Call Of The Wild: How Ranger Became 'Yosemite Bob'

Bob Roney at his desk i i

hide captionBob Roney, also known as Yosemite Bob, started at Yosemite National Park in 1968.

Ray Santos/Courtesy of Bob Roney
Bob Roney at his desk

Bob Roney, also known as Yosemite Bob, started at Yosemite National Park in 1968.

Ray Santos/Courtesy of Bob Roney

When Bob Roney first came to California's Yosemite National Park as a high school senior in 1967, he didn't know what to expect. But after spending less than 24 hours among the ancient sequoia trees, he felt changed.

"When I left, I left a little piece of my heart there. And ever since then, it has seemed the center of the universe, as far as my perspective," he tells NPR's Madeleine Brand.

Roney started his more than 40-year career at the park the following year. He first worked as a firefighter, and after four years he got a job as a park ranger. Roney is a tech-savvy ranger who tweets about his beloved park under the handle Yosemite Bob. He also records sounds from the area, like birds chirping or a chorus of frogs.

"I love going out in places where I can lie down before sunrise, turn on my recorder and just listen to the mountains wake up," he says.

  • Yosemite National Park is home to some of the most beautiful natural scenery. Closed to auto traffic during the winter months, Tuolumne Meadows becomes a feast for eyes and cameras when the snow melts.
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    Yosemite National Park is home to some of the most beautiful natural scenery. Closed to auto traffic during the winter months, Tuolumne Meadows becomes a feast for eyes and cameras when the snow melts.
    Courtesy of Christine White Loberg
  • The massive granite monolith El Capitan pokes its head into early-morning sunshine.
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    The massive granite monolith El Capitan pokes its head into early-morning sunshine.
    Courtesy of Christine White Loberg
  • A misty and foggy sunrise at the 2,425-foot Yosemite Falls. Here, only the bottom 320 feet are visible.
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    A misty and foggy sunrise at the 2,425-foot Yosemite Falls. Here, only the bottom 320 feet are visible.
    Courtesy of Patrick Smith
  • The moon peeks out behind El Capitan.
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    The moon peeks out behind El Capitan.
    Courtesy of Bob Roney
  • Closely related to coast redwoods, which are the world's tallest trees, giant sequoias are shorter but more massive — among the biggest living things on Earth by volume.
    Hide caption
    Closely related to coast redwoods, which are the world's tallest trees, giant sequoias are shorter but more massive — among the biggest living things on Earth by volume.
    Courtesy of Christine White Loberg
  • This winter view from the west of Yosemite Valley recalls a famous Ansel Adams image.
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    This winter view from the west of Yosemite Valley recalls a famous Ansel Adams image.
    Courtesy of Christine White Loberg
  • Yosemite's Tuolumne River flows through the meadow early in the morning on June 16.
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    Yosemite's Tuolumne River flows through the meadow early in the morning on June 16.
    Courtesy of Patrick Smith
  • El Capitan (left) and Half Dome (right background) dominate the view as visitors approach Yosemite Valley.
    Hide caption
    El Capitan (left) and Half Dome (right background) dominate the view as visitors approach Yosemite Valley.
    Courtesy of Christine White Loberg
  • Light takes on an orange glow when wildfire visits the park during the drier months.
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    Light takes on an orange glow when wildfire visits the park during the drier months.
    Courtesy of Christine White Loberg
  • Dawn at Yosemite Valley
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    Dawn at Yosemite Valley
    Courtesy of Bob Roney

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A Contagious Emotion

Roney lives in Yosemite year-round — in fact, he raised two kids there. And it seems his love for the park rubbed off on his family. His daughter wears the same uniform he does: She's a scientist in Yosemite working with black bears. His son lives north of the park and manages a ski operation during the winter.

To really get a feel for Yosemite, visitors shouldn't try to hurry their way through the park, Roney says.

"I've been there for 40 years, and I haven't seen the whole thing," he says. "You can't see the whole thing. You just have to say, 'OK, I'm going to enjoy what I get to enjoy.' "

The best way to do that is get out of the car, he says — even if you walk only a few yards from the road. "Follow your eyes; follow your feelings," he says. "There's just so much to see."

Lifelong Love

Roney says he's still in awe of the park.

"It's like falling in love, really," he says. "You know when you first meet somebody, and you just want to learn everything you can about them? It's been that way for me for 40 years."

He says that since his children have moved out of the house, it has given him more time to learn more about this place he has come to love.

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