Wilderness Ranger | VideoAlexander Gorney | 8/19/2012
"Well, I`ve always been interested in the outdoors in a major way,” he said. “When you know a place really well, and it’s definitely a home for me. So this is like showing the public my home, so to speak, because I know every inch of this park unit."
Heiser is the back country ranger for the North Unit at Theodore Roosevelt National Park. He is the only back country ranger the North Unit has ever had, and it`s a job he`s held for 39 years.
"I always say if you know a place really well, you have a responsibility to the public to show some of the unique things that you are aware of yourself. So I feel a responsibility to the public to take them out on wilderness hikes and show them things they would rarely see on their own."
Once a month, Heiser takes visitors on a hike around the North Unit. But these treks don`t involve just simply walking on trails. Heiser leads these groups across terrain that includes non-trail as well as bison made trails.
"Because we`ve gone with John, the ranger hikes, we`ve learned about the plants and the animals and the rocks and things that we would have never known,” said hiker Karen Jacowitz. “He`s been here his whole life so he has a sense of this place that is quite impressive."
Some of Heiser`s duties include overseeing the entire park, catching animals that roam outside the park and rescuing hikers that get lost out in the wilderness.
"One time I was working on Hagen Spring and I heard sounds of bison heading down the trail,” he said. “I climbed up a butte and got out of their way somewhat. The entire herd got there and one of the cows sensed that something was not quite right, so they stampeded and so the bison actually stampeded in every direction and one of the calves actually came up and banged into my knee with his nose. It was a really awesome experience. The hazard could have been, of course, that his mother could have taken me out right then. It`s not every human that`s been whacked by bison in the back country of a national park."
"He`s got a lot of knowledge and stories of what goes on out here and he`s here every day so you get an everyday type of view," said hiker Adam Czech.
In a land filled with dangerous animals, plants, and terrain, Heiser thrives in it.