ALASKA – Often, we hear of kids wishing to become a doctor or an astronaut. Some kids wish to be a movie star or a policeman or a firefighter. Not many kids ask to become a National Forest Wilderness Ranger. But Saylor did. At 7-years-old, Saylor is battling leukemia. He specifically said he wanted his wish so he could feel “wild and awesome.” He wanted to try new Alaskan foods and experience what it’s like to be an Alaskan forest ranger.
That’s when Alaska Geographic stepped in and connected Chugach National Forest to the Make-A-Wish Foundation in Alaska. Chugach employees were thrilled to hear that this seven-year-old wanted to travel with his family from southern Florida to Alaska for his wish of spending a day being a wilderness ranger.
Glacier District Ranger Tim Charnon planned a day for Saylor that included a visit at the Begich, Boggs Visitor Center, meeting Smokey Bear and being sworn in as a Forest Ranger. The day included spending time in the backcountry doing what wilderness rangers do – the trip included exploring the Spencer Whistle Stop area. The fastest way to get into the wilderness area was to hop on the Chugach Explorer train. Aboard the train, Saylor had time to visit with Ranger Tim and learned about what it means to be a ranger on the forest. Traveling into the backcountry, the train climbed in elevation, passing trumpeter swans, bald eagles, moose and glimpses of rafters floating down the river.
Following that, Ranger Tim and Saylor met with Arie, an outfitter guide from Chugach Adventures. Outfitters and guides provide services to visitors to help them enjoy the forest in ways they might not be able on their own. Plans were confirmed for taking a guided raft trip on Spencer Lake to get a close-up look at to the Spencer Glacier. Saylor and Ranger Tim hiked the trail through the backcountry, looking at the condition of the trail, clearing it of debris and keeping it safe for hikers. Ranger Tim and Saylor also had time during this trip to inspect a few bridges.
The experience with Saylor left everyone at the Chugach in awe of the power of dreaming. Everyone there was very appreciative of the time spent with Saylor and recognized how much dreams matter and how important it can be realized to see them realized. Everyone at the Chugach hopes that Saylor finds happiness with wherever his life takes him, and wishes he comes back to the Chugach National Forest. There is no doubt in their minds that he will make a really great wilderness ranger.