Budget Life List

SAVE MORE TO EXPLORE

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I love to explore national parks and drink in the sights and sounds of America’s best idea. From the depths of the Grand Canyon to the dizzying heights of Glacier, it’s all my favorite.

As a Park Ranger, I find much of my personal and professional fulfillment in visiting these icons. After the initial planning excitement, my mind drifts to the cost.

I love my job but it is not a position that gets a lot of monetary love. Because of that, I have to get scrappy when it comes to visiting national parks.

Luckily, in my profession, it’s not insider information!

Right?

PLANNING THE ROUTE

How a Park Ranger saves on entrance fees is by buying a pass.

America the Beautiful passes are an all-access VIP ticket into any federal land including the Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, National Wildlife Refuge, and so many more!

If it’s federal land with an entrance fee this pass will cover it. It’s like an annual all-I-can-eat buffet of federal land access. It is a far better deal than the one time I paid $109 for visiting The Wizarding World.

Visiting the magic at Universal was epic but it was also one day. This is a year’s worth of beauty and access to America’s best attraction. 

LODGING FIELD NOTES

How a Park Ranger saves on lodging is by going camping.

Many if not most National Parks have camping but Mr. Bull and I rarely take advantage of it. There are times where we break from the norm but typically we camp in the less pressured, more scenic, and cheaper, National Forest Service.

Forests have more relaxed camping rules called dispersed camping. Which is forest speak for – when there is no designated camping area, camping is allowed a hundred feet away from a road, water, or trail. We follow this up with a healthy dose of research too, because just like tree bark, every forest is different with its own set of rules.

Plus, it would be exceedingly awkward and embarrassing to get a ticket from a fellow Ranger for not following the rules.

We also default to the leave no trace standard, which is fancy gov lingo for whatever is brought into the woods comes out.

We are weekend wilderness campers, which suits our lifestyle. All the pains and discomforts of hiking and sleeping on the ground are worth it.

Each morning, I open our tiny tent flap to a beautiful view of wilderness. It also helps that it’s free 99. Outside of our deposit of sweat, steps, and occasionally tears.

As with any underlying concern with freebies, we ensure to take extra care. We don’t want to muck it up and cause a closure because of littering, vandalism, or strewn human waste.

EXPLORING FOOD

How a Park Ranger saves on food is by byof – bring your own food.

Our default food of choice is freeze-dried. Our backcountry exploits demand that we bring the lightest food possible because carrying around a fridge worth of food on your back is unpleasant.

Ounces equal pounds and pounds equal pain, is a frequent saying we stole borrowed from our fellow Army comrades.

There are instances when we aren’t hiking fifteen miles in a day and don’t necessarily need to be concerned about extra weight. But it’s hard to beat risotto with chicken after a long day of visitor center exhibits, wayside vistas, and Ranger-guided tours.

Just because I’m a Ranger doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy all the free trappings of our federal land!

Actually, as a Ranger, I need to support my fellow Rangers by participating in everything our public land offers, from land access to Ranger tours. If I am not doing it and following all the rules, with an extra heaping of common curtesy, how can I expect anyone else to?

Keep exploring!

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