Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Sleeping Bear, First 10-Day Trip to South Manitou!

From the ferry, looking at the village on South Manitou Island.

This blog will be a bit different from my first couple posts. From 6/13 to 6/23, I spent my time working on South Manitou Island. For those of you who haven't read my previous posts, South Manitou is one of the two islands that Sleeping Bear Dunes has under its control. The island operation is interesting and ever changing. Based off of the time of the year, South Manitou, currently, will have as many as one Law Enforcement Ranger, two interns (including myself) and three maintenance workers during the week (one on the weekends). South hold many different important resources, including natural and cultural history. Visitors can be found taking a Lighthouse tour, hiking the sand dunes, kayaking, swimming, fishing, or exploring the historical farms and visitors center. There is much to see and do on South, and this blog will cover some of the highlights of my first 10-day work schedule on the island. 

The ferry coming in to the dock.
On my first day, 6/13, I took the maintenance boat out to South, departing from the main harbor at Leland, Michigan, just north of the park. It was a smooth ride and thankfully I did not get sea sick! Usually I do not have an issue with this, but on certain boats and with larger waves, my stomach will get a little unsettled. I arrived to the island, quickly unpacked and got ready for the day. On a normal island day, we have a somewhat regimented schedule. In the morning we start our day at 9am. I usually work on some homework for my ProRanger summer class or work on some other projects until I need to call the ferry at 10. Ranger Chalup uses this time to work on incident reports. Once I call the ferry to see how many day trippers and campers they are bringing, and ask what time they are leaving (usually they leave at 4pm, but sometimes they have to make a quick turnaround because of the weather), I go out to the boathouse, which also serves as a rallying point for visitors, and update the signage. We have to signs that tell visitors when the boat will be departing and the days weather. After that, I usually stay out and chat with visitors until the ferry arrives around 11:30am. We help tie off the boat, unload the passengers and their gear. Next, we register all of the campers in the boathouse and mark off which campground they will be staying at. There are three different campgrounds on South and they are on a first come, first serve basis. Next, we run through a camper orientation that covers safety and informational knowledge for the campers staying overnight. Afterwards, they are free to start hiking into their sites or explore the island. We make sure that the visitors taking the motorized, guided tour of the island are good to go and then we take lunch. Usually, during lunch I will enter in the visitor statistics for the day into our monthly spreadsheet. Lighthouse tours start at 2pm and run until 3:45pm. We usually do anywhere from 3-8 tours of around 10 (maximum) people. After these tours, we make sure everyone is back on the dock in time for the ferry departure and see the boat off! We stay on until 5:30pm and work on whatever projects or reports need to be done. The island is interesting though because even though you are technically off duty at 5:30pm, we never really are. Often times, we will patrol the campgrounds at night around sunset (the best time to catch offenders) or have visitors knock on our door with any number of questions or concerns. We are the primary contacts for any EMS calls on the island and are the first people that visitors come to for help. There is no doctor, hospital, grocery/drug store, etc on the island, so if there is any type of issue, we are the ones to find. 

Unloading camping gear from the ferry.
Writing out campers permits.
Giving camper orientation.
On my second day, we got into some good Law Enforcement contacts. At 2pm after the boat was unloaded and Lighthouse tours were being conducted by the other intern, Ranger Chalup and I patrolled into the Bay Campground. Sure enough, one large group of young 20 year olds were making quite a bit of noise and drinking alcohol. We started our contact by warning them about the noise and music, and then Ranger Chalup asked to see identification for all of those who had drinks in their hand. Three of the individuals turned out to be underage and did not bring their identifications to the island. It became clear that the group had been longtime friends and had met up in Leland before leaving on the ferry as a annual reunion trip to South. Each person had brought their own alcohol, so Ranger Chalup only confiscated the underage individual's drinks and had them come back to the station with us. We ran their history and issued them tickets for MIP (minor in possession). Later that night, Ranger Chalup and I patrolled the Weather Station Campground (perhaps the busiest on the island). We stayed on the main path through the campground and observed activities on the campers to see if there were any violations. We came across one group that were having an interesting conversation in their tent about drugs and bringing them to the island. We assumed that they had narcotics and stayed to see if we had probable cause to search their gear. Sure enough, I smelled the marijuana and we saw them use a lighter. We entered the site and told them to exit the tent. Within plain view was the marijuana and other paraphernalia they had been using, as well as more marijuana and a bong in the pocket of one of the backpacks. One individual did have a medical marijuana card and was confused about why he couldn't smoke on Federal land. Despite the fact that he couldn't do this, we still would have gotten him for sharing with other individuals. We ended up charging two of the campers for possession. It was a busy day for Law Enforcement on the island.

On the 15th and the 16th, visitation numbers were high. We continued to conduct our normal activities and patrol the campgrounds throughout the weekend. One day, things were a bit slow and I decided to offer my services to two of the volunteers that were working on the island doing odd jobs. That day, they were mowing lawns at the farms and I offered to help. Together, with two mowers and and weed whacker, we were able to get a large portion of the farms mowed. These two volunteers were outstanding workers and I'm glad that I got the chance to meet and work with them. Volunteers in our Parks do an enormous amount of work and I don't know where we would be without them. We have a large amount of volunteers come out to the islands because they love the area and understand the mission of the NPS. Many also have family ties to the island and love to come back to do upkeep.

Saw this little guy while weed whacking.
Me with my protective gear during weed whacking and mowing.
Starting from after the ferry left on the 17th, I was the only Ranger on the island until Ranger Chalup returned on the morning of the 22nd. Sure enough, on the night of the 17th, I received an EMS call from the mainland. One of the large groups on the island staying at the Weather Station Campground had called the mainland Ranger Station with concerns of one of their campers who was having difficulty breathing, most likely due to a bite or sting. I got all of the information that I could form the Ranger on the mainland. I grabbed up one of the maintenance workers as I was heading to get the truck and we quickly drove as close to the site as we could. Unfortunately, somewhere along the passing of information, I was given the wrong campground. The reporting party said that they were in site 6 near the beach, which is impossible because site 6 is not at a beach access. I checked the site and there was nobody there. I then thought that maybe they meant 16, so I proceeded to that site. Again, it was not the correct site. I remembered a bit of island knowledge, when is doubt, head to the beach... you can find just about anything from the beach. I ran about half a mile of the beach that connects to the campground and found a group of the reporting party that I remembered from orientation. They showed me where the girl and one of the camp counselors was located and I proceeded to offer my services. I told them that the Glen Lake Fire Department was on their way form the mainland and that we needed to get the patient back to the dock for examination. We double checked to make sure that she was OK to walk and made sure that they had everything that they needed for overnight (since they could have needed to go back to the mainland hospital) and proceeded to drive out of the campground. I drove while the maintenance worker, Art, received radio communications from Glen Lake. By the time we got to on of the intersections in the middle of the island, Glen Lake was already waiting with two paramedics. I handed the situation over to them from that point out and stayed to provide any services that I could. They checked out the patient and said that medically, she was OK. She was probably just feeling under the weather because of the drowsy Benedryl she had taken and the several mosquito bites that were concentrated on her leg. Mosquitos have been a major problem on the island so far and I can understand how having several bites concentrated in one area on a 13 year old girl could make her feel uneasy. We called her parents and they said that it was OK to keep her on the island. We double checked with the group counselor who came and he was OK with her staying the night. I transported them back to their campground and gave them our phone number for the Ranger Station and my personal cell phone number just in case another issue arose. The next day, the group came for a Lighthouse tour and the girl was doing just fine. Thankfully, this was an easy first EMS call for me and was a great learning experience.

The old truck that we use to get around the island. We joke that the NPS sent it to the island to die, but it is a reliable vehicle. I used this truck on the EMS call.
During my days alone on the island I was responsible to performing the daily routine. I met the ferry, registered campers, conducted camper orientation (about a 10 minute speech), and did lighthouse tours (which include a synopsis of the history, use and life style of the workers of the lighthouse). I also worked on fixing up some of the display boards in the boathouse, which is the first building that visitors see when they arrive. Because of this, I thought it was important to fix up some of the outdated material and make the boathouse look as presentable as could be. Interp. has not been on the island for several years because of budget cuts, some much of the material needed to be updated. I spent several hours working on signage for the one board and scanning some of the old pictures of the island that are in the Ranger Station. Today I printed out these pictures at headquarters and will be putting them up on one of the empty boards on my next trip to the island. There are still many things that I want to fix up in the boathouse and it will be a continuing project throughout the summer. 
Registration desk before...
Registration desk with the new Weather Board! I also plan on redoing the Ferry Info sign later.
Info Board before...
Info Board after!
After work, I have been exploring the island and learning its history. There was once a thriving industry on the island thanks to it being the only shipping harbor on the way to Chicago that ships could use as protection from storms and to refuel. When ships ran on woods powered engines, the logging industry was extensive on South and much of the island was logged over. One of the popular spots on the island is the "Valley of the Giants", which holds world record sized cedar trees that escaped the saws of the time period. Farming also came to the island and award winning rye was harvested there for many years. Together with the life saving service and the coast guard, there is much history to the island. I spent many nights reading the history book in the Ranger Station and exploring. One night I took out the kayak to try and find one of the old shipwrecks, the Three Brothers. I've also been working out in our makeshift workout facility in one of the boathouses and taking runs on the main trials. On top of that, going up and down the Lighthouse several times a day makes it easy to stay in shape. I've definitely lost some weight since the start of the summer!
Our workout facility. Sorry, the lighting isn't so great, but not a bad view while bench pressing, eh?
On Tuesday, the 18th, my Chief Ranger and the safety committee came out to the Island. Chief Akers oversaw my orientation and visitor contacts and took some great pictures for me. He checked over some of the buildings on the island and patrolled into one of the campgrounds. The safety committee checked all of the buildings for code violations and thankfully everything was good to go. All we had to do was dispose of a few old smoke detectors. It was great to have them come out and see some familiar faces on my day alone on the island.

Ranger Chalup returned to the island on the 22nd and we continued with our daily routine. I was happy to get some help and company back after my time alone. He showed me another project that the Superintendent wants completed by the end of July that I will be working on. The project includes mapping a potential trail that connects the Lighthouse area to the area of the Weather Station Campground. The purpose is to create a hiking trail that runs parallel to the main road in order to keep hikers off of the road that is often used for park vehicles. This will be a project that I will be working on, so keep reading for more updates on this.
My last day was on the 23rd. We performed our usual duties and then I got all my things together to catch the ferry off of the island. I asked the ferry captain if I could ride in the wheel house with him and he let me. It was great to talk with him and learn about his daily responsibilities. The ferry is a privately owned company that acts as a vendor with the park to bring visitors to the island. The family that owns the ferry has a long history with the NPS, and it is important to keep those working relationships strong. 

I am currently off from the 24th until I head back to the island on the 28th. Our usual schedule for the island is 10 days on, 4 days off. After working ten days, it is great to have a few off. Today I met with the Deputy Superintendent to interview him for a paper for our ProRanger Summer class and worked on a few other projects at headquarters. I restocked on food for my next trip to the island and am catching up on some sleep. I'm looking forward to getting back out there! My next blog will be similar to this one; a recap of my trip to South. Bellow are some other random pictures from my trip. Until next time!

The SMI Visitors Center
Boardwalk leading to the Lighthouse.

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