It has come to our attention that several ATC Ridge runners have been verbally assaulted by angry hikers this season. This cannot stand without response. I want to make perfectly clear that ALDHA both supports ridge runners and highlight that they may be the best friend(s) hikers have on the trail. They are not your mother, your trash collector, your babysitter, nor are they “narcs.” They are employees hired by the ATC, and to a degree, they are the eyes and ears of the ATC on the trail.
In recent times, the ATC has made some rather unpopular decisions that I will neither defend nor discuss here. Ridge runners did not make these decisions. They are ambassadors between the trail and the public and are charged with educating trail users (day hikers, section hikers, and long-distance hikers) on best trail practices, trail history, and current trail conditions. Ridge runners have no police powers, rather their authority comes from first-hand knowledge and experience. Many have been thru hikers. All are trained in Wilderness First Aid and carry a radio should a situation warrant additional resources.
These are good people! During my years of hiking, I have met numerous ridge runners on the trail. I am honored to call many of them my friends. Contrary to appearances, their job is not all glamor, nor is it just spending the day out hiking. They are paid for performing their designated duties 10 hours a day, but regularly spend many more hours voluntarily interacting with hikers and keeping the trail as pristine as we have come to expect. When you pass a ridge runner on-trail take a minute to chat with them, let them know how your day is going, and be sure to thank them for what they do. After all, they truly are the best friends long distance hikers have on the trail.
Dr. Ken “Nimbus” Bunning