The 1974 dedication of the George R. Stewart Nature Trail at Thornton State Beach: George R. Stewart, seated, is listening to one of the Rangers read from Stewart’s Earth Abides.
The first gathering of the Rangers – as far as this tale of George R. Stewart is concerned – was at Thornton State Beach near San Francisco. Ranger Don, seen in the photo reading from Earth Abides, began his hike up the trail there. It would lead to the publication of the GRS Biography and this weblog.
Other Rangers who would follow the GRS trail or the Ranger trail also gathered at Thornton State Beach. Ranger Bob would become the Chief Naturalist at a National Preserve. Ranger Steve, a Search and Rescue Ranger. Ranger Nick a Regional Park Ranger and the Interpretive Program at Fort Ross State Historic Park.
Another who started the Ranger Trail at Thornton Beach was only a boy in those days. Johnny was a bit of a Huckleberry Finn, often bringing down the gentle wrath of Ranger Don by letting his dog run free.
But something about the State Beach and the Rangers there reached that young fellow. He eventually joined the National Park Service at Fort Point National Historic Site. Eventually he transferred to Alcatraz National Historic Site in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area as Ranger John.
Over the years since, he has become an extraordinary Ranger….the ideal urban National Park Ranger. He carries a strong foundation of National Park History and values and the history of the American Penitentiary system – which goes back to the Founding Fathers – and constantly improves the interpretive program in new and exceptional ways. He even earned an Emmy for co-producing the best documentary about The Rock.
Ranger John carries the torch. The flame of enlightenment that the first National Park Service Director, Founder, Stephen T. Mather first lit. You should all be proud of Ranger John, and the others like him who give the name, and the image of Ranger, such honor.
Alcatraz: Ranger John and Ranger Lori, and the Rangers of Alcatraz
Ranger John poses casually, his foot on the bumper, on the left
Ranger Lori stands in the middle, on the running board between two taller Rangers
Now the George R. Stewart story take a most remarkable twist, which involves another fine Ranger, Ranger Lori Thompson.
Long before she stood on the running board of the fire truck, long before she became a Ranger, even before Alcatraz joined the National Park Service, she was there, on the Rock, with her father.
Her father was a cameraman for Walt Disney. When Disney decided to film George R. Stewart’s Storm, Lori’s father-to-be (she would be born in a year or two after the film was released) was chosen as the cameraman. It was a TV film; but it carried a faithful representation of the novel: following the ecological theme of the novel and using real people to play the roles of telephone lineman, dam operator, Division of Highways snow removal crew, and others. Thompson’s family also had minor roles in the movie.
After Alcatraz Penitentiary closed, Lori’s father got permission to film there. He took her along – she was a young girl – and filmed her exploring the then-lonely cellhouse. Later, Lori joined the National Park Service, spending decades as a distinguished Ranger on the Rock.
But the journey wasn’t over, nor the gatherings of the Rangers.
Ranger John and Ranger Karen’s Big Birthday Bash
(Ranger Phil and Ranger Jenny to Ranger John’s right; Ranger Karen linked to her husband, on his left. )
45 years after the first gathering of the Rangers who would follow, one way or another, the GRS Trail Ranger John and Ranger Karen held a Grand Bash in honor of their birthdays. They invited a plethora of people, including a congress of Rangers. Ranger Lori was there. Ranger Don, now a geezer, was there. So were Ranger Phil and Ranger Jenny. And the others: Ranger /Superintendent Jim, District Ranger Armando, Ranger Bob, Ranger/Superintendent Naomi, Ranger/ Superintendent Frank, and volunteer Rangers, those who cheerfully fill the gaps in the severely underfunded National Park Service.
… And in the misty winds of San Francisco, there were also the Rangers and Volunteer Rangers since gone onto other lives, or the National Park in the Sky.
Three Photos, three time periods, linking George R. Stewart, and the Rangers. And that’s as it should be – George R. Stewart admired Rangers. He would eventually weave his ecological novel FIRE around Rangers – including one named “Ranger”!
Rangers are people of legend – think of Strider in Lord of the Rings. That’s because their work is far more than interpretation or patrolling of magnificent places of human and natural grandeur. They carry the light.
“They call themselves “Rangers”…
“Tell the other Rangers…everyone in this army of light – that a line has been drawn against the darkness; and we will hold that line no matter the cost.” J. Michael Stracyznski
A little dramatic and overstated, perhaps, but a good goal to live by.
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There was one more gathering, in the summer of 2019…. A gathering of what could be called “space rangers.” (Click the link to read about that.)