“Stalwart boyfriend” Josh Beddingfield (Photos: Sherman)
Bodie Ranger wins press accolades as well as user scorn
By Leonie Sherman
Bodie State Park Ranger Mark Langner was lionized by San Francisco Chronicle staff writer Kevin Fagan last Sunday in a glowing story about the mountain man and his skeletal crew of diehard park employees keeping watch over Bodie State Park during the lonely, bitter winter months. See http://articles.sfgate.com/2010-03-21/news/18845223_1_ghost-town-bodie-ranger.
This description, however, is starkly contrasted with the experience of one Ms. Leonie Sherman, a freelance writer and graduate of the UC Berkeley School of Journalism. Her account of a March 14 cross country ski trip to Bodie appears below.
It’s no wonder that business at Bodie State Historic Park has consisted of only one group of plucky snowmobilers this year. My boyfriend and I braved the wind-chilled conditions and skied the seven miles into the abandoned ghost town on March 14. We were anticipating an overnight stay and a half-day of wandering around the abandoned buildings before we skied out the following day.
Instead we got Ranger Mark Langner, the Park Supervisor.
After four strenuous hours of skiing, hauling a 30-pound pack (me) and dragging a 50-pound sled (boyfriend) we were sitting on the church steps, relaxing and congratulating ourselves on our achievement when Langner strode down the main street and stopped in front of us, adjusting his hat against the glare of the sun. Before we could issue salutations, he barked.
“Sorry folks, the park is closed.”
We gaped at him, incredulous.
“Park’s open from 10-3. Didn’t you see the sign?” He demanded.
“Uh…” I began, bewildered.
My stalwart boyfriend explained that we did not actually know what time it was.
“Well, it’s just now 4,” Langner explained, glancing at his watch. “Because today is the start of daylight savings time. You need to leave.”
“Well,” I smiled brightly, “Since you’re here, and we’re here, can’t we just sort of poke around a little bit?”
“Look, I don’t work 24 hours a day. Do you work 24 hours a day? I told you, the park is closed.”
Apparently Langner works about 20 minutes a winter. But he didn’t want to work the day we showed up.
“OK,” my boyfriend offered, rising and dusting off his pants. “We’ll just camp around here and come back in the morning.”
“It was 10 below here last night, I wouldn’t camp out if I were you. But if you do decide to stay you’ll need to go at least two miles in any direction to get out of the Park boundaries. And we don’t open until 10 a.m. tomorrow.”
“If we come back tomorrow morning, could we maybe poke around before 10 a.m. so we can get back to our car in time?” I asked.
“If I see you here a minute before 10 a.m. I will cite and fine you,” Langner informed us solemnly.
As we began our preparations to leave, Langner demanded to know if we had paid our entrance fee.
“When I skied into Yosemite this winter I didn’t need to pay the normal entrance fee,” I said. ”And the rangers there were super sweet; they seem to work whenever they need to.”
“What, do you expect me to be friendly?” Langner sputtered.
I realize that everyone has off days. But if your job is to greet people and you are mean to 100 percent of your visitors- or even 50 percent- you’re not very good at your job.
So my sweetie and I skied the seven miles back out to our car.
On our way out, we ran into another ranger who listened sympathetically to our tale of woe and cheerily wished us a pleasant ski out. She did not offer to let us explore the ghost town, either right then or the next morning. She did inform us that there are no less than three people posted at Bodie this winter.
The trip out to Bodie was indeed lovely, with amazing views of the White Mountains, the Mono Craters, the Sierra Nevada and even a peek at Mono Lake. But I can’t say what Bodie Historic State Park is like during the winter because Langner was the least solicitous ranger I have ever encountered in more than 20 years of visiting State and National Parks from Florida to Alaska.
Most rangers view their jobs as encouraging visitors and facilitating their visits. Langner seems to take it as his duty to actively discourage anyone brave or stupid enough to make their way to the park he oversees.
I’m amazed the state can afford to pay even one person to hang out at Bodie all winter, much less three. The fact that the Park Supervisor can’t be bothered to do his job when people do show up is stunning.
I’m sure we can find a volunteer to stay in Bodie during the winter in exchange for a place to live. And I bet that volunteer could manage some civility and perhaps even a guided tour to the scant visitors they see each winter.