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This is yet another incarnation of my personal blog. Here's where you can read about what I do when I'm not at work: hiking, seeing plays and other shows, eating, traveling, etc.

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Meadow Roving at Mount Rainier

Posted by gck Saturday, January 27, 2018 0 comments

Lupine and other wildflowers

I had a busy summer and fall in 2017 and have done a poor job maintaining this blog. I’m hoping that during these winter months I can do a little catch up with photo processing and blogging.

I’ve made a number of trips to Mount Rainier National Park over the past few years. One particularly memorable trip was in 2016, when I took some interns to the park to convince them that Washington was awesome, and we saw a bear! On that trip, as well as several others, I talked to a person in uniform who identified herself as a “meadow rover.” These people were always friendly, enjoying their hiking, and talking to visitors about the park. They also told me about the meadow roving program and encouraged me to sign up. I had considered it for 2016 but had my Mountaineers class already, so 2017 was the year!

Meadow rovers (+a hiker) at Sunrise

So what exactly does a meadow rover do? I jokingly refer to it as being a “fake ranger.” We wear khaki hats and shirts with badges that say “National Park Service Volunteer,” but to the untrained eye, we’re often mistaken for rangers. This is by design. One of the duties of the meadow rover is to encourage visitors to follow park rules. Because we aren’t actually rangers, we can’t directly enforce anything, but the uniform makes people a lot more receptive to feedback. I’ve been with non-uniformed people who ask people to follow the rules on trails (“leash your dogs”) and generally the response is a dismissal (“yeah whatever”) or occasionally aggressive (“mind your own business”). The interaction is very different when I’m roving and I ask someone to stay on the trail (“oh, I’m sorry! I didn’t notice I was stomping all over the flowers!”).


Being trail cop is not my favorite thing. But as a rover, we not only want compliance, but also to be able to educate people about why the rules exist and what human impact does to the beautiful scenery that people are there to see. I feel very strongly about keeping these beautiful places beautiful for future visitors, and it makes me sad when I see fragile flower meadows turn into bare patches of dirt because people wanted to get a better photo. Did you know that one step off the trail tramples on average more than 15 plants?

A family of marmots at Paradise

Another responsibility of the meadow rover is to talk to visitors and answer questions. This is my favorite part of roving! My hiking buddies are already used to me pointing out the lupine, paintbrush, penstemon, pasqueflower, etc. and then quizzing them on it later. It’s a lot of fun to talk to visitors about what they’re seeing and what their experiences have been, and it helps me learn more, too. (I’m so bad with trees) I know that when I’m out hiking, I enjoy having the opportunity to talk to rangers. Since forest service budgets make it impossible to have as many rangers out there as we’d like, meadow rovers attempt to fill that gap. One of the most well known (and one of my favorite) meadow rovers is an 80+ year old woman named Anne Marie  who’s at Paradise almost every day, rain or shine. She still hikes up to Panorama Point in the snow! I hope I can be like that at that age.

Showing visitors how to plunge step down a snowy slope

The last major duty of a meadow rover is to carry a radio and use it as needed. We had one incident over the summer where a parent approached us and said her children were missing, and we called in, started, and participated in the search and rescue operation. Everything ended up fine, fortunately, and it was good to be able to help out. There are often enough rovers spread out on the popular trails that someone in need could find a rover instead of having to hike down to the visitor center.

Fremont Lookout

I hope to continue as a meadow rover in years to come! If you are interested, there is more information here about this and other volunteer opportunities. Citizen scientist? Trail maintenance? Lots of great ways to help out in this beautiful national park.