Monday, August 1, 2011

SNP --> Week 11

Every week here in Shenandoah offers me new opportunities. Just when I start to think I've participated in every area and seen all the jobs the park has to offer, something new happens!

Tuesday morning I woke up in the morning not knowing what to expect for the day. The schedule only said "Fire Monitoring" which could have had several different meanings. It turns out that I got to spend the day with Tyler, who technically deals more with plant biology than fire but he still helps out and travels with the fire effects crew. While the rest of the team was out fighting a fire south of the park Tyler took the time to go out in the field with John and I and share with us what his job is. We spent the day constructing a 50 by 20 meter plot in a section of forest off of RipRap trail in the south district. The plot will be used in the future to aid in prescribed burns. Tyler's job is to identify the many plant species that exist within the plot before the fire effects crew burns everything. Their combined job is to monitor the condition of the forest and help it to stay healthy and productive.

Wednesday John and I spent the day with the cultural resources specialist, Ann Cain. She took us around the park and showed us the locations of various resources from the past/history of the park. These items included the roofs of several buildings, tree rings, etc. She took pictures of each thing and then entered everything into a database which helps keep track of their location and condition.

(Me ascending a tree using climbing gear! left Me descending a tree/John ascending in the background! right)

Thursday I had the honor of learning all about knots and climbing/rescue techniques from Bill Cardwell, the guru of technical rescue. We started off with the basics like how to tie a simple overhand knot, pressic (?) knots, water knots, munter knots, and others. After we had the basics down, the pros set up a couple rope systems which were slung over high tree branches and taught us several ways to ascend and descend a rock face using knots, caribeaners, gre-gre's, etc. It was a lot of fun! (Sorry for butchering the spelling of pretty much everything in this paragraph!)

(Me entering fee information into a database.)

Friday I worked in Central Remit/Fees. I rode with Cathy who went around to all the fee stations in the south district and collected all the money they had obtained during the previous few days of business. After we had it all we took it back to their secure office and counted it all up. Once we made sure all the amounts were correct they showed us how to enter everything into a database which helps them keep track of park passes sold and how much money the park has brought in total through fees. John and I were very appreciative of the work they let us do and all the ways in which they let us help.

Saturday I worked 10 to 6 at Mathews Arm Campground. I helped answer phones, register campers, and answer their questions as best as I could. Around 12 Jim Barnes, a north district LE who I rode with back in June, came in to the office to see what was going on and if there was any way he could help out. His visit became a great learning opportunity for me. He offered to take me with him while he roved around the campground making sure everyone was safe and that no one was violating any regulations. We had to stop to talk to two different campers whose food was not stored properly. Eventually we ended up back at the ranger station where he graciously, and expertly, showed me how to take apart and put back together both his shotgun and his pistol! It amazed me to find out just how many little springs and parts make up one gun. Now, every time I shoot a weapon, I will truly be able to understand how it works inside.

When he brought me back to the campground it was time for the Campground and Lodge status report. Catherine, the campground supervisor, put me in charge of completing this task. I called each and every location and asked how many rooms or camp sites they had available. I then wrote down their answers on a log sheet. The biggest part of the report was repeating it to everyone in the park over the radio! This was one job I never expected that I would have the opportunity to do. I'll admit it was kind of intimidating but I was proud of myself after I did it.

This weekend I also had some family and friends come to visit. As I showed them around the park and the town of Luray I just kept thinking about how great a measure of knowledge having visitors is. When I first came here I wouldn't have been able to answer half the questions they asked me but now, at the end of the summer, I truly felt like a Park Ranger! I have learned so much about the resources of the park and how everything fits together that I couldn't wait to share it with them. The best part was the feeling I got when I shared a new piece of information and their eyes lit up, their mouths opened, and all they could say was, "wow!". I have 2 weeks left here in my park. I definitely do not want to leave but I am realizing that all I can do now is simply absorb everything that I can in the time I have left. I already have plans to road-trip back to Shenandoah sometime in October to see the fall colors and visit all the wonderful people that I met this summer. I absolutely cannot wait!

Until next week,


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