Here are a few questions that Park visitors often ask rangers.
Q: How can I get a job as a Park Ranger?
A: The Association of National Park Rangers publishes a guide to becoming a National Park Ranger called Live the Adventure: Join the National Park Service. The booklet is available for $5 (includes S&H) by writing to ANPR, P.O. Box 108, Larned, KS 67550.
Q: How can I get a job with the concessioner?
A: Contact Delaware North.
Q: The tree trunks have gray-green stuff all over them. Are the trees sick?
A: The gray-green stuff is lichen, which does no harm. Lichens grow where the air is cool, clean, and damp, which explains why they are common at higher elevations in the park.
Q: (In May.) Down in the Valley, the trees are covered with leaves. Up here they're bare. Are the trees sick?
A: The leaves will come. On the mountaintop, spring is three or four weeks later than it is in the Valley.
Q: (August to October.) Trees beside the Drive have bare branches covered with cobwebs. Is something killing the trees?
A: What you saw is the work of the fall webworm, Hyphantria cunea. It's not killing the trees. The webworms don't come until late in the growing season, when the tree has enough nutrients stored in its roots to last through the winter. A tree would have to be completely stripped for several years in a row to be seriously damaged.
Q: Where are the caverns?
A: There are a number of caverns in the Shenandoah Valley, but none in the park. Caverns occur in limestone. There is no limestone in the park, except at a few points near the boundary. The largest and most famous caverns in the area are at Luray, nine miles west of Thornton Gap (mile 31.5).
Q: Where are the fire towers?
A: There are none. In the 1940s the park had nearly a dozen fire towers, but they've all been taken down. Fires are detected by rangers patrolling the Drive or reported by visitors.
Q: What is the park policy on hang-gliding?
A: The Superintendent has authorized three launch sites. One is on Millers Head, near Skyland. The others are on Hogback Mountain and Dickey Hill, in the North District. But the rules are strict. Write to Park Headquarters for information: Shenandoah National Park, 3655 US Highway 211 East, Luray, VA 22835. You will need to have a hang gliding certification and a park permit.
So, now you're loaded with background information, receptive attitudes, and field books. You're ready to begin your park experience.