Some rangers are bastards

May 30, 2023  •  Leave a Comment




I’ve had the amazing good fortune of shooting twice this month with my friend Haily, after (literally) four attempts through the winter that all fell through for one reason or another. Even though these photo shoots were only a week apart, they are different enough to merit separate blog posts for each.




The hike we did together a week ago included the worst encounter I’ve ever had with a National Park Ranger. As a rule, these are amazing and dedicated public servants. But clearly there are exceptions that define the rule.




Last week’s setting was Rampart Ridge, a five mile loop trail out of Longmire in Mount Rainier National Park. The weather was cool and cloudy, though this is May so we also had sunbreaks and warm temperatures on the way up, and cold wind and misty rain for a bit at the top of the ridge.




I had a guess about which location would first catch Haily’s eye, and I was exactly right: a corrugated cliff face near the top of the trail with interesting textures. There was a family (all adults) on the trail that we passed on the way up, so we knew we only had a short time to shoot before they caught up to us, but it wasn’t hard to very quickly find some great poses. The biggest challenge, actually, was that the sun had come out at that point, and the light was very contrasty, which will take a bit of editing to get just right.




We finished just in time, and then continued on up to the viewpoint and beyond. We passed a point next to the trail where the sun shone through the forest canopy, making a pool of light in a patch of beargrass, and Haily suggested we shoot there. I agreed, and she quickly disrobed, leaving her clothes neatly folded on top of her pack, with the underwear on top.




The shots in the beargrass looked great, and then the next patch up the slope looked even better. The rocky ridge above that was also great, and an outcrop beyond that, and then a high spot with a view looking out across the valley to Eagle Peak.




We’d been shooting for fifteen or twenty minutes, when we heard voices coming up the trail, from the opposite direction we were going. We were only about 40 feet off the trail but completely out of sight of it, so Haily crouched down among the rocks as we waited for the hikers to pass. And then:




“Hello! Rangers! Is the owner of this pack nearby?”




Shit! All we wanted was privacy, but le ave it to rangers to find a reason to stop! But it made sense for them to wonder about an abandoned pack, so I called back, “we’re nearby, we’re just taking pictures” – implying, of course, that we were photographing the view of the valley. That should prompt them to move along, right?




But this was no ordinary ranger. “There are bears in these woods,” he hollered. “They’re attracted by food in packs. Is there any food in this pack?”




I looked questioningly at Haily, who shook her head. The pack was full, but she’d already told me she’d packed several layers of clothing, not knowing what to expect in terms of weather, along with lots of water.




“No, no food,” I replied. “I have all the food in my pack, with me.”




Again, another opportunity for the ranger to just move along. But no.




“Are you telling me the truth? If I looked in this pack, would I find food? You know, a fed bear is a dead bear. We have a responsibility to protect the bears.”




“No, I have all the food with me,” I repeated.




“I’m coming up there.”




Shit! Just leave it alone and move on, for God’s sake! I looked at Haily, who whispered, “my underwear is sitting on top of my pack.” She looked calmer than I felt.




In fact, she had no clothing with her at all, it was all back with the pack. I jumped into motion, plunging through the forest back to the trail to retrieve her pack—and clothing. I was there in a few seconds, where two rangers stood next to the pack, a man and a woman. “He already went up to meet you,” the woman said, referring to a third ranger, the one who’d been speaking. She looked embarrassed.




“I told him, there’s no food in this pack,” I said, grabbing it and heading back the way I’d come.




The ranger had taken a higher route, and was now standing on the rocks above Haily, who was crouched calmly and very nakedly below him. I handed her her pack and clothes, and she began getting dressed.




“I told you I was coming up,” the ranger said (like having heard that I wasn’t going to go get Haily her clothes).




“I have the food in my pack, which I’ve had with me,” I said, frustrated.




“Are you lying to me?” the ranger said. Seriously! What is it with this guy! I unzipped my pack and pulled out a bag of trail mix. “Look!” I said. “I have the food. I don’t know what else to tell you.”




“Well, OK,” the ranger said. “But we have to protect the bears, and we can’t leave packs with food in them unattended.” We were just 40 feet away, for God’s sake, and he knew that by now. “And by the way, there’s a viewpoint right here, people can see you if the leave the trail.”




No shit. People who leave the trail can see people who have left the trail so that they can’t be seen by people on the trail. Just go away, asshole.




And finally he did.




In retrospect, I think he was the kind of person who wanted to show off to his coworkers, swinging his dick around to show them what kind of uber-ranger he was. I was fuming. The whole incident could have been avoided, and resolved more positively, with a friendlier, more educational approach. “OK, just checking. There are bears in these woods that might be attracted by food in a pack. I’m glad you’re nearby, but it would be better if you took it with you next time [along with your clothing]. Have a nice day.”




For her part, Haily was just amazed that the ranger was so obsessed by theoretical bears and so apparently unfazed by the real-life bare. She said that when he found her naked in the woods, he was quick to say that “you’re not doing anything wrong, I’m just concerned about the bears” (obsessed is a better word) and “you’re not as private as you think” (not with rangers tracking you like… well… a bear looking for food).




I pointed out that, in fact, there is no prohibition against nudity on Federal land, something that most people aren’t aware of. Even a law enforcement ranger (which these were not) would have nothing to charge a person with, even if that person were sauntering down the trail naked as a bear. Having sex in the middle of the trail while families pass by, maybe, on the grounds of being a public nuisance, but not mere nudity. I’ve actually had conversations about this with actual law enforcement rangers who have actually encountered naked people in the forest, and other than telling them to be discreet, there’s nothing they can do.




And the truth is you seldom encounter an actual ranger on a trail anymore—the parks are way too short-staffed. You might encounter a self-righteous person who would then have to hike back out, find a ranger and make a complaint; and then the ranger would have to find you, tell you that someone complained, and ask you to get dressed or go someplace more private; and then, only then, if you didn’t comply, would they maybe have grounds for causing you trouble.




But feeding the bears is an actual regulation on the books, so that’s a completely different matter!




The whole incident just upset me, and it took a while to regain my equilibrium. It left a bad taste in my mouth. It made me angry to have been treated so accusingly, to actually be called a liar. And for my model and friend to have been put in such a vulnerable position unnecessarily. And, naturally, it put Haily off doing any more modeling that day, either.




Still, looking back, now that I have the photos downloaded and have done a few quick edits, we did create some great art before we were so rudely interrupted! Here are a few samples for you to enjoy. I’m working on better edits and will post those soon.




Meanwhile, y’all get naked in the woods, all right? Tell the rangers I said it was OK. Just take your pack with you.





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