The Junior Ranger Badge

Just a few weeks ago I made my way across the country from San Francisco to Chicago with one of my good friends from high school.

We spent 53% of a five day trip (that is, 65 hours) confined in a plastic box too short to stand in, to small to lay in, and too uncomfortable to sit in. My wife claims it’s a car called a Chevy Cobalt, but it didn’t appear to posses any of the typical qualities of a car. No cruise control, the seats couldn’t lean back, and there was a high pitched whiiiiiiiiiiiiiir sound that made you envy the dead.

To get to Chicago from San Francisco, as we all know, you have to head due North out of the city until you hit the Canadian border. It’s a very long way. Then you cruise along at a happy 80 MPH in a plastic box designed for 40, analyzing the likelihood of all potential crash scenarios. According to my back-of-the-envelope calculations, you’ve got somewhere around a -7% chance of surviving those roads in that particular vehicle, but believe me, once you get to Glacier National Park, it’s all worth it.

It was there that we hiked by the most beautiful lake I’ve ever seen, a lake that made me forget about the Cobalt as we sat on the shore and skipped stones along the waters: smooth as a freshly opened jar of peanut butter. It was just by the lake that we set up camp in a small clearing with a faded sign that read “A-35”.

I won’t bore you with the wonders we saw in the wilderness. With the Mysteries of the Mountain Tribes, or the forests on the water, or the curious man that could call the woodland spirits to rest on his shoulders. You’ll just have to go and see.

It was all so curious– then today something equally curious happened: a package arrived by post with a small badge and a handwritten note:


Somebody worked really hard for this Jr. Ranger badge! It was found at Glacier National Park campsite A-35! Thought you’d like to have it back as it might be part of a collection. Congratulations, Jr. Ranger! Hope you got a Glacier badge, too. Keep up the good work. Come back and visit us again.

At first, I was pretty broken up about it– there’s some little nine year old kid out there, absolutely crushed about losing his badge. He probably subscribes to Ranger Rick magazine.

But then I realized: I did earn this, but only Mother Nature knew. The Park Rangers must have been listening to the Breath of the Forest.

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