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The Best Fishing and Hunting Lodges

Just because you're hunting and fishing doesn't mean you have to be sleeping on the ground and eating your meals by a campfire. Increasingly, luxury lodges are catering to hook and bullet clientele, providing guides, gear, and even gourmet meals for any backcountry adventure. And after you spend your days covered in blood or knee-deep in a river, come home to five-star accommodations that leave you rested and ready for another day in the field.

Scarp Ridge Lodge

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Crested Butte, Colorado
More than a luxury hotel, this seven-bedroom lodge matches guests with private chefs, guides, transportation, gear—anything and everything you might need to design your dream experience. Since the lodge is just 45 minutes from the famed Taylor River, trout fishing is one of its specialties.

Guides equip guests with Scott fly rods and drive them to the Taylor, a Gold Medal tailwater that produces Colorado’s biggest rainbow trout. The latest record-setter measured a whopping 40.25 inches, and 10-pound fatties are commonly caught. A steady diet of mysis shrimp acts like steroids for these fish.

Catching them is notoriously tricky. If your goal is to reel in lots of fish, you might be happier fishing the nearby Gunnison River, which is also a fine fishery. But Scarp Ridge guides are patient and savvy, and the lodge’s stretch of private water, located a few miles downriver from the dam, lets anglers cast for “smaller” 18-inch rainbows that are slightly less picky than the hogs upstream.

This is also the site of the Taylor River Lodge, an eight-cabin outpost scheduled to open in summer 2015. Along with a sprawling main lodge and media room, the property will include an outdoor dining area, custom-built tree house, and a stone bathhouse with a steam room, sauna, hot tub, and indoor saltwater pool overlooking the river.

In the meantime, Scarp Ridge Lodge will remain the headquarters for daily fishing excursions and several weeklong fishing “experiences” (from $2,500 per person). This year, from June 25 through 29, anglers will go float fishing with expert caster and photographer Brian O’Keefe; September 10 through 15, guests will pursue area salmon. From $1,500 per person.

Firehole Ranch

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West Yellowstone, Montana
The Henry’s Fork of the Snake, the Firehole, the Madison, the Gallatin—mention any of these rivers to a trout addict and they’ll practically hyperventilate. Most lodges in this superbly fishy intersection of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana generally concentrate on just one of these legendary waterways, but Firehole Ranch offers access to all of them and more: the Lamar and Yellowstone Rivers are also within reach of this Orvis-endorsed property.

The Lamar River requires the longest commute—an hour and 45 minutes—but you’ll see more than just trout. This fishery winds through an especially wildlife-rich corner of Yellowstone National Park, where elk and buffalo graze. Then there’s the Madison, located just 10 minutes from the lodge. The 640-acre ranch occupies the southern shore of Hebgen Lake, created by a Madison River dam. Firehole Ranch facilitates both float and wade fishing, and given the spectrum of destinations, you’re virtually guaranteed to encounter hot and heavy action on at least one of them.

Built in 1947 using local pine logs, the lodge and 10 cabins exhibit a patina that new construction can’t imitate. Native American rugs and stone fireplaces lend warmth to the accommodations, which overlook the mountain-ringed lake, and hammocks strung between the trees inspire midday napping.

At dinner, French-born chef Bruno Georgeton refuels anglers with stuffed quail in a Dijon-rosemary sauce, pan-seared halibut with golden lentils and baby beets, and, of course, French-style desserts such as profiteroles and pots de creme. You’ll want to move in for good—but Firehole Ranch is open for just 15 weeks a year, from early June through mid-September. From $600 per person (fishing packages from $2,300 for three days).

Libby Camps

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Millinocket Lake, Maine
Maine’s vast northern expanse feels more like the Wild West than civilized New England, and Libby Camps lets hunters and anglers access those unpeopled wilds with its two seaplanes and a fleet of canoes.

From Libby’s central lodge at the headwaters of the Allagash, Aroostook, and Penobscot—Maine’s three finest fly-fishing rivers—you can explore a 20-mile radius that includes small rivers and ponds visited only by moose. May and June feature dry-fly fishing for brook trout; by September, anglers use streamers to catch landlocked salmon.

The only lodge in the East to have earned Orvis’s endorsement for both fly-fishing and wing shooting, Libby leads bird hunters into the 3,500,000-acre North Maine Woods, home to one of the country’s largest ruffed grouse populations. Big-game hunters can pursue black bear and moose; Libby clients have nabbed some of the largest trophies for both species.

Most of the log cabins are small—and fueled only by wood-burning stoves and gas lamps—so guests typically mingle with other groups in the 1968 lodge, where Mission-style chairs and sofas surround a tall stone fireplace. Fiddlehead salad leads off the wholesome, home-style dinners, and nights are quiet: The lodge’s electricity cuts off at 9 p.m., leaving guests to read by lamplight or savor the northern latitudes’ late-setting summer sun. From $210 per day.

Tikchik Narrows Lodge

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Bristol Bay, Alaska
Located in southwest Alaska’s 1.5 million-acre Wood-Tikchik State Park (the largest in the United States), this fishing lodge feels remote, because it is. Everything must be flown in (and out, as there’s no on-site garbage disposal), and planes deliver guests to fishing sites. The property’s four float-equipped aircraft, three De Havilland Beavers and a Cessna 206, operate within a 100-mile radius of the lodge, delivering anglers to outcamps staffed by guides who greet guests with boats and tackle.

Seven duplex cabins are comfortable, not lavish. The views astound, with accommodations occupying a slender peninsula surrounded by broad waters and snow-speckled summits. Service is genteel: After each day of fishing, your pilot radios your cocktail order to the lodge so your drink is ready and waiting for you upon return.

You can fish right from the lodge, where you can cast into the narrows for rainbow and lake trout, Arctic char, Arctic grayling, and northern pike. But Bristol Bay is best known for its salmon. Five species are caught here, including king salmon, and the lodge will fillet, vacuum pack, and freeze your catch so you can take it home.

Tikchik Narrows caters to spin and bait fishermen as well as fly casters, and dedicated weeks encourage parents to bring their kids and mix up the fishing schedule with kayaking, wildlife watching, and flight-seeing. Bird hunters should book during the “All-Rounder” week, which combines fishing for rainbow trout and silver salmon with waterfowl hunting on coastal ponds. From $7,900 per person per week.

Nimmo Bay Wilderness Resort

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Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia
This eco-resort is remote, and a fleet of helicopters extends your reach to even less-trafficked corners of the West Coast. With a range encompassing 50,000 square miles, flights take guests to isolated streams choked with wild Pacific salmon, steelhead, Dolly Varden, and rainbow trout. The chopper stays with you all day so you can bounce between locations to find the hottest action at any particular time.

Most lodges that specialize in life-list angling offer little for nonfishing family members, but Nimmo Bay caters to various interests with yoga classes, spa treatments, heli-assisted hiking, rock climbing, stand-up paddleboarding, snorkeling, and coastal kayaking. Cocooning is pretty fun, too: Cedar hot tubs sit next to a cascading waterfall, evening cocktails are served on a floating dock fitted with a fire pit, and the nine cabins overlook either the bay or the stream.

British Columbia wines accompany the likes of seared tuna and organic veggies, but the resort’s skill at incorporating the surrounding ambiance makes meals truly exquisite. Lunch might be parked on top of a glacier, where you sit down to a cloth-covered table and a spread of oysters and hot soups.

You can leave your camera behind: The resort’s professional photographers capture your special moments and send you home with a disc of images—no selfie posing required. From $1,895 CAD per person per day.

Three Forks Ranch 

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Steamboat Springs, Colorado 
Fifty thousand private acres surrounded by national forest on three sides make this one of the most wildlife-dense getaways in the West. Located on the Wyoming/Colorado border amid throngs of elk (some 6,000 head by fall), Three Forks allows rifle hunting for bull elk as early as September 1, when many regions allow only archery. Mule deer and pronghorn, which challenge hunters’ long-range accuracy, round out the quarry.

Fly-fishing is also superb, thanks to a $3.5 million restoration that reduced erosion and created trout habitat along 16 miles of the Little Snake River, which teems with Colorado cutthroat and tiger trout as well as brown and rainbow.

Intended to be the “Ritz-Carlton of the backcountry,” the sprawling lodge includes a 6,000-foot spa, an indoor/outdoor infinity pool overlooking aspen-covered hills, and a variety of guest rooms and suites. Original artwork from Charlie Russell, Wayne Cooper, and Frederic Remington embellish the bar and lounges. 

Some meals are served indoors amid dark wood paneling and white linens. Others take place outdoors on the flagstone terrace or beneath the chalky bluffs lining the Little Snake. Whatever the setting, count on splendid spreads of osso buco, lobster pasta, and mint-crusted lamb chops. From $695 per person per night. 

Bahia Honda Sporting Club

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Cudjoe Key, Florida 
Bahia Honda owner and host Gordon Baggett talks with a cowboy’s swagger: The former rodeo bull rider spent years on the pro circuit before becoming a tarpon guide in the Bahamas. After discovering that he could sight 2,000 tarpon in a day in the lower Keys (compared to 15 in the Bahamas), he built this all-inclusive lodge 20 miles from Key West.

The only package deal in the Keys, where anglers have traditionally hired independent guides and booked services piecemeal, Orvis-endorsed Bahia Honda lodges feature Italian marble floors, vaulted ceilings, and an open bar. “I didn’t like how lodges in the Bahamas nickel-and-dimed guests for every little thing, so here you’re presented with no bill at checkout,” says Baggett. That includes booze, tackle, transportation, top-shelf rods and reels, and guides, who live on the property so that fishing can dictate the daily schedule. You want to cast till sunset and land some silver against a tangerine horizon? No problem. The chef will keep your dinner hot.

Guests sometimes fish for bonefish and permit, but tarpon is the lodge specialty, thanks to the “stiff worm” pattern Baggett pioneered some years ago. Imitating the pololo worms tarpon feed on, it has become a go-to fly not just at Bahia Honda, but throughout the Keys. The lodge hosts anglers only in May and June; August through October, Baggett switches to alligator hunting in the marshes of central Florida. From $1,000 per person per night.

Honey Brake

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Larto Lake, Louisiana 
“In a league of its own” is how sportsmen describe this gunning and fishing lodge. Anglers can plunder Larto Lake—one of Louisiana’s best crappie spots—and stalk bass in adjacent lakes and bayous. But it’s the wing shooting that truly makes this a must-visit for anyone skilled with a shotgun. The Central and Mississippi migratory flyways converge here, leading throngs of ducks and geese to Honey Brake, and the nearby 60,000-acre Catahoula Lake serves as the wintering grounds for additional waterfowl. Because Honey Brake sits adjacent to the 63,000-acre Dewey Wills Wildlife Management Area, hunting for whitetail deer and wild hogs is also offered.

To translate these impressive resources into world-class hunting experiences, Honey Brake asked renowned sportsman Jeff Burrell to steer its programs. Burrell’s Atlanta-based High Adventure Company manages some of the world’s finest hunting and fishing lodges, in Africa as well as the Americas, and his expertise has helped make Honey Brake a duck-hunting paradise.

Duck-flush games and a 15-station sporting clays range let shooters practice between hunts. The four-story, 13,000-square-foot lodge features exposed rough-hewn beams, a four-sided fireplace, and a circular staircase made of gleaming wood. Soaring windows frame sunsets over Larto Lake, and meals include piles of soft-shell crab, alligator bites, and crab claws. The just-completed Camp Larto Lake offers youth camps focusing on shooting, fishing, and conservation. From $975 per person per day.

Ruby Springs Lodge

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Alder, Montana
As you’d expect from a great fishing lodge, Ruby Springs doesn’t exactly sit right next to the interstate. It’s 90 minutes west of Bozeman, but its idyllic location on the banks of the Ruby River makes it feel planets apart from workaday cares. Ten miles of this celebrated trout stream run through the property, with some stretches containing as many as 2,200 fish per mile.

Should you grow restless, you can also head to the Big Hole, where the June salmonfly hatch triggers a frenzy of surface feeding, or to the Beaverhead, where football-sized four-pounders lurk beneath the banks.

Five cabins sit alongside the Ruby River, while two larger lodging options enjoy a bit more seclusion. Rather than trite Western decor, all feature a vaguely modern design with clean, uncluttered interiors and porches and windows that keep occupants’ focus on the surroundings: Rounded mountains swell up behind the grasses lining the river, and the air shimmers with late-afternoon hatches.

Mornings start with coffee, tea, or juice delivered to your door, followed by a full breakfast in the lodge. Dinners of fish and chops are served beside wall-height windows that let diners watch the setting sun cast its golden light on the Ruby and surrounding peaks. From $2,700 per person for three nights.

Cabin Bluff

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Woodbine, Georgia
Never heard of Cabin Bluff? You’re not alone: Even some die-hard hunters and anglers have yet to discover this luxury sporting lodge, which remained in private hands until just four years ago and features some of the most diverse hunting in the South. Today, a maximum of 40 guests enjoy its eight cabins, which are booked as an entire property, making Cabin Bluff ideal for family reunions and corporate retreats.

With access to a whopping 24,000 acres, guests can pursue quail, wild turkey, boar, and deer. That, along with top-notch guides, earned its inclusion in the Beretta Trident program, which endorses A-plus hunting properties, much as Relais & Chateaux membership denotes outstanding cuisine. Quail hunters use Beretta Over/Under shotguns and are accompanied by the lodge’s own pointers.

Panoramic views of Cumberland Island National Seashore and the Georgia coast unfold from the lodge’s deck. From the shallows, anglers use Hell’s Bay boats to pursue redfish and tarpon from July through September, or they can use Pathfinders to head 10 miles offshore to fish for grouper, snapper, and cobia.

Meals are exquisite, but they needn’t be formal: Cabin Bluff specializes in oyster roasts, served (and shucked) outdoors beneath moss-draped live oaks. $15,000 per night for fishing; $20,000 per night for hunting. 

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The Last of the Real Mountain Towns

The best real estate isn't always the most expensive. There are some spectacular mountain destinations in the U.S. that haven’t yet been overrun by mega mansions. Take these five alpine getaways, which each have rustic charm and beauty—and a down-to-earth property prices. For now, at least. 

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

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Why here: Pigeon Forge, population 5,800, and nearby Gatlinburg are the gateways to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park from the western side. World-class whitewater paddling and climbing, and hundreds of miles of mountain biking and hiking are all at your disposal. 

What $175,000 can buy: A one-bedroom, two-bath creekside log cabin with a sleeping loft and hot tub, listed at $154,900.

Why it’s so affordable: The Pigeon Forge area, home to the Dollywood and NASCAR Speedpark amusement parks, is considered too red-necky for the urban elites of the South and Northeast, who prefer to flock to tonier Asheville, North Carolina. 

Greenville, Maine

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Why here: The old logging town of Greenville, population 1,600, sits on largely undeveloped Moosehead Lake, the largest lake in Maine and the crystal source of the Kennebec River. There’s no mountain town in New England with more remote, or gorgeous, surroundings.

What $175,000 can buy: A rustic, 1-bedroom, 700 square foot cottage with neighborhood access to the lake, listed at $70,000.

Why it’s so affordable: Location. The drive from Boston to Greenville is about 4.5 hours. Meanwhile, Cape Cod is 90 minutes away from Beantown, and the White Mountains and Lakes Region of New Hampshire is two hours.

Darby, Montana

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Why here: Darby, population 700, near the Idaho border, in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana is sandwiched by the Bitterroot Range and Sapphire Mountains, two endless outdoor playgrounds.

What $175,000 can buy: A 1,900-square-foot, 3-bed, 2-bath getaway with broad mountain views listed at $118,000.

Why it’s so affordable: The well-heeled who buy mountain homes prefer to be closer to ski resorts. Darby is a half-hour drive down Route 93 from the nearest one—the humble Lost Trail Powder Mountain. Backcountry skiing, like on Trapper Peak in the Bitterroot Mountains, is practically just out your back door, though.

Sugarloaf, California

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Why here: Fewer than ten miles from Big Bear Lake, Sugarloaf (population 1,800) sits at 7,000 feet in the San Bernadino Mountains of California. The region is a sports paradise—in both summer and winter. 

What $175,000 can buy: A two-bedroom, one bath, 864-square foot cottage with knotty pine-paneled walls, listed at $129,900.

Why it’s so affordable: Because for the hoi polloi from Los Angeles, it’s all about zip code. If a home doesn’t have 92315 at the bottom of its address (meaning it’s in Big Bear Lake) they’re not interested.

Rhododendron, Oregon

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Why here: Mount Hood is the undisputed outdoor recreation nexus for the Northwest, and the hamlets west of the summit along US 26, including Rhododendron, are natural jump-off points for adventure.

What $175,000 can buy: A 3-bedroom, 1-bath cottage on nearly a half-acre by Still Creek in the Mount Hood National Forest, listed at $117,500.

Why it’s so affordable: The actual town of Rhododendron isn’t quite as well-located as Mt. Hood Village (sandwiched by the Salmon and Sandy rivers) to the west, or Government Camp (by Summit Ski area) to the east.

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Ranger Gabriel, Do You Copy?

Some people are heroes; others need saving. Eight-year-old Gabriel Lavan-Ying of Gainesville, Florida, has the soul of the former, but the body of the latter. He suffers from chronic inflammation, loose joints, skin that breaks open at the gentlest bumping, and his body is polka-dotted with black and blue hematomas—all symptoms of the connective tissue disorder Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Eventually, he’ll have to get surgery to repair the delicate tissue of his aortic route.

“He doesn't heal well or hold stitches, and we've learned that the hard way with his skin rupturing," says Gabriel’s mother, Tara. "So you can imagine what we're looking at when he needs surgery on his heart."

Even with his condition, Gabriel craves time adventuring outside, especially within state and national parks. At a fort in St. Augustine, Gabriel fell upon the Junior Ranger program—if he studied a handout, wrote an essay, spoke with rangers about their jobs, and completed various activities, Gabriel discovered, he could be part of the park system, too. 

“He got a certificate and a patch, and that was it, he was hooked,” Tara says. “So every time we went back to the fort, he would do it over again, although he got the same patch. He didn't care. “

And now, despite Ehlers-Danlos, Gabriel wants to be a park ranger when he grows up.

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“With that kind of hardship, being a ranger is certainly not ever going to be his reality,” Tara says. Most people suffering from EDS don’t start experiencing the worst symptoms until their 20s, but Gabriel has had EDS since infancy; his condition has progressed well beyond what’s normal for his age.

But after Florida representatives of Make-A-Wish learned about Gabriel’s condition this spring, Gabriel got his chance. On June 3, more than 100 Yosemite National Park employees worked with Gabriel and his family to help him achieve his dream of becoming an honorary park ranger.

The event was just as significant for Yosemite’s rangers as it was for Gabriel: Yosemite has planned events for people with illnesses previously, but park representatives said the park had neither worked with Make-A-Wish before nor created a means of becoming an honorary ranger before Gabriel dreamed up the possibility.

“We have had things like this in the past, but we've never had anything either this formal, this complex or this big,” said ranger Scott Gediman.

Park employees made Gabriel’s experience as official as possible. Chris Raines, the park’s education ranger; Ed Visnovske, the park’s law enforcement supervisor; and naturalist ranger Erik Westerlund worked together to create a day jam-packed with challenging activities that would give him contact with every kind of ranger and make him feel like he earned his badge, but—thanks to input from Gabriel’s medical team—wouldn’t put him in harm’s way.

{%{"image":"http://media.outsideonline.com/images/http://media.outsideonline.com/images/gabriel-magnifying-glass_h.jpg","size":"medium","caption":"Honorary Ranger Gabriel Lavan-Ying, 8, takes a scrupulous look at the famous park under his care.","align":"right"}%}

Gabriel arrived at the park with his twin sister Angelica, his baby brother Dominic, and his parents. He wore a child-size version of the ranger uniform, the hat covering his scarred forehead and the jacket large on a frame made small by an emergency stomach surgery. Though Gediman, Raines, Visnovske, and Westerlund met Gabriel amidst the click-clicks of perfectly positioned photographers and TV crews, the rangers and his mother all said Gabriel seemed completely invested and in the moment—to him, this was real.

The rangers put Gabriel through his paces right out of the gate. At 9 a.m. Gabriel went through yet another junior ranger program, complete with programs about wildlife and bird watching, which earned him a spot at the morning briefing table. While meeting various rangers, an “emergency call” came in about a forest fire in the park. Gabriel and two rangers quickly hopped into a fire truck and met 20 other fire rangers on the scene.

“They actually set a small ground fire,” Gediman says. “They gave him a hose and he actually put out the fire.”

A small group of rangers took Gabriel to lunch in the shadows of Yosemite Valley’s arching waterfalls and cliffs, where they conveyed to him in what it means to be a ranger: participating in preservation history and the importance of conserving natural resources.

But the park wouldn’t stay quiet for long. Gabriel’s Yosemite-assigned radio (“This is Ranger Gabriel, do you copy?”) soon buzzed with an even bigger emergency: Gabriel’s search and rescue skills were needed.

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“We had a victim (read: a very safe ranger) that was in a litter that we lowered down a cliff,” Gediman says. “Gabriel took the victim to the ambulance and then he rode in the ambulance to the meadow” where a helicopter was waiting.

Proving his well-rounded worth, Gabriel was finally swept up by patrol car to a ceremony around 3 p.m. to celebrate his hard-earned victories. In front of family, new friends, and park visitors, Superindendent Don Neubacher and judge Michael Seng officially made Gabriel an honorary Yosemite park ranger.

“By the end of the day we were all just tired, but I mean, it was a special thing for me seeing that his high fives at the end of the day were stronger than in the morning,” Gediman says. “His mom tried to get him to drink water and relax but he just didn't want to sit; he just wanted to go.”

For Tara, seeing her son power through his wish was a little nerve-wracking. “I kept asking him, ‘Do you need me to carry you, do you need a ranger to carry you?’ and he said, 'No no no,' because he didn't want to look weak in front of the rangers,” she remembers. “I thought, well I'm gonna have to put his legs in cold water tonight to numb and cool some of this inflammation that's bound to be going on.”

But carrying Gabriel through the Sequoias the following day was a small price to pay. “It was emotional,” Tara continues, “just how much work everyone put in to make it so special for him.”

{%{"image":"http://media.outsideonline.com/images/gabriel-rescue-mission_h.jpg","size":"medium","caption":"Gabriel and Ed Visnovske make sure a 'victim' is properly situated before being taken to a rescue helicopter.","align":"right"}%}

Going through treatment is rough at any age, but for Gabriel, the prospect of becoming a ranger eased the pain. “For a lot of kids, a wish come true empowers them to continue to do their treatment,” says Josh deBerge, senior manager of national communications and public relations for Make-A-Wish.

If recent events are any indication, Gabriel’s wish experience will be a driving force for a while. The day after his ceremony, his family was driving to a rafting event when they saw a real rescue occurring within the park: a woman had been bitten by a snake.

Gabriel put on his ranger hat and was acknowledged by his ranger colleagues. “Even though it wasn't his wish day, he was still included,” Tara says. “To him, it wasn't a day, he's an honorary park ranger,” she adds, “And that's what he is, forever.

{%{"image":"http://media.outsideonline.com/images/gabriel-oath-ranger_h.jpg","size":"medium","caption":"After a day of hard work, Ranger Gabriel gets sworn in as an Honorary Park Ranger in front of about 300 people.","align":"left"}%}

Photos courtesy of Yosemite National Park and Josh deBerge.

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