"The Long, Long Trail A-Winding"
Hello, hiker, how does it go?
How far to campa mile or so?
Just a little way farther,
Just around the next corner,
Just this big hump and another,
Just a mile or two more.
How far is a mile, I'd like to know,
When you're hitting the trail on a tramp?
Oh, a mile is as far as you've yet to go
Till you've hoofed it on into camp.
Rhymes of the Rangers
"RANGER, what's the best time to hit the trail?"
The Old-Timer reflected, recalling many seasons in
"Well, it all depends," he surmised, finally. "June's
when the trails thaw in these parts. June's when the mountain flowers
poke their heads through the snow. Some would say June's the time to hit
the trail. But then there's July when the trails are drier and the woods
are in full leaf and the snow's all melted except on the north slopes of
the peaks. On the other hand, by August the bugs are gone and camping is
more comfortable. For myself, I like to hit the trail about September,
when the season's over, and there's a touch of autumn in the air. You
can take your choice."
"What kind of a mountaineer are you?" he asked, as if
"Oh, fair to middling, but nothing wonderful."
"Not what I meant," insisted the Old-Timer. "How do
you classify yourself? Club mountaineer, free-lance mountain climber,
nature lover, trail rider, or just a plain ordinary hiker?
"It makes a difference in what you're trying to do in
the mountains," explained the ranger, "and that has something to do
with when you'd best hit the trail. F'r instance . . ."
He went on to explain that club mountaineers come in
organized groups, pitch their tents near some mountain on which they
have designs, and camp for a long enough time to give every one in the
party a chance to climb the highest peaks in the region. The organized
climbs must be made when climbing is best, for safety's sake, generally
in the middle of the summer, which is about the only time a large party
can reach the tips of the highest mountains.
Free-lance mountain climbers are hardy souls who make
it a hobby to climb every high mountain they can reach, often under the
most difficult circumstances, sometimes in the dead of winter. They
seldom bother with camps. They operate singly or in twos and threes.
Since they are experienced mountaineers and know enough to come well
equipped, the free-lances are as a rule well able to take care of
themselves. They hit the trail any time of year and think nothing of
blazing new routes up the peaks, even in the dead of winter.
Nature lovers don't care much what is up on top of
the mountain. The trail lures them not because it leads to the earth's
high spots but because it winds through woods and meadows and dells and
across carpets of flowers. The nature lovers are looking for butterflies
and animals and wild things that blossom of their own free will. They
meander over the trails at leisure, fluttering about some ranger
naturalist like so many disciples about an apostle. The flower lovers
are on the trails as long as Dame Nature holds open house in the great
Trail riders are a breed to themselves. The old hands
at the sport love the smell of the saddle, and the tenderfoot is
thrilled by the adventure of it all. One would think that a narrow
ledge, flanked by a high granite wall on the one side and a hundred-foot
drop on the other, would be the last place in the world to learn to
ride. But the trail ponies know their stuff, and if the trail rider but
gives his mount the rein he will follow the guide's horse to the end of
the trail. Trail-riding is great sport, and the time of year makes not
much differencein fact, they trail-ride the snowdrifts in some of
The plain and lowly hiker, with his camera in his
hand and perspiration on his brow, outnumbers all the aforementioned
gentry of the trails. The hikers are the ordinary folks, weary of the
sight of old brick walls, longing for a look at the wilderness, hoofing
it along the winding path for no other reason than that they enjoy it.
All the hiker asks is a well-marked trail, leading somewhere at the end
of the day. All the luggage he wants is an extra pair of socks, a big
bite of lunch, and a camera with which to shoot the stag that stares
pop-eyed from the azaleas. The national park trails are the complete
answer to the urge to hike, for on them the hiker can leave cares behind
and be sure of a meal and a bed at the end of the day for almost as
little as it costs to stay at home.
(From the Stanford University Press
"You can rate yourself, brother, and take your
choice," concluded the Old-Timer. "I reckon the time for you city
fellers to hit the trail is any time you can get away from four walls
and a roof."
No one who has tasted the freedom of the trail will
argue about that.
Every so often someone bewails what the automobile
is doing to the American's ability to walk. Nevertheless, it is
enabling millions of people to reach the thousands of miles of trails in
the national parks or the national forests. Some lingering spark from
the days when our ancestors were trail-blazing flares up in each of us
once or twice or thrice a year, and there burns the longing for the
winding trail that leads now over mountain passes, now through fragrant
forests, now by rushing waters or past ramparts of rock. Then, though a
million at a time take to the trail, so great is the wilderness, the
multitude can be swallowed without disturbing its serenity.
The legions of stay-at-homes who know the trail but
vicariously, some because of apprehensions of the rigors of the
wilderness, some because it is too much work, others because of queer
notions of the dangers involved, have some weird ideas about the trails.
To answer a few of the questions that are asked of the rangers:
Nope, you don't meet wild Indians in the Western
woods any more. You may see some tame ones working on the trails, but
they won't molest you.
Yes, you might meet a bear. Just give him a chance
and he will amble into the woods. No, you needn't fear wolves, or
Altitude? Yes, it affects some people. Those with
weak hearts should avoid trails that lead into the higher mountains.
Yes, carry a compass, if you wish, but in the high
western mountains you don't need it as much as in the eastern woods,
because in the Rockies or the Sierra or the Cascades you can always see
some high peak for a landmark. Yes, sir, the trails are well blazed,
with a capital I carefully cut on trees, and small piles of rocks, known
as ducts or cairns, and junctions are marked, but it's a fact that some
hikers can't read or won't, and some of them do get lost.
Yes, ma'am, women can do it. Thousands of them do hit
the national park trails without male escorts. In fact, more women are
seen on the park trails than men.
No, you don't need a guide to hike the park trails,
but sometimes it adds to the fun to join a party under the leadership of
a ranger naturalist, who conducts hiking expeditions without charge in
the national parks.
Guns are out, Dude. No shooting, except with a
camera. In fact, guns are forbidden, in the parks.
Shoes? They're the most important item of your costume.
When you hit the trail, the shoes do the hitting all the way.
Cheap, poorly made shoes are no economy. Good shoes, with strong soles,
are essential. High ones are preferable, large enough so that you can
wear two pairs of socks, silk or cotton next to the feet, wool next the
Clothes? Well, something tough and warm. Khaki
knickers stand the gaff. Women as well as men wear them. A light
raincoat is useful in occasional showers. A warm woolen sweater is
needed for the cool mountain evenings, when the campfire warms only one
side of you at a time.
Yes, bring a knapsack, one that rides comfortably on
the back. It will hold the raincoat, sweater, the extra pair of socks,
the flashlight, the toothbrush, and the lunch. The hands should carry
nothing, unless a walking stick.
A camera? By all means. Preferably a small one that
straps on the belt or hangs from the shoulder. Bring plenty of
A first-aid kit of the Boy Scout type is useful. You
probably will never use it, but if you need it at all you need it
No, speed isn't the thing on the trail. The race is
to the tortoise, with the slow but steady "poison oaker" stride. They
seem to be just barely moving along, but they keep going while the
speed-burners have to rest.
Trouble? Forget it, unless trouble troubles you. Then
have someone call up the rangers on the nearest trail telephone and they
will arrange a "drag out."
The "drag out" is the emergency service maintained
day and night by the national park rangers for hikers in distress. Maybe
night falls on a hiker who neglected to bring a flashlight. Maybe he
loses his nerve on a steep down stretch of Yosemite's spectacular Ledge
Trail. Maybe she has missed the trail and is lost. Maybe it's a sprained
ankle, or a more serious accident. Maybe it's morning, noon, or past
midnighta ranger is always on duty at headquarters to make the
"drag out" if need be. Most of them are unnecessary, but the rangers
must always respond to the call for help for the sake of one in ten who
actually needs it.
(From the Stanford University Press
One day the "drag out" call came to headquarters in
Sequoia National Park.
"Fat man stuck in cave," said the voice on the
telephone. "Send a rangerbetter send two or three rangers."
Arriving at the cave, the rangers found a hiker of
great avoirdupois who had left his discretion at home and who had tried
to push his way between two great boulders into a cave much visited by
hikers in that park. The boulders weighed many tons and could not be
budged. Other hikers had pressed their weight against the broad expanse
of the fat man's trousers and had tried to push him into the cave, with
no luck. Then they tried to pull him out, but failed equally dismally.
Two courses lay before the rangers. They could dynamite the rocks and
loosen the fat man, but that would destroy a scenic asset and it might
injure the prisoner. They could allow him to fast until he reduced
sufficiently to be released. The latter course was adopted. It took
three days to make that "drag out."
In Yosemite the call for help came from a trail
rider. The rangers hurried up the trail and found that a San Francisco
sports writer had been riding a mule, when the animal shied at something
and jumped, scraping the rider's head on an overhanging boulder. He was
scalped as neatly as if a redskin had done it, except that no
self-respecting Indian would waste time scalping a bald-headed man like
this sports writer. He was a pitiful figure, and was rushed to the
hospital, where his scalp was sewn back on his head by the surgeon in
attendance. His scalp healed, and shortly thereafter his hair began to
grow. Today he boasts the finest locks of any sports writer in San
Francisco, which may not be saying much; but anybody wishing to take
this cure for baldness may have that man's name on application.