Actually, this is exactly what a park ranger at Rocky Mountain National Park told me yesterday. She must have seen me getting out of my Volkswagen Beetle (best rental ever!) and walking into the Visitors Center with Marc Jacobs sunglasses and no map and thought to herself, “Not on my watch!”
When I stepped up to the counter, I swear she didn’t even greet me. She just said, “Do you have boots?”
Of course I didn’t. I don’t even own hiking boots. But I wanted her to recommend a six-mile trail with a good view, so I lied and told her they were in my trunk.
I’m not sure she heard me, because she all she said in reply was: “Good. You need to wear sturdy boots, a sun hat, and long pants. You should also bring a poncho. And plenty of water.”
This is all fantastic advice – especially for a woman hiking alone. But I didn’t plan on following it, mostly because I didn’t have any of those other things. Not even the water because I’m 99% sure I left my bottle on the roof of the car when I stopped at a Starbucks.
When I assured her that I would be meeting all those requirements, she came up with a brand new problem: “You know you should never hike in the afternoon. There are thunderstorms. Hiking is for the morning.”
I happen to think that hiking is for when you have time for hiking. And that sneakers are for hiking too. And that ponchos and sunhats are strictly optional. But she and I would never agree on any of that, so I went to another park ranger station where a very friendly older gentleman recommended Deer Creek Trail, a 6 mile out and back hike a gorgeous view. He didn’t say a word about the boots or threaten me with rain. He didn’t even warn me not to fall in the creek.
The next day, I was tempted to go back to the Visitors Center and tell that first ranger that I made it – and that I skipped lunch too. But I didn’t, of course, because I spoke to her long enough to know that all she would have said was, “Why are you wearing a tank top?”
Regardless, I’m glad I didn’t listen to her. Otherwise, I would have missed this view.