<--- Select Page Number to Advance

The Signpost Newsletter

First Quarter 2018

Under the Flat Hat


by Matt Cerkel


Having worked in the parks since 1991 and served as a park ranger since 1995, I have seen a lot of changes in the profession and in the parks. As rangers we see dramatic changes in everything from the uniforms we wear to the technology we use. Looking back now it’s amazing the see the changes.


When I started in the ranger profession the standard uniform was the gray or silver tan uniform shirt and green jeans. We had a summer jacket made from the same material as the green jeans, a winter jacket that was not waterproof or breathable, a cotton t-shirt, and of course the flat hat.


Now we have a choice of cargo-style pants (some which double as wildland fire PPE), softshell jackets, a choice of waterproof breathable jackets, uniforms shirts that are moisture wicking or more breathable, and moisture wicking t-shirts (some of which are flame resistant). Surprisingly, many agencies still use the cotton t-shirts as a base layer, despite knowing its limitation as a fabric in wildland and wilderness settings (“cotton kills”).


The only thing that really hasn’t changed is the flat hat.

From a law enforcement aspect, we’ve seen armed ranger agencies transition for revolvers to semi-automatics. Tear gas was replaced with OC (pepper spray). Of course, some agencies that were armed when I started my career are no longer armed, while others have become armed. Some agencies are now adding Tasers to the defensive equipment available to their rangers.

                                                              (continued on Page 13)

"Big Walls, Swift Waters"

(continued from page 2)


The book is a well-researched history of Yosemite Search and Rescue (YOSAR), an adventure anthology, and a guide on how to use Yosemite (and other parks) safely. As someone who has been involved in SAR for over 25 years I was interested in seeing how SAR evolved in Yosemite. The professionalism, courage and dedication of YOSAR is inspirational for anyone involved in SAR. YOSAR is one of the most elite SAR teams in the country and I’m glad their story is being told to a wider audience now.

The stories of rescues and recoveries performed in

Yosemite as told in this book were both thrilling and

at times sobering. The author puts you right there

cliff-side on Half Dome or in the bone-chilling Merced River. The real-life rescues are far more compelling than any Hollywood “adventure” you’ll see on TV or in a movie. The level of skill the members of YOSAR have shown over the years is nothing short of amazing and as a park ranger something to strive for!


Big Walls, Swift Waters is also a guide to park visitors on how to use Yosemite safely, so YOSAR won’t have to rescue (or recover) you or a loved one. I just read a story on how more visitors are heading into our parks unprepared and how this gets them into trouble. I have seen this trend first hand and education is one way to deal with this. Too bad Yosemite can’t make this book required reading for visiting the park or to get a Half Dome or wilderness permit.


This book is a quick and enjoyable read. I recommend it for those interested in the park ranger profession, search and rescue, the Sierra Nevada or Yosemite. Big Walls, Swift Waters is one of the better park ranger related books I’ve read in the past few years and I highly recommend it.  [On Amazon, Paperback, $15.63]

Next Page