By Ashley Lodato

New Pearrygin Lake State Park ranger Adam Banuelos didn’t always dream of entering the field of outdoor recreation. The Lynnwood, Washington, native spent the early part of his college years at Cal State Northridge as a mechanical engineering major. But after taking a caving class, everything changed.

“I realized, I could maybe work outside for a living,” said the 24-year-old year-round ranger.

Banuelos grew up camping a little bit. “KOA style,” he says. But after the caving class he started exploring California’s national parks and monuments — most notably Yosemite and Joshua Tree — fell in love with the adventuring life, and eventually ended up graduating with a major in recreation management with an emphasis on outdoor recreation and a minor in sustainability. So he was delighted when the opportunity arose to accept a position with Washington State Parks at Pearrygin Lake.

The lake and surroundings themselves are definitely a lure, says Banuelos, who arrived in February. “It’s so gorgeous here, you can see in every direction,” he says. “But it’s also really calm compared to some of the other, bigger parks in the state park system.”

Banuelos is equally enchanted with the Methow Valley community. “I have so appreciated the hospitality of the Methow Valley people,” he says. “I already feel like part of the community. It has been a great experience so far.” He adds, “And the pace is so different here from southern California.”

Despite spending his secondary school and college years in the dry climate of the San Fernando Valley, Banuelos is enjoying being back in an environment with varied weather. “I love having all seasons,” he says. “I spent my younger years on Washington’s west side, and in California I missed that wetter weather.”

Pearrygin rangers are involved in nearly every aspect of park maintenance and management, and Banuelos has been working with other rangers and park aides to get the park looking good for the summer visitors. As Pearrygin is now a snow park, in the winter Banuelos will help with construction and maintenance of the park’s winter sports trails.

Like all Washington state parks, Pearrygin Lake offers three “Discover Pass Free” days this summer: June 4, June 11 and Aug. 25. Park admission is free on those dates. This program gives valley residents and visitors an opportunity to experience Pearrygin Lake State Park, which Banuelos highly recommends.

“It’s a beautiful place,” he says. “Everyone should see it.”