Copyright ©2009 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

MELISSA BLOCK, host:

This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And I'm Madeleine Brand with a California character.

Mr. BOB RONEY (Ranger, Yosemite National Park): My name is Bob Roney. And I'm a ranger at Yosemite National Park, and I've been so since 1968.

BRAND: And he's next in our series of conversations with people who capture some essence of the Golden State. Yosemite was actually a California state park before it became a national treasure in 1890. It is gigantic. It is stunningly beautiful. And the biological diversity is almost endless. In the park you'll find waterfalls, lakes, meadows and ancient sequoias.

(Soundbite of birds)

BRAND: That sound was recorded during a sunrise in one of Yosemite's ancient sequoia growth. And Bob Roney is tech-savvy ranger. His Twitter name is Yosemitebob. He loves to record the sounds he hears daily at the park. And you recorded that?

Mr. RONEY: Yes, I did. 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.

BRAND: Hmm. Well, for our listeners who can only listen via your recording and haven't really been to Yosemite or only know it, let's say, from Ansel Adams photographs, how would you describe a sunrise in an old sequoia growth?

Mr. RONEY: It's majestic. These trees are absolutely amazing. You know, when I first went in there, I didn't quite get it. But when you spend a day, or you spend some time alone with the trees, they seem to get bigger - not only bigger in size, but bigger in what they mean. You know, these are trees that are 1,000 years old, some 2,000 plus. And they've been standing there watching all of the humans walking around below them for so long.

BRAND: I love that you've been working there for more than 40 years and you sound like you just got there. You're still in awe of the trees in Yosemite.

Mr. RONEY: I've been this way the whole time I've been there. When I went to Yosemite for the first time, it was 1967, my senior year in high school. I had no idea what to expect. I spent less than 24 hours there with my parents and 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.

BRAND: So, how did you get back there with a full-time job?

Mr. RONEY: Well, quite by accident. I got pretty poor grades in college. And I got a letter from the college saying that I wasn't welcome back. And my father told me, if you're going to not be in school, you're going have to work for a living. I said, well, if I have to work for a living, I would want to work in Yosemite.

He got on the phone, called the personnel office, said, hey, is there a job for a 19-year-old boy? They said, sure, we got two jobs. Send him up, we'll give him one. And it was as easy as that. The next week I was working for my very first time, which was just a year after I had seen the place.

BRAND: And that was that - you never left?

Mr. RONEY: That was that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. RONEY: Yeah, I started working as a firefighter. I did that for four years and then ever since then I've been a uniformed park ranger, mostly talking to people.

(Soundbite of bus announcement)

Mr. RONEY: Approaching bus stop number five, visitor center.

(Soundbite of bus)

(Soundbite of bus announcement)

Mr. RONEY: Ansel Adams' art gallery, Native American museum, all here to your right.

BRAND: Summer is the high season in Yosemite and maybe a couple of million visitors will pass through the park. If you could point them in a direction of where they should go and what they should see first or what they shouldn't miss, what would you say?

Mr. RONEY: Don't try to hurry your way through the park. I've been there for 40 years and I haven't seen the whole thing. You can't see the whole thing. You just have to say, okay, I'm going to enjoy what I get to enjoy. And the best way of enjoying that is to get out of the car and walk. You can just walk a few yards away from the road and enjoy what you see. Follow your eyes. Follow your feelings. If you enjoy water, walk over to the river. If you have more time, by all means, walk around, enjoy the sequoias, enjoy the cliffs of Yosemite, enjoy the high country of Yosemite. There's just so much to see.

(Soundbite of frogs)

BRAND: Let's listen to some more sounds that you recorded.

(Soundbite of frogs)

BRAND: That sounds like a lot of frogs.

Mr. RONEY: It is. It's a pond in Yosemite Valley between Yosemite Lodge and the Yosemite Village. Millions of people drive within 100 yards of this pond. But if you get out of the car at night at any time there's water there, they're right out there. And when you walk out there, they'll shut up. You get out and you sit down, lean up against a tree, close your eyes. Then you'll hear one making its little noise. And then you'll hear a couple more and a couple more and then pretty soon you hear this wonderful chorus that we're listening to in the background.

(Soundbite of frogs)

Mr. RONEY: It's a chorus that I actually listened to when I grew up in Southern California as a little kid. When I was in bed I could lift the window just about three inches at the head of my bed. And a couple of blocks away was what we called the ditch. It was a storm drain. And I would listen to those Pacific tree frogs, same ones live in Yosemite, I listened to those tree frogs and they would just sing me to sleep. And they do the same thing in Yosemite.

BRAND: So you live there year-round, correct?

Mr. RONEY: Yeah, I do. And I raised two great kids there in Yosemite.

BRAND: Oh, right there in the park?

Mr. RONEY: Right there in the park. My daughter is wearing the same uniform that I do now in Yosemite. She is a scientist and she works with black bears. And my son is a great guy. He just lives north of the park and in the winter times he manages a little ski operation.

BRAND: So, when you want a vacation, where do you go?

Mr. RONEY: That's a good question.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. RONEY: These days I like to go by myself up into the mountains and just look around. I like to cast my eyes in some direction and see something that makes me want to ask questions. It's like falling in love, really. 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. And since my kids have left the house, I've had more time to go out and do these studies to find out about this place that I have come to love called Yosemite.

(Soundbite of birds)

BRAND: Bob Roney, thank you very much and thanks for sharing your lovely Yosemite with us.

Mr. RONEY: Anytime.

(Soundbite of birds)

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: That's California character and Yosemite park ranger Bob Roney. He's been working in the park for more than 40 years. You can follow his Twitter feed and you can take a virtual tour of Yosemite at the new npr.org. While you're there, check out other beautiful photos on our daily picture show blog.

Copyright © 2009 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and terms of use, and will be moderated prior to posting. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.