By: Kevin Brown, Chief Ranger of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway
“You have the best job in the world,” the paddlers would tell me as we chatted on a flat calm Eagle Lake in the middle of August. “How do you get a job like this?” they would ask.
As I motored slowly away, I said to myself “They don’t know how tough it can be working here!” I thought about the time that I spent three of the hottest days of the summer climbing the seemingly endless trail to the fire tower on Round Pond Mountain with a chainsaw and a can of gas to cut countless blowdowns. I thought about the entire afternoon that I spent rescuing a group of summer camp kids that had overturned their canoes in a terrible windstorm and had become separated from one another. I thought about the negative 30-degree day when I traveled by snowmobile down a frozen lake to help another Ranger cut up a huge blowdown on the snowmobile trail near the Locomotives. I thought about the millions of hungry blackflies that make you miserable when you are trying to work outside in the spring. There were so many flies that you can’t talk to any of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway visitors! I thought about the horrible day that I assisted in the recovery of the body of a heart attack victim in Chase’s Carry Rapids.
Then I remembered.
When I got to the bottom of the fire tower trail that hot summer day, I sat down in the shallow refreshing water of Round Pond to cool off. I gazed at the unbelievable beauty of one of the prettiest remote ponds in the State of Maine.
I remembered the joy in the voices of the kids that I had rescued and reunited on that windy day as they built a huge warming fire in the fireplace at their campsite, heated some hot chocolate and set up their tents. It was impossible to get a word in as they told about their adventures while they were separated from each other. Seeing them back together again made my long day and late supper worthwhile.
After spending a long day traveling on a cold frozen lake to clear the trail by the Locomotives, there is nothing like coming around the corner of Churchill Dam on my way back to camp and seeing the smoke curling out of my chimney. What a welcoming sight that was.
Eventually the biting flies go away and the Allagash Wilderness Waterway visitors stay. One of the best things about my job is chatting with anglers, paddlers and day visitors. As I give tours of the Churchill Depot History Center, I get to meet people from all over Maine, the United States and the world. I get paid to talk with people!
Although the death of the gentleman in Chase’s Carry Rapids was a terrible event, I was proud to be a part of the team that came together to take him home with dignity and care for his adult son who was traveling with him. The Allagash Wilderness Waterway staff was assisted that day by members of the Maine Forest Service, Maine Warden Service and the Ashland Ambulance crew. What a great feeling to be able to bring together a group of people from several different agencies who worked well together and displayed incredible professionalism.
Sometimes terrible situations, when viewed through the lens of a wilderness setting, end with wonderful memories and great lifelong friends. As I write this, I am sitting in my office at Churchill Depot, looking out over the Allagash River with the peak fall foliage in the background, and I ask myself the same question that the paddlers have asked me for years. “You have the best job in the world. How do you get a job like this?”
Kevin Brown is the Chief Ranger of the Allagash Wilderness Waterway. Photo courtesy of Kevin Brown. For an information packet or general information on the Allagash Wilderness Waterway go to: www.maine.gov/allagash or call 207-941-4014; email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to the Bureau of Parks and Public Lands, 106 Hogan Road, Bangor, ME 04401.