Friday, July 1, 2011

Valley Forge NHP - Week 6

We started Week six on Tuesday with the Law Enforcement division. Our Chief briefed us on our task, which was to hike some unmarked trails in the park to look for signs of bike ramps and other BMX modifications. It was exciting to be in an area of the park that is normally closed to visitors and we did, indeed, find some homemade bike ramps on the trails.

Ben and I stumbled upon a lot of wildlife walking these trails, mostly being deer and toads. When we crossed the tracks at a clearing, we were amazed to see a great big hawk resting on a portion of the train tracks right next to us. The bird did not seem fazed by us until we got closer, but I did get a good picture of it before it flew off. We believe it was a red-tailed hawk, which are common here in Valley Forge.

On Wednesday, we were back with the maintenance crew continuing our work on the fence at Muhlenberg's Brigade. After a brief pep-talk by Don Sweet on his visit to Valley Forge, we got back to work and soon finished all the repairs needed to the fence. Afterwards, we took a step back and admired the hard work that we put into the fence. Work with the maintenance division is hard, but definitely rewarding.

Thursday morning we sat down with our Supervisor Mike Valora to catch up on how our internship is going. The three of us ended up going into a lengthy discussion about his experiences as Law Enforcement here at Valley Forge and elsewhere in his career. It was useful to hear a firsthand account of the type of trouble we may encounter as Law Enforcement agents with the National Park Service. I, personally, was surprised to learn that an LE Ranger with NPS has the ability to serve warrants and lead criminal investigations, so long as they pertain to the park. Valora also shared with us his many experiences working in the back-country out West.

The second half of Thursday, Ben and I had the chance to take part in an archaeological dig at Washington's Headquarters. We know, from past digs, that there once sat a makeshift addition to the house outside from the kitchen. Historians speculate that this is where Washington may have met with his Aide-de-camp and believe that there is a high chance that some valuable artifacts may be hidden beneath the dirt. PhD students from Temple University were leading the dig and found work for us sifting through the dirt in a systematic order. Ben and I found some pieces of broken pottery that could date back to the 18th century as well as an old nail that could be from the encampment era. On a less important note, we also found a lot of interesting rocks and pieces of coal most likely from the train's that pass through Valley Forge. The PhD students recovered a few arrowheads, most likely from the Native American tribes that occupied the land long before Washington ever arrived. The dig is something I always wanted to be a part of, so it was a very exciting day for me.

Friday was once again a very physical day with the maintenance crew. In the morning, we shadowed Ranger Mike Stronski as we drove around the park to look for branches hanging low and blocking signs. For safety reasons, any branch that was remotely close to a roadway or a Valley Forge park sign had to be taken down.

Later that day, Ben and I were let loose with some weed whackers to clean up areas in the Maintenance yard. At the end of the day, Stronski took the big tractor out for Ben and I to see, which ended up being a great photo-op.

Saturday, we were with Law Enforcement on a beautiful sunny day. Our task for the morning was to use some of the newly purchased materials to clean the patrol cars. With our new materials, Ben and I paid close attention to every detail inside and out on the vehicles. Keeping the patrol cars clean and grim-free is much like wearing your uniform properly. We like to think we are very particular about the cleanliness of our patrol cars here at Valley Forge. After our task was finished, Ben and I got a "good job" from Ranger Gordon Sassaman, the fleet specialist.

Later Saturday, we changed our clothes to our biking outfits and set out to the north side of the park to the River trail that runs parallel to the Schuylkill. Biking the trails was a nice change from hiking because we could cover a lot more ground in the same amount of time. We finished our week cruising around Valley Forge before Ben parted way to continue his biking down into Philadelphia for his weekend.

We are getting very comfortable here at Valley Forge NHP, however our Chief and Supervisor are doing a very good job at keeping our days new and exciting. It is hard to believe that we are already halfway through our internship and I have a feeling the second half is going to fly by just as fast.

Always learning,

ProRangers Ben and Angela

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