A Three Sisters Wilderness Trailhead Information Station First Season Finale

Note from Sharon: Les has been away and I got confused about the order of these posts.  So I will start posting them again, hopefully in the correct order.  The last one was posted in this series can be found here.

By Les Joslin

The last trailhead excitement of the Green Lakes Trailhead Information Station’s inaugural season occurred on September 6, the next-to-last day of its 1992 scheduled operations. It had been a fairly busy day. By 1600—just an hour before scheduled closing time—I’d assisted 139 visitors entering the wilderness, and the exodus of day-trippers was in full swing. Two of those handed me surprises.

The first, at 1620, brought me a note from a seasonal wilderness ranger requesting assistance with a fire at Moraine Lake. He hadn’t reported it to the fire dispatcher, so I wondered just what he had. I radioed the dispatcher that I would be leaving the station to “check out a situation” at Moraine Lake and would keep them apprised. The second surprise was at 1625. While I was preparing to leave for Moraine Lake, an upset woman handed me a loaded .45-caliber pistol she’d found somewhere on Broken Top. “A child could have found it and….” I thanked her, secured the pistol in the station, and left on the three and one-half mile walk to Moraine Lake at 1630.

I arrived at Moraine Lake not quite an hour later to find the youngster paid to be a wilderness ranger in tee shirt, shorts, and sandals—certainly not the prescribed uniform of a Forest Service wilderness ranger—and a disheveled, middle-aged camper poking around a large smoldering log inside a burned patch. “You really look the part,” the young wilderness ranger wisecracked about my uniform and yellow hardhat, fire pack, and tools.

“And what about you?” was my cold response.

“Well, er…,” he evaded.

“That’s what I thought. What happened here?”

“His camping stove…like, exploded…and caught the dry tree and brush…like, on fire.”

“So why’d you send me that note?”

“I didn’t want the responsibility….”

“What are you paid for?” was my rhetorical reply as I broke out my radio, advised Redmond Dispatch I was mopping up a small fire, and began doing that slipknot’s job while he sat and watched. An hour later I called dispatch, reported the fire out, didn’t mention the so-called wilderness ranger, and without a word to him left for the Green Lakes Trailhead in disgust.

The next day at the trailhead I served 126 wilderness visitors, turned the pistol over to a Forest Service law enforcement officer, and closed the station for the season.

That first season of trying the Green Lakes Trailhead Information Station on for size, those fifty days of serving 4,079 national forest visitors—2,847 day users, 118 of them on horseback; 679 backpackers beginning or completing overnight trips; and 556 visitors who didn’t enter the wilderness but required other information or assistance—convinced me that a staffed station at the most-used entrance to Oregon’s most-visited wilderness was an absolute necessity.

I put it all in my report. Wilderness visitors and the wilderness management effort needed knowledgeable wilderness information specialists not just to impart information and understanding visitors needed for successful wilderness experiences, but to provide a range of emergency services from first aid and dead car battery assistance to receiving and transmitting search and rescue needs and wildfire reports.

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