Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Valley Forge NHP - Week 9

We spent most of the week nine with LE, beginning Tuesday with patrol on the North side of the park. There was some vandalism overnight Monday into Tuesday and our Chief instructed us to go off the trails and look for more evidence of the vandal's presence. The only evidence we found was the remains of the trashcan that was set ablaze. We did encounter a few dogs of leash, so we took the opportunity to engage the visitors and enforce park regulations.

In the afternoon, we hiked an area of the park that has eluded us until this week. Behind Washington's Chapel is an unmarked, but heavily traveled, multi-use trail. While walking in this area, we were stunned at the beauty of our surroundings. We felt like we were walking through a miniaturized scale of Muir Woods, which was amazing considering the busy Route 23 was still less than a mile away.

We were back with Natural Resources on Wednesday to meet with the St. Gabriel's Hall summer students. It was excessively hot outside, so the students were not as motivated to pull Mile-a-Minute as the previous week. We did the best we could to convince them that it wasn't *that* bad, but the students seemed more interested in asking us about college and what it was like to work for Valley Forge. In the end, we all still managed to pull a lot of the invasive species while giving insight into college life.

During our break, we attended a Lunch and Learn in the theater on Astronomy. The Lunch and Learn is a partnership with local hobbyists that offer to come to the park about once a week for a one hour informational talk on various topics. The staff is encouraged to participate in the learning and often times the topic pertains directly to the park. The Delaware Valley Amateur Astronomers, a group that also conducts a nighttime stargazing event periodically in the park, gave the Astronomy talk. The talk was in 3D and focused on all the planets and constellations in our galaxy, putting into context the grandeur of our universe. After lunch, we finished up our day with Natural Resources in the cool Valley Creek. It was refreshing getting into the stream to hunt for invasive crayfish because it was so hot outside!

Thursday was quite an exciting day with LE for us. After a morning of running errands for LE, we met our Chief Gregg Tinkham and our Supervisor Mike Valora at the ranger station. We first took a field trip to Hopewell Furnace to meet the LE Ranger for the park, Steve Ambrose. Ranger Ambrose is a seasoned firearm instructor and offered to teach Ben and me how to use the handguns properly at a firing range close to his park. Before meeting him, Ben and I had the opportunity to tour the park a bit.

“Hopewell Furnace showcases an early American industrial landscape from natural resource extraction to enlightened conservation. Operating from 1771-1883, Hopewell and other "iron plantations" laid the foundation for the transformation of the United States into an industrial giant. The park's 848 acres and historic structures illustrate the business, technology and lifestyle of our growing nation.” -

The park is a lot smaller than Valley Forge, but seems huge because it is surrounded on all sides by preserved state lands. We arrived just in time to partake in an interpretive talk on the operation of the furnace during its functional years. We met a few of the interpretive rangers and they seemed excited to see fellow NPS employees wandering throughout their park. It was so hot outside that even the animals in the barnyard huddled together to share the little bit of shade from the afternoon sun!

Once we hit the range, Ranger Ambrose first gave us a safety lesson on how to properly hold and handle the guns. When he felt confident in us, he allowed us to load the magazine and take a few shots. He corrected our posture whenever we were out of stance and gave us really useful tips on how to take the most accurate shots. He made both of us feel comfortable with shooting, especially since it was our first time. We both improved tremendously in the few hours we spent with Ranger Ambrose. First, we shot the 9mm Sig, the 40-caliber handgun and our Chiefs 45 caliber handgun. Both of us preferred the 45 to the other handguns because it felt most comfortable to our hands. After the handguns, we were briefed on the functionality of the pump action shotgun that our patrol cars are equipped with. I was surprised at the amount of recoil, but so long as my stance was correct, I was able to control the gun.

The last gun we shot was the anticipated m16. Both of us were excited to use this gun, even in the sweltering heat. By this time, we were more familiar with the safety precautions surrounding the guns and eager to go. The m16 was much lighter than the shotgun and the recoil was a lot less drastic. It was more difficult to use than I, Angela, imagined because using this gun required me to shoot with my right eye opposed to my dominant left. After a few rounds, and some hot brass on my skin, I got the hang of using the gun. Overall, it was a productive day with LE and we both learned so much about the guns used in the National Park Service.

On Friday, we were invited to a bike and boat trip with the Natural Resources division. The trip was to honor the hard work the Youth Conservation Corps, a group of high school students, had done over the summer in the park. We drove to Bethlehem to meet staff members of the Wildlands Conservancy, the company hosting our group outing. We started with a leisurely 4-mile bike ride to the boat launch, riding parallel to the Lehigh River and the Lehigh Canal. We learned about the history of the river and the canal along the way as well as the types of animals that thrive in the conservancy. Once we reached the boat ramp, we all partnered up for a brief safety speech on handling the canoes. Ben and I partnered together because of all our previous experience canoeing together at Leadership Camp and on the Schuylkill River. Once we hit the river, it was a nice ride back down to where our trip originated. It was very hot outside, so we all took a long break to swim in the river and cool off. It was a fun day outside in the heat with the members of Natural Resources, so Ben and I were very grateful they allowed us to join them for their trip.

Saturday morning the two of us had a bit of EMS practice. When I arrived at the Ranger Station, I found that Ben had cut his hand while riding his bike to the station. While he was not hurt badly, his wounds still needed tending. I practiced my bandaging and wrapping on his hand and then took him home to change into a clean uniform shirt. After dealing with that, we sat down to work on our weekly blog until lunchtime.

We finished our week with a lesson in cleaning the handguns. What gets dirty must be cleaned, so our Supervisor Mike Valora took time out of his day to review gun cleaning safety and disassembly of the gun. We took our time to make sure we did a good job, especially because these guns are not fired every day.

The internship is coming to a fast end, but we are very excited for our last few weeks here. We expect to be with Law Enforcement for the majority of the time remaining and have a few exciting things planned for the next couple of weeks.

Looking forward to reading your posts,
ProRangers Ben and Angela

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