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  1. #1

    Default Intentions of a Ridgerunner

    I would like for some folks to talk about a few things involving the role of a ridgerunner.

    1. What is there role on the trail
    2. What authority do they have
    3. Your experiences with them
    4. Your opinion of the position and how big of a role do they play on the trail



    I did the northern smokies this weekend, packed house at all the shelters. There was a ridgerunner that slept in the shelter that night and it was a mutual agreement with pretty much everyone at the shelter that the group was so micro managed and suppressed with "authority" it was awkward and not so great of a time. Thankfully there was a nice grassy spot away from the shelter where I did my cooking and socializing. I was bumrushed by her when I got there asking for my permit and then orchestrating a big chaos of where we should sleep in the shelter....way to dramatic for me and I prolly wont be back in the smokies for a while but I wanted to have more insight on this position because some people state "she has no authority, you don't really have to do what she says", yet everyone did what she said to do all night..
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    VERY INTERESTED!!!! As I will be section hiking starting at Newfound Gap north to hot springs in 2 weeks. I have my permits. But I was wondering the exact same thing. Thanks

    Mike

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    Registered User Majortrauma's Avatar
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    They only have the authority one gives them. They could certainly radio back to a Ranger or legitimate LE and report someone if they're breaking the rules but short of that, they're just another hiker with a different hat.
    And I'm not bad mouthing Ridgerunners.

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    This sort of thing happened at Gooch Gap Shelter last year. A complaint was lodged with the ATC. Guy was, reportedly, off the chain yelling at people and generally being bossy.

    Someone would probably report this person too. Just so that they know. If they get no further reports, perhaps it's the one reporting having an axe to grind. If they get a lot, they can address the issue. As for "authority" I would think the most they can do is observe and report.

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    And I am in no way saying that this girl was a "problem". Just...bossy. Almost like a barney fife in the backcountry. It in no way ruined my trip, but I did feel like I was 100% being babysat. So did everyone else. On top of being the queen bee boss lady there was also a large amount of whining from her (The RR), about the amount of people at the shelter, however, everyone was following the rules. Its spring, in the smokies. What did ya expect? lol She was deemed as "The Nazi Robot". One guy, as she was putting her food in the tool box, asked her "Is that where you boot down at night and recharge?" Speaking of her robotically getting into the toolbox to reboot. lol

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gambit McCrae View Post
    And I am in no way saying that this girl was a "problem". Just...bossy. Almost like a barney fife in the backcountry. It in no way ruined my trip, but I did feel like I was 100% being babysat. So did everyone else. On top of being the queen bee boss lady there was also a large amount of whining from her (The RR), about the amount of people at the shelter, however, everyone was following the rules. Its spring, in the smokies. What did ya expect? lol She was deemed as "The Nazi Robot". One guy, as she was putting her food in the tool box, asked her "Is that where you boot down at night and recharge?" Speaking of her robotically getting into the toolbox to reboot. lol
    lol Funny! This seems like a good time of year to avoid the Smokies. Sadly.

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    First of all, I'm finally glad to see that SOMEONE is actually in the back country trying to enforce the rules. I've hiked for many years in GSMNP and constantly see disregards for the rule and pretty much zero enforcement. So the fact that the park now hires ride runners to watch over the park is wonderful.

    I've spent about 3 nights at shelters with ridge runners and didn't have any problem. From what I've seen, they do as much to try to teach people the rules as they are at trying to enforce the rules.

    As for "you don't really have to do what she says"... yea, they might not have any police powers... but they have a radio where the enforcer can be called. From what I've seen, they are only working with park rules, so if you're NOT doing what a ridge runner says, then either they are making up rules or you're technically doing something illegal.

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    Others can probably comment better however I would add:

    The AT is currently facing some serious issues as a victim of it's popularity...no big secret there.

    So if the ATC is putting a few more boots on the ground AND you happen to be in a sensitive area... you might see a bit of "overboard" behavior to keep relations good with the locals.
    You're also talking peak of the season and still a lot of confusion and even outright hostility by AT users towards the Smokies NP. Unfortunately the AT has been a free for all that failed to police itself... so expect to see the pendulum swing in the other direction for a bit. It's preferable to other alternatives... and there are many places and even trails in the smokies that provide alternative routes through the park for those that wish to avoid RR, hiker traffic or the shelter scene.

    So I know you're not ragging on them...but best to cut them some slack and accept that this is part of the deal at the moment.
    If somebody is way out of hand then a call to the local trail club or ATC would be the best way to address a RR who has gone off the rails... The ATC doesn't want trail nazi's there either since the goal is good PR and responsible use.

    No offense meant, and not directed at anyone... and I know that the OP was asking an honest question.

    The AT has reached the point that these sort of things that come with popularity, no fees, generally permit free, ridiculously easy access and long promotion by all users of a general "freedom" that is no longer sustainable. For good or bad the trail is growing and has changed. The good news- all those things are still quite available and waiting on thousands of other trials that can use attention. So if you choose to visit I'd suggest a polite neighbor head down approach and pass this stuff by when you see it. If that's going to bug you, I would seriously consider visiting another trail (or waiting for off-season/midweek at least).

    I love the AT... but I also take it at face value as it is today... I don't expect it to be how it used to be.
    Smokies and Shennies are the most visited National Parks in the country still I believe... so that's a further grain of salt I keep in mind when I choose to visit them. I think having an idea of what to expect on these specific sections helps keep the experience enjoyable when you run into the inevitable strings attached.

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    Their main purpose is to educate hikers and make sure people (somewhat) follow the rules...

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    Everybody is different, she may have just been bossy or just come across as bossy. I cannot hear so I yell, I do not talk but yell and I try not to but it is what folks do that cannot hear. I walked in the snow all day one year and got to the shelter in the smokies and the ridge runner had a fire going outside. I stood around it for a while then I said I need to build a fire inside the shelter, they all have fireplaces, and the ridge runner said he would prefer that I did not. I asked it I would be breaking any rules and he said no it is just common courtesy. It did not make any sense to me so I started collecting firewood and started a fire inside and lots of folks helped and it sure warmed me up and I dried out my shirt which was wet from sweat. We had a fire at every shelter we stopped at in the smokies and most folks helped gather firewood and enjoyed the fire.

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    For every one over-zealous or rude ridge runner there are others who are helpful, informative, polite/courteous within the context....and nice. If you are within the rules and behaving acceptably and the ridge runner still gives you crap you can feel free to remind them of their status and that you are their guest but they are not your master. Ask them to partner with you to make your time and their time on the trail safe and enjoyable. If they are still rude and overbearing ask for their name so you can file a report with authorities.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gambit McCrae View Post
    I would like for some folks to talk about a few things involving the role of a ridgerunner.

    1. What is there role on the trail
    2. What authority do they have
    3. Your experiences with them
    4. Your opinion of the position and how big of a role do they play on the trail



    I did the northern smokies this weekend, packed house at all the shelters. There was a ridgerunner that slept in the shelter that night and it was a mutual agreement with pretty much everyone at the shelter that the group was so micro managed and suppressed with "authority" it was awkward and not so great of a time. Thankfully there was a nice grassy spot away from the shelter where I did my cooking and socializing. I was bumrushed by her when I got there asking for my permit and then orchestrating a big chaos of where we should sleep in the shelter....way to dramatic for me and I prolly wont be back in the smokies for a while but I wanted to have more insight on this position because some people state "she has no authority, you don't really have to do what she says", yet everyone did what she said to do all night..
    How were people micro-managed and suppressed by this ridge runner? Is it because they actually had to obey the rules? Was it that they couldn't smoke their pot? Please explain.
    Time is but the stream I go afishin' in.
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  13. #13

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    I ran into the same thing in New Hampshire several years back although it wasn't on the AT. It was a young woman who was a shelter caretaker. She had so many rules that you couldn't possibly be in compliance with them all. I was there with my wife and 12 year old son so it's not like we were there drinking a 30 pack of Bud and burning the styrofoam cooler in the fire ring.
    For instance, there were areas of revegitation near the shelter but they weren't marked or taped off in any way, so in the course of just walking around, everyone was getting reprimanded for walking across the areas they were trying to revegitate. Also, there was a steel bear box there for food storage which everyone gladly used. A bear did come near the shelter and tent sites during the night and in the morning we had to listen to her "lesson" on proper "bear hygiene".
    I realize that there are all different experience and knowledge levels of campers and hikers out there and maybe she was just trying to educate the masses but, in her case, it was a matter of, "It's not what you say, it's how you say it."
    We were packing up as quickly as possible the following morning when we heard another guy refer to her as the Eco Nazi when we were chatting.

    Another time, also in New Hampshire we pitched the tent for myself, 14 year old son and son's friend and were approached by a young woman who let us know that there was a water source just over the ridge we were setup just below. She was totally helpful, directed us to a different spot (actually a better site). I was embarrassed that I didn't know about the water source that we were too close to. She was pleasant, helpful and just a great outdoor ambassador. Again, a case of, "It's not what you say, it's how you say it."

  14. #14

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    I only ever ran into 2 and it was while hiking. They were extremely friendly and helpful. Telling me about trail conditions and upcoming water. They were both concerned about who I knew of that was on trail in front of me and behind me and how everyone's health was. Nice to know they are out there.

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    Registered User Storm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ranger2012 View Post
    I only ever ran into 2 and it was while hiking. They were extremely friendly and helpful. Telling me about trail conditions and upcoming water. They were both concerned about who I knew of that was on trail in front of me and behind me and how everyone's health was. Nice to know they are out there.
    My thoughts exactly. Every ridge runner I have met has been extremely helpful and courteous. Leave no trace and follow any existing rules and you will not have a problem with them in my opinion.
    "The difficult can be done immediately, the impossible takes a little longer"

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    Interesting article in Blue Ridge Outdoors about being a Ridge Runner
    http://www.blueridgeoutdoors.com/mag...r-occupations/

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by perdidochas View Post
    How were people micro-managed and suppressed by this ridge runner? Is it because they actually had to obey the rules? Was it that they couldn't smoke their pot? Please explain.
    After walking thru the smokies for 17 miles, let me take my pack off and take a breath instead of bumrushing me the second I step around the shelter.

    If people want to wash their pot out and NOT drink the washing water, let them do it. (Couldn't do that, everyone who ate out of a container was told to use their filtered water to scrub, and think drink it.)

    When people would venture away from the shelter too far (for what ever reason, could be pot, could be to make a phone call in private, to go pee) she would catch up to them as quickly as she could and coarse them into doing whatever they needed to do closer to the shelter.

    There was nothing educating about the experience. It was "do this do that" the whole time. There were 4 spots left in the shelter. My party was 4 people. She rearranged the shelter telling people where to move their stuff and who would be sleeping where.

    I do have to say that one of our guys has bad knees, and requested a bottom bunk so he wouldn't have to climb up top. She did keep that in mind thru the evening until he arrived late.

    Like I said, she wasn't the devil, just IMO should have been more like a fly on the wall then a ringleader for the shelter circus lol

    In the end I sat over in the grass by bear cables, sipped my Jack and had great conversation thru the evening.

  18. #18
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    I have had the pleasure of bumping into several ridge runners, summit stewards, and back-country caretakers over the years. Every once in a while, you run into an odd duck who behaves awkwardly. However, my experience has been that the hiring committees seemed to have mostly found young people with tact and strong people skills. For every odd duck encounter, I've probably had 10 positive encounters.

    They play an important role in educating people in the backcountry. I like having them present, because it eliminates any dilemma for me about whether I should say something when other hikers are either ignorant or acting selfishly. The ridge runner or care taker gets paid to intervene, and they usually do so pretty smoothly, and that means that I don't have to go to the effort of finding a polite way to tell another hiker that he/she is acting like an idiot.

  19. #19

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    Met my first ridge runner prior to Gooch, he was nice, he was fishing out trash from a campfire.

    I ran into the Gooch goofball guy last year. He was fairly useless, loud and just having fun amusing himself. He loaded up the fire on a windy dry night, and had to be interrupted from his loud comedy routine to meet with a sheriff inquiring about a missing hiker. Positively, he did yell at people not to hang bear pinatas.

    First shelter in the Smokies, where I stopped for lunch, there was a nice old guy ridgerunning, who chatted, reminded everyone not to bring scented food or items into the shelter.

    The first night in the Smokies, there was no ridge runner. A bear came into the shelter and tore open two packs before someone awoke and drove the bear away.

    My second night in the Smokies, there was snow, with another 3" forecast. No ridge runner. Everyone crammed into the shelter. There was one old dude holding court, telling everyone how to backpack properly. He later insisted on spreading out his stuff across six feet of space "because he had a reservation." He then did other stupid things that resulted in a lost night of sleep for the dozen people in the shelter.

    My final day in the Smokies, I again stopped for lunch in a shelter. There was another night of snow forecast. About a dozen people had zeroed for the day in the shelter. There were hikers piling in by the minute. A small group was getting high and trying to burn various things in the fireplace resulting a smoky mess. I had already decided I wanted no part of that zoo and was packing up to move down the trail, lose altitude and get out of the snow at the next shelter.

    In came a ridge runner and she took charge immediately. She was kind of awesome, she got everyone's attention, determined exactly how long they'd been there and told everyone exactly what was expected of them. Who had priority, who needed to move the hell along or set up a tent in the snow. She took no crap from anyone and got the job done. She sorted out a chaotic situation.

    I hiked a personal best 21 miles that day. The final northbound shelter at low altitude was empty, but had a big bear cage across the front. I pushed on to Standing Bear Farm, where I took a nice zero.
    Last edited by Puddlefish; 05-01-2017 at 13:34.

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    No doubt they play an important role. Again, I say report the behavior. If it's a one-off report it will likely go down as someone picking a nit. If they get several about the same ridge runner, it's an opportunity to educate them on how to politely get their point across. We can all agree their presence is appreciated, though.

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