Vacation Lessons: On Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

The Yogi Bear Show

Everyone but him loves Park Rangers (Image via Wikipedia)

I’ll open with a question.

Have you ever had someone tell you a story about a bad park ranger? We’ve all heard tales of a bad cop, a shady attorney or a doctor who cut corners.  All those honorable occupations have their sad exceptions, but I’ve never heard anyone say “I just haven’t trusted park rangers since that day”.

Rangers are full of enthusiasm about the things we all want to see. They work tirelessly to protect those landmarks and treasures. They’re always polite, friendly and helpful. So why don’t people listen to them?

The Ranger At Cape Hatteras

Last week, the Omawari-son and I climbed the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. The National Park Service Rangers there were great.

They were ready with information on the lighthouse itself and on how to climb its spiraling, 248 step staircase. Just before a group is admitted to walk up the stairs, a Ranger gathers them for a little talk that mixes facts about the lighthouse with some safety tips. The talk goes sort of like this:

Blah, blah, blah, fun fact. Heat alert inside the lighthouse, fun fact. Joke, fun fact. Seriously folks, ninety plus degrees inside. Interesting tidbit. Equivalent of climbing a twelve story building, not a good idea for children. No pushing. Fun fact, fun fact, did I mention it’s like a furnace in there? Enjoy your climb, those of you with small children please turn back now, or prepare for your own personal circle of hell.

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Lacks an elevator (Image via Wikipedia)

Despite the Ranger’s best effort, none of the people who should have heeded his warning took it. My son and I climbed the lighthouse while listening to the wails of children who were on the stairs because their parents did not respect the Ranger’s wisdom.

Kids were melting down most of the way to the top. Look at the picture to the right. See the steps leading up to the door on the right side of the brick and stone base? One child got to the top of those stairs and declared himself exhausted.

I heard one misguided parent attempt to reassure a little boy by saying “only one hundred steps to go”. Remember when you were a kid and a hundred seemed about equal to a million? That little guy is certain it is a million and expressed that idea pretty clearly.

Listen to the Rangers. If they say something, there is a reason.

What The Ranger Didn’t Say

I think it is pretty clear I am a fan of Park Rangers. As good a job as I think the Ranger did with the briefing for our climb, there are certain things he fell short on. Those were important things. Things like:

  • When you are pushing fifty years old, it is a bad idea to climb a lighthouse in the wake of a nineteen year old gym rat.
  • There is no dignified way to say “slow down, you’re kicking my butt”.
  • People with a lot of hair need a hat when they are in windy places.
  • People without much hair don’t give up their ball caps.

When it comes down to it, I’ve got no gripe with The Ranger. I know one thing he could never tell me. Every minute on top of the world with my son was worth a hundred, even a million steps.

I remember having that much hair. On the other hand, I grow a better vacation beard then he does.


51 Comments on “Vacation Lessons: On Cape Hatteras Lighthouse”

  1. Snoring Dog Studio says:

    Some parents … why the CIA and FBI don’t hire them for their interrogation units is beyond me – they know torture if anyone does. Plus, they have no qualms about being mean to little children.

    The thrill of this day is FINALLY seeing your face! What a lovely photo of the both of you. You’re so fortunate to have a great relationship with your son. Wonderful memories are being stored up for both of you.

    • omawarisan says:

      Yeah, their desire to go to the top overwhelms the fact that they ought to look after their kids.

      That’s not me, I was hoping you could tell me who the jerk grabbing my son was 😉

  2. Wendi says:

    Not sure what is my favorite part of this post – your retelling of the the ranger’s talk or the fact that we finally see a picture of Oma and son. Of course now that you’ve posted that photo on the Interweb you’ll probably have to go into some sort of witness relocation program.

  3. Lenore Diane says:

    As you heard the kids wail did you think to yourself, “I’m so glad I am no longer in that stage of life?” Having young kids, I mean. I enjoyed this Oma – thank you. Nice picture, too. Great bonus!

    • omawarisan says:

      You know, that’s the weird thing. Everyone tells you, oh wait until he’s two…wait until he’s 13…wait until he’s 18. The way things have worked out, I enjoy whatever stage he’s in, miss the one he just left and laugh about the one’s long gone.

      Really though, I don’t miss having to tell him he’s not old enough to go places.

  4. Queen says:

    I remember that lighthouse. I think it was closed for repairs when we went when I was a kid. If not, my mama probably woulda made us climb.

    Parents can be cruel.

  5. We found him Captain!! says:

    Great story, great picture…..I’m happy.

  6. Horsedonkeymulezebra says:

    Great story and even greater picture.

    But I would be remiss if I did not point out that you failed to make clear the difference between a Park Ranger and a tour guide.

    I once had the bright idea to tour the Edgar Allen Poe Museum in Richmond, Va. The recently graduated English major in me thought it would be interesting, and the feature act at the Richmond Comedy Club in me figured I’d be able to come up with some great new material for that night’s show.

    I was wrong on both counts. After paying $5 (a suspiciously low price for a guided tour of ANY museum) I was introduced to Enoch, my tour guide, and learned that Enoch would be my own personal guide through the museum, since most people who go to museums have jobs and don’t go to them at 10:00 Wednesday morning.

    Know what is interesting about the Edgar Allen Poe Museum in Richmond, Va? Nothing. Nothing at all. There is a lot of stuff there, and Enoch knew a lot about all of it, and told me all of it…

    Poe had not written any of his classic works in the house, now museum. The furniture there now was not the original, but similar to what would have been there. The only thing there that seemed to possibly be from the time Poe lived there was Enoch himself. The man was ancient. He looked sounded and walked like the old man Tim Conway used to play in sketches on the Carol Burnett Show. Tiny 1/4 inch steps, long, rambling comments about every item in the room delivered as if to himself in hopes of remembering everything.

    When you are on a one on one tour with someone, you can’t “duck out gracefully”. You can’t lag behind someone who is walking .33 miles per hour. You can’t just change the subject. You can’t just say “Hey, let’s talk about something else besides Edgar Allen Poe!” (although I hope to one day use that phrase)

    Perhaps it was the surroundings, or the subject matter, but I soon found myself daydreaming about knocking Enoch out, and building a brick wall around him, or encasing him below the floorboards. But I figured here of all places, those would be the first places they would look for him.

    In the end, I resorted to looking at my watch and asking Enoch if there was a pay phone around. He directed me to the main lobby, and said he would wait where we were for me to come back.

    Still he waits.

  7. Todd Pack says:

    I’m a sucker for lighthouses. Sounds like a great day.

    • omawarisan says:

      It is a great place for a family vacation. 4 lighthouses not that far apart to boot, two of which you can climb…one isn’t out of little kid range either.

  8. shoutabyss says:

    I had the chance to climb a tower like that. I chickened out! I kept imagining the thing would fall over when I reached the top.

    I think that ranger had the wisdom of the gods, though. “Personal circle of hell.” That is simply pure genius. That’s obviously a job I’d never be able to have. I’d kill myself by belly laughing too much.

    • omawarisan says:

      I think more people would have listened if there was a Ranger at the door berating people who came out with crying kids: “we TOLD you but did you listen? No, and now look at how things are. Your vacation is ruined!”

  9. madtante says:

    Aw! Cute shot! I’ve never been inside a lighthouse. Sounds like a cool place to visit (although what would bother me more is a lot of people–I don’t do well in crowds; this comes from the fact that I’m TINY and people don’t even see me, so they step on me, shove me, think I’m the next step, etc.).

  10. Jeane says:

    Sounds like a wonderful time! You do know those rangers probably go home, drink a lot, and talk mad shit about all the people that refuse to listen. Ranger stories…I bet that is a bit of awesome.

  11. Laura says:

    I almost passed out just reading about how hot it was.

    • omawarisan says:

      It was hot in there. The nice thing is that every so often there is a platform next to an open window with the wind blowing in….ahhhh.

      But that’s NC in the summer it is a lot hot.

  12. Amy says:

    You’re right. I’ve never heard any “Bad Park Ranger” stories. I was thinking that maybe this is because their job (working outside, with nature and creatures and such) is so relaxing, but after reading this, now I’m thinking that they are all just infinitely patient.
    Sweet picture of you and your son!

  13. Kim Pugliano says:

    My butt hurts just thinking about all those damned stairs. Am I the only one who saw your post with you driving, and therefore a self-portrait? Granted, we’ve never seen Omawarison, but I feel like I’m the only good subscriber for recognizing YOU in the picture.

    • omawarisan says:

      That’s not me, I am just trying to figure out who that guy is grabbing my kid ;).

      Youre right, I wasnt thinking about the post with the video…the wedding one.

  14. Was your baseball hat on backwards in deference to the wind or was that your inner johnny bench coming out?

    • omawarisan says:

      Oh I’m more of a Rick Dempsey guy, but Bench was a better catcher…bonus points to you for the reference!

      In this case, it was the wind. It is roaring up there.

  15. jacquelincangro says:

    I remember a similar incident of whining and complaining when climbing to the top of the Statue of Liberty. Oh, wait…that was me.
    Nice photo of you and Little Oma (though I guess he’s not so little after all).

  16. Betty says:

    This story is lovely. But it brings back memories of climbing to the tower of the Cologne Cathedral back in the mid-90s. It’s something like an 800 step climb and even back then, not pushing the 50 I am now, it was exhausting to say the least. Ancient stone spiral staircase with two way traffic. I huff and puff my way to the last 100 steps and suddenly from that height, the walls open up and you can see outside and the steps are suddenly steel grid that you can see through below. I got hit with such a raging case of vertigo, I dropped to my knees and had to crawl back down.

  17. I love that you climbed all those steps, Oma…I was nearly in tears in Quebec City a couple of summers ago when we encountered a lot of steps, and I was having knee problems! Nobody waited for the old broad with the bad knees…


  18. Omawarison says:

    I have to say the best little kid line from that light house was “Can we stop this nonsense??” I haven’t heard a kid declare a landmark as nonsense, or even be so direct. Even in all of my years being a kid myself.

  19. I remember all those speeches from my parents “It’s just a little farther. We’re almost there. Just put one foot in front of the other.” It didn’t take long to figure out they had no idea how hard it was for a kid. It made me increasingly skeptical of anything they said would be easy or worthwhile.

  20. Katybeth says:

    It just gets better and better doesn’t it?

  21. planetross says:

    An allusive photo of omawarisan … or is it illusive? … I know it’s not an ullusive, ollusive, or ellusive photo.

    … not sure about yllusive though.

  22. gmom says:

    That’s awesome. The picture was by far the best part.
    Park Rangers. They’re all stoners shakin’ their green hats and thinking,.shoulda listened.

    I was climbing the statue of Liberty with my daughters and most of the people were turning back saying stuff like..we never wanted to see that anyways…c’mon Leroy pick up ya brother.
    What’s really fun to do in nature with your kids?
    Shopping with teenage girls.
    Now that’s an adventure.

    Your boy is outstanding!

  23. gmom says:

    Oh boy climbing long stairways in sweltering heat sounds just so magical! When does the waterboarding start!!!

  24. Binky says:

    When I was young, we climbed ten lighthouses a day just to get to school! In the snow! Kids these days have it much too easy.

  25. Spectra says:

    They should promise kids ice cream at the top. And only give it to non-whiners. And promise Beer to adults. When you get to the top, the Ranger now gets his revenge..

    “Sorry, Folks. Just kiddin’ about the Ice cream (eyeing whiney little, pee-stained=shorts wearing kids) The Beer is free. But it’s over there – (pointing out window at a pub now visible, 4 miles down the road)”

    Heh heh.

    • Spectra says:

      I mean, he adds, “The beer is free. But you have to pay a $25.00-an-hour bar stool rental fee. And buy the Mug. $15.00 – but it’s got a picture of the Lighthouse on it -heh heh. Enjoy your walk down. Heh heh.”

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