Here’s an e-mail that was sent to my coworker & I’s head ranger this past season that I would like to share. Backstory: David and I had just set up camp on the second day of our weekend patrol as Desolation Wilderness was quickly becoming enshrouded in heavy smoke from the Butte Fire (at the time it was 64,000 acres). The smoke was so thick- see below photo- that there were hardly any people up in the Wilderness, and we were having trouble breathing. We decided to continue the patrol regardless and were stopped by a man named John and his two young children- he told us that his buddy’s 10-year old boy had crushed his toes and they needed help packing up their camp and hiking out.
Once David and I had hiked back to out camp, packed up, and got back down to the group, they had already started back. Aside from having trouble breathing with all the smoke, I had a gnarly limp due to a fall I had taken earlier in the day (typical); nonetheless, we hurried down the trail trying to catch up but still doing our job and talking to hikers & backpackers on the way down. We eventually caught up with them and were picked up at the trailhead by our head ranger, Jon, and taken to our original trailhead where our rig was parked. We arrived home at 11pm that night.
Takeaway: Stay calm, do what is necessary to help, put others before yourself, and (in our case) - be the best Ranger that you can be. It matters.
Here’s the follow-up email that man wrote to our head ranger, Jon.
We briefly shook hands at dusk this past Saturday, September 12, 2015 in the lower Echo Lake parking lot. My name is John, and I am a member of a 3-dad plus 4-child group from Marin County, who went backpacking (one for the first time) into the Desolation Wilderness the day before with a goal of camping two nights at Aloha lake. Unfortunately, our weekend was cut short at 1PM on Saturday due to an unfortunate accident for the young boy in our group, Noah, who met with a boulder dropped by my daughter, Jordan, and ended up with two smashed and broken toes requiring six stitches. What a stressful moment that became!
We wanted to bring to your attention the actions of David Lee and Miranda Leconte, from the Wilderness Department, who happened to be on the trail within 30 minutes and halfway back to our camp from the site of the accident. They were professional, extremely friendly, showed real concern for our situation, and perhaps most reassuring of all they offered to do whatever it took to help us in every way possible, including breaking down our camp, helping to carry out our gear, and even carrying Noah if required. As David and Miranda made arrangements to pack up their own camp and come meet us to help, we managed to get our own act together, pack up and rapidly descend the nearly six miles out of the mountains before dusk with Noah hobbling along with us.
On the way down, the young boy’s father, Ben, said “if it wasn’t for the Rangers, I don’t know if I would have had the courage and confidence to do what ultimately needed to be done.” Amen to that. David and Miranda caught up to us with only 1/2 mile left to go. But actually helping us wasn’t the real story here. The fact is that they showed up and did exactly what they said they were going to do, and perhaps the greatest value they added to the entire sequence of events was simply being a voice of reason and helping everyone remain calm with reassuring words and tone during a very anxious moment for all of us. It’s not always what one does that defines greatness. Sometimes it’s character that makes the difference. They showed awesome character that day. We can’t thank David and Miranda enough for doing what they do and being where they are needed, or in this case just watching out for us like guardian Rangers.
Please pass along our extreme gratitude to both of them and all Rangers.