Ranger Doug goes to Washington–Trip 5

June 3rd, 2018

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted so it’s time to fill you in on my wanderings (I’ll fill in the hiatus over the next few months).  Here goes:

It’s another trip to Washington for Ranger Doug–my fifth and the mission is the same–to make positive changes to our country.  As a former NPS Seasonal Ranger (7 years), and six in the US Navy Reserves, I’ve devoted 13 years in public service and if you throw in another 15 years  working for public health (Native Corporations here in Alaska), that totals 28 years.  I’ve a vested interested in fixing what’s wrong with our country–and there is plenty.  This trip was two fold:  to make a donation of my private collection of WPA artwork and secondly, to meet with the NPS and the Department of the Interior.  I did both.

Acting Director of the NPS is Dan Smith who attended my talk–in fact he sat in the front row.  A newly restored WPA triptych (stage behind me) greeted me also.

…..and later signed the paperwork to receive my collection.   Tracy Baetz, DOI Museum Curator is to my left.   Here’s the math:  During my 25 years of searching for WPA prints, I’ve located a total of 42 survivors out of about 1400 initially printed (100 copies  x 14 designs).  I have purchased six of these and also secured two more through legal action that were taken from the artist’s estate by an impersonator of me–you can read more about this chase here.  The last auction of a poster was in 2005 for $9000!  Today, with these prints on the front page, they are worth many more times that figure.  Some are only copies–and they belong back in the public domain.

In the first slide, you can see 11 of the 14 that were printed–all in one room–behind us here!  Two still missing are Wind Cave and Great Smoky Mountains (I have black & white photos of them which I used for the reconstruction).  It gets more confusing.  My original Teton print I donated to that park, but they chose to keep another Teton print that I later purchased, and pass the one I found in the park burn pile on to the Library of Congress–it’s here in this room.  Also on display here are Glacier (one of two known), Mt. Rainier (one of six), Yellowstone Geyser (3) and Falls (only known copy).   Fort Marion, Lassen and Grand Canyon were loaned to this ceremony by the Library of Congress which came out of a discovery in LA.  The LOC bought five of nine at public auction, (I bought two–Glacier and the second Grand Teton).  Petrified Forest came from that park and is also the only known copy;  (thanks PeFo and Matt Smith!).  Bandelier turned up in my art files when I forgot to return it, so I arranged to keep it for the 2014 exhibition and then donate it on to the NPS archives.  Pictured above are representatives from the NPS/DOI, Library of Congress and Smithsonian (who have had two on exhibit over the past two years)–thank you all for your help.  Finally–nearly all are in one room!

As I was checking through security I got a call from the Secretary’s office.  When Museum Registrar Jason Jurgena (here, on the right) was freshening up the artwork in his office, SOI Zinke elected to keep my posters in the entrance hallway.  Jason explained that I was coming to town and giving a talk on the history of these so he called me up for a fireside chat (without the fire).  Secretary Zinke should be in the movies (and not at Interior, but that’s to be discussed over a beer in a Montana bar).  As a former Navy Seal, he definitely has that military bearing so we chatted about our military careers among other things.

I found him to be somewhat defensive about issues that the news has focused upon:  the $130,000 door replacement, raising park entrance fees, etc.  I reminded him that the people already own these parks and raising the entrance fees won’t wash.  I also reminded him that the recently launched Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier cost the American taxpayers $13.5B (the amount our NPS is in financial arrears) and GRF and his daughter, Susan, were park rangers!   Priorities–to which he agreed….   Number two in command, Mike Argo, attends this discussion with us and gives me his Navy Seal pin as a gift (thanks Mike–I’ll buy the first round of beer!).  Zinke hands me a challenge medal:

We pledged to meet in a Montana bar over a Snake River Lager (see label here) which I aided in designing.

The wall of fame–and the Glacier WPA poster art.   Military, and public lands crusader buddies….to be continued………

Grand Canyon History Symposium

November 7th, 2016


From Santa Fe, it’s back on the road to Moab, Grand Canyon and Zion national parks.  At Montecello I find another roadside attraction with a fantastic boutique ice cream parlor.  Screech!  On Doctor’s orders (mine), I sooth my sore throat with big dollop of Chocolate/Peanutbutter ice cream…….


Just south of Moab is Church Rock where Mormon pioneers stopped to worship.  Not sure what they were worshiping about but at least it was out of the sun.  This should be included in the nearby national parks.  Southern Utah and northern Arizona are the best kept secrets–although they’re not secret any more.  Let’s go hiking!


I’d always read and heard (and driven by) Fisher Towers but never hiked in to view them.  Titan is the biggest monolith in this group.  It’s about 2 miles in to the base of some of the most fantastic spires ever.


These four smaller towers are named “Ancient Art with the right-hand one called The Corckscrew and for obvious reasons


What’s this on top?


I hike around the base to the other side–it looks more like a crankshaft to me, but somehow Crankshaft Tower doesn’t ring true.


Zooming in I spot a climber–this tower is the most popular climb in Moab–rated at 5.9 which back in the 1960s was the hardest rating.  Today, that has fudged, inflated, and earned harder grades…. to 5.15a,b,c, etc…..  Where will this grade inflation end?  True, the climbers today are way, way better, with better equipment, too.  And here I am a 27 year old trapped in a 70 year old body–someone get me out!


What exhilaration!–this climb can be viewed on Youtube here.


After my hike I drive around to Castleton Tower, the Priest and the Nuns and discover another old Airstream.


Serial #57!  Identical to mine but manufactured a year later in 1949. And still going strong!


I’m invited to give the keynote talk at the fourth Grand Canyon History Symposium.  I greet about 300 Grand Canyon enthusiasts and learn a lot!  Many of these folks have spent time in Antarctica.  I’m hooked on old river boats now and am planning a trip down the Canyon.  Why have I waited so long?


Here’s the group of presenters.  I forgot to take off my hat…..  (photo by Tom Martin, GCHS)

DSCN7992 copy

One big surprise was to find another original copy of the Grand Canyon WPA poster.   This makes five known surviving copies now out of 100 printed.  This was donated to the park by a woman in Sedona who worked for the park beginning in 1951 which is when the US Mint building in San Francisco shipped the remnants back to parks.  This is likely one of these?  It was quite faded which surprised me as other duplicate copies–some hidden away and some in frames exhibited pretty stable colors–a question I get asked at all my talks (since I describe my re-coloration efforts beginning with black and white photographs).


Here is a light relief (tilting 89 degrees to sunlight) which shows the ink layers much better.  The mint green was likely the first color with the pink second.  The light purple was a very thick layer; the dark purple very thin.  These were wonderfully made all by hand–this is a great find and I’m lobbying for moving this print within the system to the NPS Archives in Harpers Ferry where I’m trying to build a set.  Forty-two prints have now turned up; 12 of the 14 designs of which 11 have been returned to the public domain.

I’m still searching for Wind Cave and Great Smoky Mountain–one known Yosemite slipped through my fingers at auction 10 years ago.  I’m offering a $5000 reward for each of these three and will donate these to the NPS.

Stand by!

Malala, Mountains and More Parks….

October 26th, 2016


An early fall morning in Jackson Hole gives me pause…it’s time to head south in the Ranger-Doug-Mobile, my 1948 (serial #3) Airstream.  The annual American Dental Association is in Denver this year and even though I’m retired, off I go to hear the guest speaker……


….who is Malala Yousafzai, the 14 (now 19) year old Pakistani girl who was shot in the face by the Taliban for encouraging girls to attend school in the Swat Valley.  She is also the youngest person to receive the Nobel Prize.  This is one remarkable young woman, who will become President of Pakistan some day perhaps.  Of the 3000 in the audience, about 1/3 filmed her talk on their cell phones–a great distraction of bobbing lights and occasional flashes, especially after being asked to stow these devices beforehand.  I snapped this during a minutes-long standing ovation after her talk.  A truly remarkable young woman….


My turn to speak is next, at the Denver Service Center, National Park Service. The Denver Service Center is the central planning, design, and construction management project office for the National Park Service.  I didn’t get 3000 in my audience, only 40, however these were a most enthusiastic bunch.  I spent a total of almost three hours there complete with a tour of the facility.


After Denver, it’s backtracking to Estes Park, the gateway community to Rocky Mountain National Park where I gave a talk last month. This is one beautiful place.  This photo is from a very windy and steep access road to Pleasant Peak where I took a short hike.


My “rope-mates” are Tom and Kathy Hornbein and Steve Komito, bootmaker extraordinaire–saving soles one boot at a time.  I last saw Steve 48 years ago when I climbed Longs Peak.  In those days we were required to have a back-up rescue team as no one in the NPS could climb the “Diamond” or vertical east face.  So my climbing partner, John Brottem, and I scouted all the available area climbers and brashly presented their names to the NPS so we could get through the gate and on the East Face….  Steve got a chuckle over this.   We climbed about 2/3 “Diamond” before falling ice suggested to us that we retreat.


It was Tom and Kathy who, during a climbing stay at our NPS cabin in the Tetons 45 years ago,  convinced me and my (then) wife, Liz, to attend Medical and Dental school.  Thanks to you both–you changed our lives!  They endured 24 hours of my story telling and I got an earful (and eyeful) about Mt. Everest from the last surviving West Ridge team member.


The “Diamond” is partially eclipsed by the shoulder of Longs Peak.  I made a WPA style poster print for Rocky Mountain National Park which  shows this perspective which you can see here.


Heading south again, I drive along the Colorado Mountain Front to Boulder and am not surprised to be greeted by the suburban sprawl.  Fifty years ago, it was actually a nice little mountain town…..   I’m getting old.


I had never visited Great Sand Dune National Park and Preserve and it’s right on my way–that is to say–in the middle of nowhere.  It is my 176th park unit visited.  This is one beautiful place and preserves a whole ecosystem on the eastern edge of the San Luis Valley.  The wind carries sand up against the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, creating the tallest sand dunes in the country.  Go there!


Someone’s lonely abode in the middle of the San Luis Valley.


The Cumbres and Toltec Scenic Railroad, billed the “Best Train Ride in America,” is located in the small southern Colorado town of Antonito.  This amazing museum runs a steam passenger train all the way to Chama, New Mexico.  They were rolling (literally) up the carpet when I arrived, pushing cars by hand and forklift out of the winter weather.  But, I’ll return.


It’s Santa Fe for a week’s R&R–I’m frazzled with all this park travel.  I give a talk Saturday morning 9 am at the Santa Fe Hotel, downtown to the Association of National Park Rangers; attend if you can.  This is my 66th formal NPS talk in 14 months.  I’ve driven over 40,000 miles, on my second set of tires on my second car.  Three weeks to go!  Stand by!