Monday, July 11, 2011

Valley Forge NHP - Week 7

Tuesday morning, Ben and I began our day with Law Enforcement hiking the Valley Creek trail. It was a humid morning, and before long, we found ourselves caught in a brief rainstorm. Because of the rain, there was little interaction with visitors, but we did have the opportunity to chat with two visitors in ponchos enjoying the morning mist. Lunch was provided to us during the staff picnic, so we took this time to talk more with the Law Enforcement officers on a personal basis. To finish the day, we hiked the River Trail and saw a lot of interesting wildlife along the way.

Upkeep is very important in a recreational park like Valley Forge, so for our time with Maintenance on Wednesday, we were assigned the Upper Lot for cleaning. With the Fourth of July quickly approaching, we were instructed to clear the parking lot of all leaves, sticks and other brush so our park is presentable for the planned public picnic. In hindsight, Ben and I are very proud of the work we accomplished because the picnic ended up being a very successful event. We used the leaf blower to gather small piles of brush, and finally scooped it all up into a bag with a shovel. The job took all day, but the lot looked much cleaner in the end.

With an event planned at Independence National Park on Thursday, our Chief invited us to be a part of the staff for the day. It was our first time in uniform wearing the Stetson, so it was a very exciting experience to be in the city in full uniform. Though we had originally thought the President was going to stop by, he ended up not showing because he was busy with another event. Instead, we shadowed the LE Rangers in the city while also taking time to tour the grounds. We briefly talked with Dan and Sarah about their experiences at Independence before attending a meeting about searching cars and visitors during high profile events. The dynamics of the park are very different from what we are used to at Valley Forge, mostly being there are a lot more visitors and a lot more questions about the historical context of the area. Lucky for us, we were with well-informed Rangers who knew all the correct answers. At the end of the day, our Chief treated us to some famous Philly cheesesteaks at his favorite spot. A good place to get a cheesesteak is of concern to many of the visitors at Independence National Historical Park.

Afterwards, we worked with Ranger Kate Jensen and a group of YCC high schoolers in pulling the invasive plant species Mile-a-Minute. Because it is such a problem in the park, during the summer Natural Resources works effortlessly in pulling the plants in attempt to reduce the overall population. We finished our afternoon by removing another invasive species; the rusty crayfish. Ending the day in the stream was a nice way to cool off after a hot day pulling weeds.

Back with LE on Saturday, Ben and I took the opportunity to walk the trails and interact with whomever we came across along the way. It was relatively quiet because of the holiday weekend, so we took some time to enjoy the beauty of Valley Forge.

We were excited to meet Ranger John Waterman at 2:00pm for our first day out boating on the Schuylkill River. At the boating ramp, Ben and I met with a retired Coast Guard official who volunteers his time giving safety inspections to visitors who launch at our boat ramp. Because of his dedication, boating accidents at the ramp have been sparse. The best part of boating was waving to all the people on the river passing by and feeling the water spraying us as we cruised.

We ended Week 7 by packing for ProRanger Leadership Camp; excited to see everyone, we readied ourselves for the challenges ahead.

-ProRangers Ben and Angela

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