SUBSCRIBE | NEWSLETTERS | MAPS | VIDEOS | BLOGS | MARKETPLACE | CONTESTS
TRY BACKPACKER FREE!
SUBSCRIBE NOW and get
2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on Backpacker.com


Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – September 2010

Ranger Confidential: Secrets of the National Park Rangers

True tales from the front lines--and behind the scenes--of America's national parks.

by: Andrea Lankford

Ranger Confidential: Secrets of the Park Rangers (Frank Stockton)
Ranger Confidential: Secrets of the Park Rangers (Frank Stockton)
Ranger Confidential: Secrets of the Park Rangers (Frank Stockton)
Ranger Confidential: Secrets of the Park Rangers (Frank Stockton)

YOU WILL BE PROUD
Less than one percent of all sea turtle eggs end up producing an adult. The turtle I held in my hand came from a nest of 81 eggs.

I was a few weeks into my first job as a seasonal park ranger at North Carolina’s Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and it was impossible not to contemplate the depressing odds this single turtle would have to overcome. Impossible not to think of the 80 that wouldn’t make it.

Still, I loved driving the beaches of the barrier islands, searching for sea turtle nests, and documenting their locations. It felt like Christmas morning the day I discovered several turtles fighting their way up the sandy banks of their nest. The baby loggerheads were dark violet, like little bruises.

The one I was holding now flapped its flippers on my skin. It tickled, like a child’s butterfly kiss. I marveled at its delicate touch--and the war zone it would have to survive to reach adulthood. Even if a turtle nest eludes the noses of raccoons and dodges the destruction of a hurricane, some eggs fail to hatch. Of the ones that do hatch, not all the turtles make it to the water. Ghost crabs snatch the hatchlings in their claws and drag them down into their holes. Gulls swoop in and pluck them off the beach.

Of the lucky ones that reach the ocean, not all will escape the sharks. There are gill nets to avoid, red tides and polluted water, poachers looking for shells for jewelry and meat for soup, and plastic bags and party balloons that float in the water like jellyfish, but, once eaten by a deceived turtle, lead to an agonizing death.

Holding this single turtle in my hands brought my decision about being a ranger into sharp focus. How could I not fight to keep this endangered species from becoming extinct? How could I not risk my life jumping from helicopters or fording rivers so that this baby turtle could someday return and lay its own eggs?

Retirement benefits? Health insurance? Decent housing? On my knees in the sand, with a baby turtle struggling for its life in the palm of my hand, I thought I had found the best--and most important--job in the world.




Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip:
Email (req):

Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Anonymous
Jul 07, 2011

lessened my enthusiasm for being a park ranger, but still interested.

Kathy
Oct 28, 2010

What a great read. It's wonderful to remind people just how much these hard working rangers do, and how little they get in return. They have my utmost respect and admiration.

Hornet 22
Oct 20, 2010

Great story! But...it's Smokey Bear - no "the" in there.

the love
Oct 17, 2010

I like the you will (maybe) fall in love section...awesome and real

Thomas B.
Sep 28, 2010

Makes me want it more.

tall tree
Sep 28, 2010

love it and now i dont want to be a park ranger (thank lot)

the hiker
Sep 28, 2010

chad w
Sep 24, 2010

love the read. keep em coming

pat
Sep 24, 2010

great read!!! I could not put it down, I could not wait to read the next chapter, and the next, and the next!

Discussion for this story has been closed.

My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Trailhead Register
Anybody going to watch Bear Grylls tonight?
Posted On: Jul 29, 2014
Submitted By: desert dweller
Mid-Atlantic
Quebec Run Wild Area BAckpack -TR
Posted On: Jul 29, 2014
Submitted By: vdeal
Go
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site MyRockyMountainPark.com.

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
City:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
State:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions