After a few months of routine, I wake up minutes before my first alarm goes off. Rolling out of bed before seven has been tough to adjust to, but that was never my strong suit. Most of my gear was packed the night before, but I put the finishing touches in a hurry: sunglasses, full bottles of water, a radio with fresh batteries, a notebook and pen, and my battery pack. At the end, I toss in a sandwich made with White Salmon Bakery bread and cave-aged Trout Lake cheese. Walking out the door of the bunkhouse, I turn to face Mount Adams, just like I do every clear morning. As I cross the parking lot, the weight of everything I need for three days in the backcountry weighs me down, although the missing weight of my skis is a relief. Tossing our packs in the truck, our crew lead, Taylen runs through the gear we need. This weekend, we’re bringing up another tent to stash at Ranger Camp, extra fuel, and carrying ticket books for the first time this season. Delinquent hikers, beware! We gather ourselves and our post-hike goodies and load up, heading for the trailhead.
CAPTION Ranger Camp at Lunch Counter, just below Pikers Peak
Working in the Forest Service isn’t just bureaucracy and paperwork. Occasionally, they even let us go outside and see the forests. But really, the time outside goes by so much faster; the rare administrative day often hurts that much more. Despite the tedium of government training and forms, the people working alongside me have made it bearable and enjoyable. I’ve heard more times than I can count that the people working in the Forest Service aren’t in it for the money, and it shows.
CAPTION Returning from the summit, with Adams Glacier in the back
Many have been there for more than my lifetime so far and don’t plan on leaving anytime soon. The passion they have for this agency is astounding and inspiring. The connections run deep; everybody seems to know everybody else, and they usually speak highly of each other. Upon my arrival, I was shocked by how easily rank was brushed aside, and conversations were welcomed by everyone I met. The easygoing atmosphere makes learning and asking questions inevitable.
The job description included things like “patrolling wilderness areas” and “making public contacts” but failed to mention “skiing a world-class line” or “selfies with a mountain goat in camp.” There was also no mention of the clouds of mosquitos or the incompetence of the public, but I see now that they were implied all along. The duties of a wilderness ranger are often things that I normally take time off of work to enjoy, and all I have to do is talk to everyone I see. It’s not a bad deal when you think about it. Spending time in the field is the reason we’re all here, and I think I could get used to spending summers sleeping on the ground, climbing mountains, and making some of the most amazing friends equally passionate about the outdoors.
CAPTION A mountain goat wanders through our camp.