and good cheer, happy to invite us in as we wander wide-eyed through the gates of their often underfunded, minimally staffed outposts in search of serenity, beauty and peace. We should be grateful for their efforts.

Every time you visit a park, but especially this weekend, give a wave to the rangers you see and thank them for the things they do for all of us.

Photos by T.D. Wood except the official NPS photo of ranger Margaret Anderson and the helicopter rescue photo, provided courtesy of former Rainier lead climbing ranger Mike Gauthier. Top to bottom: Volunteer rangers Jim and Carol Miltimore answer a hiker's questions during a routine trail patrol; a summer view of Rainier from Grand Park; ranger Margaret Anderson; ranger Carol Miltimore tidies up a trail; a gathering of a few Mount Rainier climbing rangers, major dudes who will risk it all to assist climbers, at the Camp Muir ranger hut (10,000 feet) on Rainier's south-facing slope; Carol Miltimore staffing a visitor center phone; what climbing rangers do when the need arises; Jim and Carol Miltimore along the Glacier Basin Trail on Rainier's east side.

Posted on at 4:06 PM

Tagged: Mount Rainier, national parks, park rangers and rangers

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As a current ranger in an NPS unit and a former REI employee, I'd like to say thank you for writing this! I know the NPS family appreciates the support! I'd also like to say thank you to the REI employees for their tireless efforts in getting folks reading for those hiking trips into the wilderness, I'm sure those suggestions of the 10-essentials have prevented me from having to rescue people that otherwise would have been unprepared! Thanks!

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"Park rangers are some of the nicest people you'll meet in some of America's prettiest places."
Totally agree, very well put.

Sincerest condolences to Ranger Anderson's family, friends, colleagues and the NPS.


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