It’s my pleasure and honor to be a wilderness ranger at Mount Rainier National Park. To me it’s all about making a positive contribution to our community, as a steward to the wilderness and to the people who visit Mount Rainier. Helping people in distress has been one of the greatest challenges I’ve faced as a wilderness ranger. When all goes well we are able to rescue people, which is a feeling of accomplishment that is priceless.

A couple of years ago I participated in a successful rescue with two other wilderness rangers. After a full day of work we were at our homes and about to fall asleep when we received a call that a backpacker was sick and unresponsive. We accepted the mission, geared up and hit the trail in the dark just before midnight.

By headlamp, with heavy packs laden with rescue gear, oxygen tanks and personal gear, we hiked six miles in through adverse conditions and searched for the patient in distress. After several hours we were able to locate our patient who was just barely holding on to her life. Our EMT assessed our patient’s condition and came to the conclusion that we needed to immediately evacuate her. Hiking her out six miles was not an option, so we decided our best method to get her to immediate care would be to fly her out. Unfortunately it was in the in the middle of the night so we would have to wait for first light to get a helicopter to our location. As our EMT provided patient care, another ranger and I set up and secured a backcountry helicopter landing zone and did our best to comfort the remainder of her party.

It was then a waiting game for sunrise. At first light, with clear weather, our helicopter was able to extract our patient and take her to immediate care. We hiked out exhausted and unsure of what her outcome would be. During these times we are offered a reflection on life. Everything seems more beautiful as one has a keen appreciation of how precious and fragile life is.

It was later determined that she had hyponatremia, extremely low levels of sodium in her blood, and was near death when she reached the hospital. A couple of weeks later we received a letter from our patient. She poured out her heart in appreciation of our helping to save her life. That letter is more important to me than any paycheck I’ve ever received.