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A Baxter State Park ranger looks back on the highs and lows of the job

A 20-year park veteran looks back on the highs and lows of his dream job

PORTLAND, Maine — More than two decades ago, when he was working for Down East Magazine, Andrew Vietze grabbed every opportunity he could to write pieces about Baxter State Park.

His articles introduced readers to the park naturalist, the rangers at Daicey Pond, and the experience of climbing Katahdin in winter. He’d always loved the park, and each time he visited he realized that was the place where he really wanted to be, not in an office making a living as an editor.

A while later he dropped in on his boss. 

“Remember when we did the dream jobs story in the ‘Making a Living in Maine’ issue?” he asked. 

His boss nodded. 

“Well, I’m leaving to take a job as a Baxter park ranger,” Vietze said.

Vietze has now written about what happened to him after he followed his dream in “This Wild Land: Two Decades of Adventure as a Park Ranger in the Shadow of Katahdin.” For six months a year, from spring to fall, he does everything there is to do as a ranger, from cleaning outhouses to rescuing injured hikers on Katahdin.

You want adventure? Consider the thunderstorm whose ferocity was almost beyond imagining.

“One of the other rangers said it was like the devil walked into the park that day,” Vietze said. “I’ve never been in a war zone … but it seemed like it was artillery fire. And it was just constant booms that would shake the whole ground. The storm just circled and circled and circled and circled around us.” 

By the time it was over one person was dead.

You want something lighter? Consider the visitors who were convinced that a moose had tried to get into their cabin and wolves had been howling down by the pond.

Vietze asked them what sounds the creatures had made and when the noises were re-created, he informed the visitors that they had not heard a moose and wolves but rather bullfrogs and loons. 

“And be careful,” he warned, “because they’re still out there.”

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