The words of wilderness ranger Ryan Lawrence:
Washington is home to one of the most charming towns in America: Trout Lake, a name befitting the porch swing leisure and down-to-dirt recreation to be had there. For a week I soaked up instruction from some truly great people, the staff of Mt. Adams Institute and members of the US Forest Service. They’re a colorful group living beneath a volcano, with bark under their nails, working in and for something they love.
That’s the thing, a place is only as great as the people in it. The ones I worked with ranked right at the top, but the local Trout Lakers made an equally great impression. I felt welcome, which is really all a Southern boy like me needs. I’m not gonna lie, Trout Lake’s a hard place to shed and I suspect it’ll call out to me for some time.
I’ve since come north to the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, a place I’ll also be spending some words on. My first overnight excursion into the backcountry was quite an adventure, as I got to meet Jasmine Rice, who was not having a good time, not at all. She’d tripped on a root and broke her femur, a potentially life-threatening injury. Earlier I’d made a route-taking choice that allowed me to be at the scene pretty quick. As I rushed there, though, I had some doubts and wondered if I could actually help at all. Expertise in trauma and radio communication I didn’t have, but I did know how to empathize and listen, so that’s what I focused on. I’ve got to give her credit: she’s 17 and about as tough as one of the Ponderosas she was lying under. “I felt a whole lot better when I saw your Forest Service badge,” she told me.
She fell in a somewhat remote section of the county, four miles from a trailhead, so it took about eight hours to get an emergency response team mobilized and to get her out of the woods and into an ambulance. Thanks to a group of local equestrians (Fred, Patrick, Skippy, and Ralph), who also provided levity and good cheer, the medic was able to arrive much sooner on horseback. If you can arrive anywhere by horse, you should, because it’s always cool. It’s especially cool, though, if you’re the doc.
As a consequence of all this, my ranger partner, Andrew, and I weren’t able to contact Mason, our direct supervisor, who bears more than a passing resemblance to Ewan MacGregor. “I thought you guys either flaked, were dead, or were being heroes,” he said.
This was a good reminder to be extra careful in the woods, but it also shows how everyone’s capable of working together for one cause, to help one person.
I can’t quite put into words how incredible this forest has been so far, trees 300-400 years old, alpine lakes and meadows — I’m speechless. Though stunning, these places have a fragility that’s apparent, that’s in the air and underfoot. I know that if they were less remote, they wouldn’t exist as they are and as they’re meant to be. I feel lucky to be able to witness such spots, and I’m excited to realize that the summer’s just started.