Sunday, July 3, 2011

SNP --> Week 7

This week at Shenandoah National Park has been more exciting than ever! John and I were talking last night and we both agree that this past week has been the highlight of our summer thus far. We were out in the park more than usual and we enjoyed participating in many new hands-on experiences.

We started out on Tuesday working with the NCR (natural and cultural resources) division. We had the opportunity to go out with Dave and do a stream study. John and I put on waders which are waterproof boots (except mine turned out to not be very effective) and stepped into the water. We used a special tool to sift through the dirt and rocks on the bottom of the stream and locate various macro-organisms. After we were done learning about the bugs that live in the stream we moved on to fish. Dave held a metal wand under the surface of the water which sent an electric current out of the end. This stunned the fish momentarily and caused them to float up to the surface where we caught them with nets and put them in a bucket to observe. This was a really cool experience! We also spent part of our day with Rolf who took us out in the park looking for nuisance wildlife such as bears and deer that are too close to humans and are becoming habituated as a result.

(This is one of the campsites after we rehabilitated it)

Wednesday, John and I went out into the back country with John Buchheit. We hiked about 7 miles that day and it was awesome! We started out by the Rock Springs cabin and one of the AT three-sided huts. We hiked down a portion of the Appalachian Trail, up the Salamander trail (which is named for a special species of salamander that is endangered and can only be found near this trail) to Hawksbill summit, down Hawksbill Mt., and then the whole way down Cedar Run trail. Along the way we took notice of illegal campsites. I was in charge of taking pictures of each one and using a compass to note the orientation of the campsite. After we were done logging the site into a binder, we scoured the surrounding area and pulled dead logs and leaves over top of the site to discourage future hikers from camping in the same spot. It was rewarding to help rehabilitate these parts of the forest for the enjoyment of future generations.

On Thursday I got to ride with Mike Michener, the south district LE supervisor. On top of that major duty he is also an FTL (Field Training Leader) for the FTEP (Field Training Evaluation Program) for FLETC graduates. That's a lot of acronyms, isn't it? When I started the day I had not clue what FTEP stood for. However, by 4 o'clock I was practically an expert! Mike told me all about the FTEP requirements and also chatted with me about FLETC. Throughout the day we also covered topics such as racial profiling, back country patrols, and much more.

Friday was a very new and different experience for me. I got to participate in setting up and running a sobriety checkpoint on Skyline Drive! My job was to write down every single license plate number and state for each car that drove through the checkpoint. It was kind of early in the day so there weren't any drunk drivers out yet but that wasn't the sole purpose of our exercise. We were also checking for valid drivers licenses and to make sure everyone was wearing their seatbelt. About half way through one of the LEs asked a driver for his license and discovered that he didn't have one. After further investigation the driver was also found to not be in any system when they ran his name. The LE rangers ended up taking the man to jail because he was most likely an illegal immigrant. On the way back to Big Meadows on the same day Lora Peppers and I stumbled upon an incident in Lewis Mt. Campground. We helped a mother, whose 1 yr. old daughter had crushed her finger, to stay calm while we helped her locate her husband who had taken the daughter to a hospital without telling his wife where he was going. It was a slightly complicated situation but we stabalized it quickly and then returned back to the Ranger Station.

Yesterday was equally as exciting even though I stayed in one building for the entire day. I worked with the people in the Comm. Center/Dispatch and, once again, got to be 740 for the day! I helped wherever I could by answering phone calls and radio requests. By the end of the day I realized just how stressful and also just how important a dispatcher's job can be. I walked in the door in the morning and found out that an incident was already going on! Apparantly a man staying in Loft Mt. Campground was standing, either in or on top of his car, completely naked! On top of that he was also masturbating. Our job was to communicate with all the LE rangers involved and keep a log of what happened and at what times. The other big incident involved a man who had threatened to shoot a woman for not picking up a water bottle she had dropped. This threat sparked a short car chase which ended in the vehicle being pulled over and several LE's confronting the man about what he had said.

All in all this week has been crazy but amazing! I learned a lot and had a lot of fun. I also volunteered to work dispatch again tomorrow. I imagine that it will be really busy again because it is the 4th of July and everyone will be out and about. Hopefully everyone will be safe but at the same time, I feel an Old Rag rescue coming on..... haha

See you all in 2 days!

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