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There's A First Time For Everything

Wilderness Ranger Nathan Mynatt

Charlie and I have developed a fairly irksome habit, which is that we seem to be getting everything wrong the first time. For example, we took a wrong turn going to the ranger station on our first morning on the job and left the key to our cabin locked inside the next day when we left for our first-day trip. Luckily, none of our missteps have carried any serious consequences, just a fair amount of embarrassment. Now, when I say our missteps, I mostly mean MY mistakes that Charlie has been dragged into. The theory that we have settled upon in retrospect is that if we (I) get everything wrong the first time, we (I) will do everything correctly going forward. The key here, we repeatedly claim, is consistency.

Rangers Nathan and Charlie

Most recently we had a series of mishaps on our trip up and down the Arkaqua trail in Brasstown Wilderness of the Chattahoochee National Forest, from which we just returned. I’m writing this about an hour after arriving home to Dick’s Creek Cabin, our charming little home for the next few months. Yesterday morning Charlie and I were excited to see a good portion of Brasstown Wilderness, and in our hurry to get started, we promptly missed the turn-off to the trailhead. Upon realizing our mistake and backtracking, we found the elusive parking area, only to discover that the trailhead was even more difficult to find. That is until we looked across the road. So, we crossed the road and started up the trail, and quickly realized another mistake – we had started at the bottom. Really, the very bottom. Maybe the lowest point in Georgia. And we were climbing to the highest. “This is it!” Charlie proclaimed. “Nothing will EVER get any harder. EVER!” He was feeling a little sick on top of it all. So, a long climb and a couple of side trips into the brush later, we walked out of the Wilderness and into the Brasstown Bald Visitors Center with defeated hopes of finding a suitable campsite or even water source along the oppressive trail. Wondering what to do, Charlie and I walked around a bend in the road and to our great pleasure saw the friendly Mike Evans, a Recreation Technician with the US Forest Service who had shown us around Dick’s Creek Cabin a few days ago. Mike introduced us to Julia, the awesomely kind manager of the visitors center, who did Charlie and I a huge solid by letting us stay in an empty host camping site, a move which greatly improved our day.

Blooming rhododendron.

We began unpacking and I made a realization that I had previously thought unmanageable – I had left my tent poles in my car back at the cabin. “Hey Charlie, think we could share your tent?” I asked sheepishly, as the comedy of errors continued. “Uhhhh…” he replied. So after setting up Charlie’s tent and putting our sleeping gear inside, we hung our sweaty uniforms out to dry, went to the top of the bald, returned to eat dinner, and played a game of “throw the rock inside the discarded PVC pipe,” which was rudely cut short by a sudden onslaught of rain. We ducked inside the tent and listened to an episode of RadioLab, after which I asked “We left our uniforms outside didn’t we?” “Yep.”

The next morning we packed up, put on our wet uniforms, hiked out, and drove back to the cabin, uneventfully.

- Nathan Mynatt, SAWS Wilderness Ranger

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