Baxter State Park
We’re up on the mountain, halfway to our destination of the summit. We dump our gear in the designated shelter for our stay and then check in with the ranger. He gently introduces himself, “Hi. My name is Mark Sairio and I am here to make sure everything goes smoothly for you during your visit on the mountain.”
Of course, he’s the Park ranger so the message we hear under the words he actually vocalizes is this: “I am here to make sure everything goes smoothly for me while you are here.” I get that. If it goes well for the ranger, that means it goes well for everyone else. Good plan.
During the evening and the next morning, we happily hear a lot of Mark’s story. As they say, he cuts an impressive figure: ex-marine, Search & Rescue, construction jobs. Mark wears an earring, has a shoulder-length pony tail and lets his beard grow. He is apparently letting his gut grow too. Like I say, impressive.
At Chimney Pond, a teenage girl wades out ten feet and performs graceful dance moves while perched on a small round rock. “Miss? Miss?” It’s Ranger Mark calling. “Miss. We ask that you don’t go into this water as this is the only source of drinking water up here. Thank you.” He was very nice.
Your typical gentle giant, Mark is all stories and laughs, almost goofy at times. But under that exterior is a no-nonsense hombre who could not only take care of himself but could take care of any of us, especially in an emergency. He’s the one we give all the chips and say, “I’m betting with you.”
There was a time, Mark tells us, when he was working search and rescue. It was winter. He and his partner were charged with heading out to find a missing hiker, complicated by being in the midst of a severe snowstorm. After trudging about for some time, they finally found the missing hiker. By then however, he was in bad shape. Very bad shape. It had become night and too dangerous to hike back out, especially with their lost hiker clinging to life.
Nothing else to do at this point, they built a snow cave and settled in for the night. They huddled in tight for warmth and safely. Some time in the night, Mark realized that he was sleeping with a dead man. In the morning they had to carry the body out.
“I’ve slept with a corpse. That was an experience. I hope I never have to do that again.” We hope so too.