Sunday, August 14, 2011
Shenandoah week 13
Shenandoah National Park week 13
This is the last and final week here in the park. (well kind of we are staying a day or two longer to help with an ongoing search and rescue.) This week was spent with RAD, Interpretation, and Maintenance.
The beginning of the week we took turns spending the day with our Chief Ranger Leslie Reynolds, while the other went out with the roads crew and performed landscaping duties in the North District of the park.
I (Heather) was very excited to spend the day with Leslie! We started our day by attending Squad. This is a meeting for park supervisors and the superintendent to discuss current projects, problems, and positive aspects of park operations. From there, we drove up into the park to Skyland where we met up with April Michener, a National Park Service Special Agent. It was really great to spend time with both of them because I got to ask them questions about their careers and what I can expect during mine. After lunch we continued driving around the park and played "what if". Leslie gave me law enforcement scenarios and helped me work through what I would do if I was called to such an incident. It was really good practice.
I (John) Spent Wednesday with our park's Chief Ranger. It was a good time overall, and Leslie is a wealth of National Park experience. We woke up bright and early and met for a good 3 and a half mile run. I've been PTing in the evening after work so it felt good to start the day off with a good run. We then went over to meet up with LE Ranger John Kinde for a backcountry/boundary patrol. I got to see the park from some different view points, and travel some less traveled roads. We went to the park's boundary areas and discussed some upcoming plans for upcoming hunting seasons that surround the parks borders. I knew this was an issue with illegal poaching and park entry, but I didn't realize really goes into trying to monitor it.
Thursday was spent with the NOVA kids camp. We went with Kathy, Georgette, and crew from Interpretation, where we met with the teenagers from northern Virginia inner-city areas surrounding Washington D.C.. We hiked a portion of the Appalachian Trail where there were many opportunities to give encouragement and educational experiences. The highlight for many was a lunch over a scenic overlook followed by a chance to understand and remove an illegal campsite from just off the trail. This was a unique and rewarding experience for many of the teenagers and us, which felt good to get some of the kids out for their first time in wilderness areas.
We then spent days with the LE Rangers performing ride-alongs. This is always a good chance for us to get out and see the park with new eyes and get a chance to see how the different Rangers perform their duties. They always have good advice for us and enjoy to hear about our park experiences, and how the ProRanger program functions.
Yesterday during my (Heather) ride-alongs with Coby Bishop and Rob Wissinger a situation began to develop. A group of hikers reported that they had been separated from their friend and he was lost somewhere in the park. At first the report seemed fairly unremarkable. People get lost in Shenandoah all the time and then find themselves again just as often without Law Enforcement having to take any action. However, sometimes the situations end up being more elaborate than others and this particular one has developed into a very large operation using the ICS. Currently we are searching for a hiker that was last seen yesterday around 2. We have been searching the park for over 24 hours now and still have not found the man. John and I, along with pretty much all the other LE's, were divided into search groups. These groups were assigned particular areas to grid search. We were looking on the AT, other trails, and densely forested areas for clues or a body (dead or alive). Our original plan was to check out of the park and drive home tomorrow but with this incident going on we will postpone our departure until further notice.
See you all soon,
John and Heather