Saturday, June 2, 2012

Colonial NHP: Second and Third Week

Last week on Monday the 21st, Erik and I travelled up to Harpers Ferry National Historic Park for Operational Leadership Training at the Stephen T. Mather Training Center. Here we met up with many other ProRangers who were also taking this two day training course. I am very glad I was a part of this group. I learned a great deal about how important situational awareness is in any career. I also learned that one should practice interdependent safety instead of looking out for only yourself. We were taught how to cope with stress and fatigue. We also saw the three different decision making models. I thought that Operational Leadership Training was a very valuable course for me to take. Overall I learned that everyone needs to work together as a cohesive team to complete one final goal. After the training was over, I decided to get some fresh air and hike up one of the trails at the park. I hiked up Maryland Heights and overlooked the two rivers, the Potomac and Shenandoah, join together. It was really interesting to see all three states, West Virginia, Maryland, and Virgina, meet together in one area. I was also given the chance to meet some of the extremely friendly locals who rountinely hike up this trail.

After spending some time at Harpers Ferry, I then drove back to Virginia to meet up with some fellow ProRangers at Prince William Forest. The next day I was involved in woodland fire training in the park. I passed my pack test, which was a 3 mile walk under 45 minutes with 45 pounds of weight on my back. Then we learned the importance of fire shelters and learned how to use them correctly. After this we worked together as a team and created a fire line with different tools. We also created single and progressive lines with the fire hoses. I was really happy that I passed my pack test and cannot wait to one day get my red card!

After Memorial Day Weekend, Erik and I went back to work at Colonial NHP. This started our first week with the Interpretation Division. On our first day, we took the visitor's tour of Yorktown Battlefield to see what each visitor gets to experience at our national park. We walked through the visitor center's museum and saw George Washington's old tent from the Revolutionary War! We also took a Battlefield Walk with one of the Rangers and learned about the siege of Yorktown and the importance of the earthworks that were created here. We also learned about the different siege guns that were used in battle.

The first picture is a gabion, which is a woven basket made out of wicker material. These gabions would of been filled with dirt and then covered in more dirt to create the earthworks. The gabions created extra stability for the large mounds for not only artillery but for the weather as well. The next picture is a great example of what the earthworks look like.
Erik and I also travelled the tour roads and visited the Moore House where the American, French, and British commissioners signed the Articles of Capitulation.

After this, we took the trolley over to the nearby Yorktown Victory Center, which is an entirely different entity run by the Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation. We were to experience the different interpretive style of our national park compared to a privately owned museum. Not only did they  have a museum, the also had a remake of a Continental Army encampment and a 1780's farm. I thought it was really interesting to see great examples of living history. The army encampment was really fun as I was able to hold a real musket with one of the soldiers!

The next day we worked with the park Curator. It was amazing to see a part of the endless collection of historic artifacts for Yorktown! We were able to help him with the archives and we organized some of the files for him. I loved to see someone so passionate about their job and I felt honored to have helped with such an important collection of historic objects. We also worked with the Cultural Resource Management Specialist and went out on a hike in Yorktown Battlefield's wooded areas to find old redoubts and redans, which are fortifications made from the earthworks. It was so much fun to have a day to hike through the woods and see a part of a park that most visitors do not see. We were able to observe a multitude of wildlife as well, which was great for me! I even saw my first copperhead snake, although I unfortunately did not get a picture of it. I enjoyed watching the skills of the CRM Specialist as he pointed out old artifacts and ruins all along our way.  

On our last work day of the week, Erik and I headed out to Jamestown to meet with the Museum Specialst and Conservator. Here we were able to witness Jamestown's long history with an endless array of old and historic artifacts. She allowed us to work with some of these artifacts in her lab. We treated some pieces of 17th and 18th century brick that was found. These bricks needed a lot of work so we first cleaned them off and then we sorted them and labelled the collections. Many of the bricks had old pieces of glass and shell in them as well. I really enjoyed working with the artifacts as it reminded me of working in the science labs back at school with all the different tools and techniques.
What an amazing two weeks! I really enjoyed my time at training and with Interpretation. Next week I will be spending more time with Interpretation so I am very excited. I cannot wait to have experienced all the divisions that run Colonial NHP. Stay tuned as more is to come in the weeks ahead!

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