Monday, August 8, 2011

Valley Forge NHP - Week 10

Ben and I have done a lot of reflecting and we find it hard to believe that the end is right around the corner. We feel proud of the work we have accomplished and enriched by all of the new experiences we were a part of. Both of us remarked that this has been the best summer of our lives; from shooting weapons to catching crayfish, there was not a dull day all summer.

Our last few weeks at Valley Forge will be focused almost entirely on law enforcement. With a thorough understanding of the inter-operations of the park, now is our opportunity to practice all we have learned from our Rangers. We both feel more confident in our authority while on the trails and take every opportunity to legitimize ourselves role as ProRangers.

While hiking Mount Misery in the morning on Tuesday, we found only a few hikers who were willing to brave the steep trail in the July heat. Along our way, we stopped to read the logbook that we keep in a dry box for visitors to sign. Our Chief thought it would be a fun idea for us to hike up to read the log, and leave a message if we wanted. Reading the log gives an idea as to how many people use the trail, where they are traveling from and any activities that they might describe in their messages. Overall, it is a good way to gain information about the trails without bothering the visitors. Most of the names signed were locals who expressed deep admiration for the work we do in maintaining and protecting the integrity of their beloved park.

In the afternoon, we worked on a research project about the local coyote population. Neighbors surrounding the park have been calling in complaining about coyotes in their park, and wondering if the park was going to relocate them. Per our catch-and-release policy, the park does not allow wildlife release within our boundaries. The concern was that local animal control shelters would catch the dogs and release them at Valley Forge, so we researched all the local organizations. Someone from the park will contact them just as a precaution. Now knowing that we have coyotes living in or around the park, both of us have been on high alert trying to spot one.

Wednesdays have become our day with Natural Resources so we could have the opportunity to continue working with the St. Gabriel's Hall summer students. In the morning, we attended the group photo, followed by an all staff meeting. At our meeting, we discussed the upcoming fiscal year, on-going and future projects supervised by Maintenance, ending with a safety presentation given by Ranger Waterman.

We met with the St. Gabe's kids to help them pull Mile-A-Minute, then attended a meeting with our staff, USGS and the traveling NPS Inventory and Monitoring Network. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss plans for future data collection of Valley Creek, our exceptional value stream. NPS looks to USGS for guidance and assurance that the long-term accuracy of the data is up to standard, as well as providing the equipment. The Inventory and Monitoring Network is comprised of NPS employees dedicated to providing support to our staff as well as collect and interpret the data.

We hit the trails again on Thursday, this time on an unmarked trail towards the Southern corner of the park. We ran into two friendly horseback riders who informed us of some down branches on the trails. It is important that we make our visitors feel comfortable bringing their concerns to us, so I thanked them and promised to pass their concern on to the according parties.

After stopping by the Admin building for a picture with our Superintendent and our Chief, we patrolled the River Trail by bike. The trail, though heavily used, is generally quiet. Never the less, we feel our presence discourages unwarranted activity.

Friday morning we attended the monthly court hearing held in the Education Center. Court went relatively smoothly; both parties were contesting their tickets issued for being in the park after dark. The judge found one defendant not guilty because he proved that he was in the park only because he locked his keys in the car. The judge ruled the other party guilty because he arrived at the park after hours and parked his car near a sign that read, "Area closed at dark." The judge was lenient on the guilty party and reduced many of his fines.

After court, we patrolled down the river on the canoe. Other than a few tubers and kayaks, the river was calm and quiet. We have been seeing a lot of interesting wildlife while on the river, mostly birds. It is quite impressive seeing large Red Tailed Hawks and Herrings swoop across the river right in front of us.

In the afternoon, we met with the vault assistant Ashley Shimer, for a tour of the most precious artifacts we have here at Valley Forge. Knowing that we were coming, she pulled out all the historic Muskets, knives and weaponry from the encampment era and gave us a thorough history of many of the items. The most memorable items were the powder horn that was carved and used at Valley Forge, clothes worn during the period, and a large drum that was used during the Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Civil War.

Saturday was a very exciting day for us because we worked the night shift assisting with two events happening simultaneously. The first event, Triplet Connection, was a large event that pulled in license plates from all over the country. Held at Varnum’s Picnic area, the event focused on connecting families with triplets with other families.

The second event was held in Washington’s Chapel, a privately owned enclave within the park. The Chapel invited a group of traveling actors to come put on a performance of a Shakespearean play. Both of the event coordinators had a good handle on their crowd, but our Rangers exchanged contact information with them and asked if they needed anything from us. Most of the night was spent traveling between the two locations in the park to make sure everyone was following park rules and no one needed assistance from our staff. Later in the night, we helped to clean up trash at Varnum’s after Triplet Connection ended. Both events ended a success and each party was very eager to offer us food for our kindness. Working the events were a good way for us to experience the park after dark.

Until next week,

ProRangers Ben and Angela

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