Although it has been manufactured in Australia and sold around the world since 2012, the returning Ford Ranger mid-size pickup has been absent from the U.S. market since 2011 and is getting lots of hype from Ford. But this column isn’t about that Ranger.
This is about Grand Teton National Park river rangers and the far beefier Ford F-250 XL Super Duty Crew Cab they use to transport their Snake River patrol raft. And their F-250 is not even new. Purchased in 2007 by the General Services Administration in Washington, D.C., and assigned to the Department of the Interior, this truck has been in service with Teton Park staff since the G.W. Bush administration.
We happened upon the rugged and highly equipped law enforcement vehicle on the banks of the Snake River as its stewards, a pair of river rangers, prepared their red patrol raft for launch. They were firming up the Hypalon raft with a few more pounds of air pressure as we arrived, and multitasked by fielding our questions while also checking credentials of three gents about to depart in their own Hypalon vessel. Hypalon is a pricey material similar to urethane, but more abrasion- and puncture-resistant.
“What’s your birthday?” asked the lanky lady ranger of the bearded dude whose ID she held.
“September 7th, 1997,” he replied without hesitation.
“You guys are good to go. Stay main channel and avoid the snags,” she advised, and with good reason. Even on a “scenic” (non-whitewater) stretch of river such as the Snake between the towns of Moran and Moose, about 20 miles, snags can be dangerous. She explained how a guide in training had lost his life recently when a sudden snag pitched him into the powerful, highwater current and underneath a tangle of trees. We spent a few minutes more talking about the wildlife they see and the most common mistake rafters make, which is not getting their boat examined for invasive organisms transported inadvertently from other areas.
As the friendly, helpful rangers said goodbye and oared out to the main channel, we just had to circle back to the parking lot to get a better peek at that studly pickup. Despite its excellent condition, we knew it had to be more than a few years old just from its quaint square headlights alone. It was a 2008 with a 5.4L V8 SOHC 16V gas engine and automatic transmission riding on all-terrain BF Goodrich radials.
The massive winch up front, the red, blue and amber light array on top, and those “Park Service Green” stripes along the sides marked it unmistakably as a ranger mobile. For those still not certain, the all-caps “U.S. PARK RANGER” on three sides would likely clear things up.
The F-250 is a much better hauler and tower than the F-150 reviewed on these pages a few weeks ago. However, it is itself dwarfed in both respects by its sibling F-350 and F-450 models. As your wiser tough guys will tell you, there’s always someone (or something) out there that’s tougher.
And for all the unpredictable hardships a Park Service vehicle must endure, it impressed me what good shape this old F-250 is in, inside and out. Kudos to these two National Park rangers, not just for being great stewards of our environment, but also of the tools entrusted to them by We the People. Eleven years would show on most any truck even if it was just owned by a single family. The fact that this one bears up so well under multiple drivers and in demanding conditions speaks well of all three concerned parties: Ford, Grand Teton National Park and those two fine rangers.
Clifford Fewel’s AutoFewel column appears each week in the Tri-Valley Dispatch, as well as online at pinalcentral.com/opinion/columns.