Our orientation as Wilderness Ranger Interns began one rainy afternoon on June 25th as 15 fresh, young faces trickled into Camp Zanika, located on the waters of Lake Wenatchee. As we waited for everyone to show up, those of us that arrived early began to discuss a question that seemed to be on all of our minds.
“So what are we actually doing this summer?”
The answer to that question remained nebulous for much of orientation, with no one seeming to have an answer. It was only about mid-way through training that our objective became clear: find and assess wilderness campsites for use. This entails backpacking through established and primitive trails with a GPS unit and jumping off trail when an area looks prime for camping. Then, once a site is discovered (usually given away by a fire ring and clearing), we record the ground disturbance, area, tree damage, amount of litter, and any other distinguishing characteristics. Seems easy right? Not always. During training, we spent much time discussing the subtleties of site assessment—such as, what qualifies as tree damage or what distinguishes a ground disturbance rating of 4 (bare mineral soil) from a 1 (flattened vegetation around a center of activity). After a lot of theory, we gave our GPS skills a trial run at a near-by campground. With the help of our Forest Service coordinators, Amy and George, we quickly eliminated a lot of the deviations that were occurring between our individual assessments.
Our orientation also included plenty of wilderness safety training. All but one of us became Wilderness First Aid certified, learning a whole new set of practical skills, ranging from how to properly clean a cut to administering CPR. After our intensive two day certification, most of us confident in our training, but hoped we would never have to use it. After all our long days inside, we were excited for the opportunity to get outside. For our first hike, we set off up Dirty Face—a pleasant climb up 4,000 feet over 4 miles. While some of us were perfectly in shape, many of us were not (myself included) and the hike was quite a challenge. However, the 360 degree view at the top was completely worth it.
At the end of our 10 days together, the Lake Wenatchee team (Austin, Caitlin, Brandon, Andy, Jess, Nate, Levi, and I) said goodbye to our friends on the Snoqualmie team and headed over to our new home on the other side of the lake. We were quite excited about our new digs and a little apprehensive about the season to come, but excited nonetheless.