Monday, June 3, 2013

Sleeping Bear, Week 2

South Manitou Lighthouse
Today was another good day on the island. Similar to yesterday, we got to see how the island opposition works and familiarize ourselves with what tasks will be doing this summer. Ranger Chalup and I went to the one campground, Bay Area, in the morning to check on campers and make sure they were following park rules and camping in the right areas. We talked to one camper about using only dead, down or detached wood for fires, but everything else went well. We then met the ferry on the dock for another wave of 60 campers and 13 day visitors. After another camper orientation (which I will be doing tomorrow) we went to check on the second campsite, the weather station. It's a good thing we went, because we realized that the sites were overbooked and had to relocate a few campers. Many of the sites are on a first come, first serve basis because of their backcountry nature, and overbooking can occur. We sorted out the problem and got everyone into a site. Next, we went to the lighthouse and conducted a couple tours; Abbegail, another intern, will be leading these for much of the summer. At 4 we made sure the day visitors boarded the ferry for the mainland and then went to check on the third, and most hard to get to, campsite, Popple campgrounds. We drove as far as park roads would let us, and then hiked about a mile into the campgrounds to check on the visitors and look for violations. Many of these campers, and many of the campers on the island in general, backpack into their sites for the weekend. Since this site is furthest away, there is likely a chance that more illegal activity happens here than the other campgrounds. All was well though and we called it a day once we got back to the ranger station. Thankfully, today was a bit warmer. It should be interesting to see how tomorrow pans out with many of the visitors leaving and others coming in because of the Monday holiday. I'm excited to lead the orientation tomorrow! Today gave me a good look at what I will be doing for the majority of this summer. There will be days when I am the only ranger on the island, so knowing the ins and outs of the operation and the protocol for contacting Law Enforcement if something goes wrong is crucial to the success of this parks mission. 

South Manitou Beach. Note the invasive zebra mussel shells that litter the beach.
Another great day on the island. I got to do the camper orientation today after meeting the ferry at the dock; unfortunately there were only two campers staying for this Sunday night. However, it was a good chance for me to practice my orientation speech for the larger groups that will be coming later in the summer. Ranger Chalup and I then went to organize the fire cache and update equipment. When a fire breaks out of the island, often the rangers stationed there for the week will be the only respondents until help come from the mainland, which could take a day or more. It is important to have this equipment ready in case something happens. We then went down to see the "valley of the giants " which are some very large, very old cedar trees located on the west end of the island that escaped the logging industry that once thrived here. The trees were quite impressive and are a key stop when visiting the island. We then went to the lookout on top of a bluff where you can see the shipwreck of the Fransisco Morazon, a cargo ship that ran aground in 1960. The ships crew stayed on the ship that was stuck in the sandbank for a day or so until they abandoned the ship. After salvaging and a mysterious fire, the ship was left unattended for the past 53 years. Pictures of the cedars and the shipwreck are bellow. After that, we called off work and made hotdogs on the grill for dinner. We watched the sunset from the top of the lighthouse and laughed quite a bit. Tomorrow is the last day on the island for this trip, and I'm excited for my four day weekend to relax; today was my 8th day of work in a row, tomorrow will be 9. 

Very cool uprooted tree root
Me with one of the giant cedars
The shipwreck Francisco Morazan
Sunset on top of the lighthouse!
Today was a quick day on the island. The ferry did not drop off any passengers, so all we had to do was make sure that everyone who had camped over the weekend was accounted for and good to go home. I got the chance to run lighthouse tours for an hour before the ferry arrived. Both tours I did were for two people each and we're a little nerve racking. After the first tour though, I felt a lot better about doing them for latter in the summer. I talked about the history, constriction and duties of the lighthouse and it's keeper and then showed off its stunning views of Lake Michigan to the visitors. We then packed up our things and started getting ready to take the ferry back to the mainland with all of the visitors. With about a half hour before the ferry was scheduled to leave (and they will leave without you), we could not locate one camping group on the docks and I had to handle a woman who had gotten a nasty splinter in her thumb. We were rushing around trying to locate the group and take care of this visitor while making sure that we would not miss the boat ourselves. We later found out that the party had left the previous day and did not inform us. Everyone, including us rangers, made the ferry on time. The boat ride back was a lot of fun and gave me a good chance to snap some pictures. The ferry is ran outside of the park to the north. The NPS has a partnership with the company and takes a portion of their profits because they are considered a vendor. All in all, it was a great first trip out to South Manitou and I am looking forward to getting back.

Taken before my tours.
Shoal lighthouse (privately owned) from the ferry.
View from the ferry back to the mainland.
On my four day stretch off I did a lot of exploring and resting. I spent a good amount of time checking out new areas of the park and some of the more remote hiking trails. I watched a few subsets and spent some time relaxing on the beach. I also got to spend some time with my coworkers and get to know them a bit better. These four days were much needed after a long work schedule. 

Sunset from the Treat Farm trail on one of my days off.
It's June already here at Sleeping Bear, and we are still waiting for the heavy visitation season. Today was one of those days that started slow and ended with a bang! Ranger Seybert and I escorted a film crew from the travel and advertising company Pure Michigan (you may have seen the adds) around some of the scenic areas of the park for a new commercial. Because of their special use permit to film in the park, we needed to escort them and make sure that they weren't harming the resources during their filming. They filmed at the Scenic Drive, Port Onieda and the Dune Climb, all providing great views of the park. We held off traffic and made sure they had enough parking space for all their equipment. It was a simple task, and all went smoothly. Afterward, we headed back to the station and Ranger Johnson and I worked on completing my first payroll (it was a great learning process for me). We both then headed out for what we thought was going to be an easy end to the day, making a stop at the local sheriffs office to drop off paperwork and checking on the park boat since it had stormed the night before. We then got a call as we were leaving the dock that we needed to send a boat out to North Manitou to escort a visitor who needed to get to a hospital. It was a non-emergency situation; the individual had been fishing and had a fishing hook fling back and get logged in his forehead. Ranger Johnson and I got on our cold water suits and made the drive out to North trough some pretty heavy fog and decent size waves. At one point, we were totally relying on our radar to see where the island was (due to low visibility) and were receiving calls from dispatch on the whereabouts of other boats in the area. When we got to the dock at North, Ranger Lachowski and Schad had the individual ready to go and he hopped in the boat for the return journey. The trip took about two hours on the water and the man was in good spirits on the ride back, cracking jokes about his situation and asking us about our duties. When we returned to the mainland, he had a ride to the hospital waiting and we docked the boat for another day. Days like today just go to show that you never know what you're going to get into during a day of rangering. I woke up expecting to direct traffic all day, not make a trip out to the island to pick up a man with a fish hook stuck in his head! Just one of the reasons why I love this job!

Tonight I worked on my first night shift of the season on the mainland. Night shifts are interesting here because the sun goes down very late (compared to back home). Right now, it stays light out until 9:30pm, so the real "night shift" doesn't start until then. We started our shift at 2:30, and true to what I said yesterday, I was tasked with something that I didn't think I'd be doing today... office work! I went to headquarters to work with Dispatcher Tom Davison on Law Enforcement reference manuals that are dispersed to the LEO's in the park. This manual that Tom puts together is nothing short of a life saver for the LEO's. It covers everything that you could think of about the job, from phone numbers, to the CFR, to Fees, alarms, fire and ambulance locations and a map of how to get to the jail. Tom had me use a binding machine to punch holes in the papers and place them into a nice plastic binding that holds the booklet together. With my help, we completed 50 of these manuals that will be used for the rest of the year. Next, Ranger Chalup and I drove around the north district of the park. It was a quiet night, and Ranger Chalup was able to show me some of the more secluded sections of the park that I hadn't seen yet. We responded as backup to Ranger Mazurek who was working on a marijuana possession case at one of the beach accesses. After we cleared, the three of us headed into the main campground in the North District, DH Day Campground. Again, it was a quiet night (mainly due to the cold temperatures that we are still experiencing here) so Ranger Mazurek took the time to show us how he patrols the campgrounds and beach area in the campground at night. He showed us some key spots to observe visitors on the beach who might be participating in illegal activities, such as abusing drugs or having illegal beach fires. Ranger Chalup and I entered one campsite to talk with a large group that we suspected were underage drinking. We did not find any cause for alarm though and moved on. We then headed back to the station and Ranger Mazurek took the time to show me how to do evidence collection, using evidence from his marijuana case. He showed me how the paperwork should be completed and how to secure evidence in a locker for future reference. All in all, it was a slow, but educational night.

Machine used to bind the manuals
The finished product!
On this Monday I am working another day shift on the mainland. I reported at 1000 and Ranger Seybert and I hopped in a vehicle for patrol. Again, it was a slow day because of the cooler temperatures. We checked out some of the small lake accesses and checked a couple fishing licenses. There were a couple times when we thought we had a case of illegal fishing and camping without a permit, but both parties ended up having the proper paperwork. We issued a couple warnings to vehicles that were parked in trail parking lots that did not have park passes, and gave another warning to a vehicle that we saw running a stop sign. Ranger Seybert ended earlier than I did, so I'm now in the office catching up on some homework for my ProRanger summer class and writing this blog. It's been a fun weekend, and I will have another 4 days off starting tomorrow. On Saturday, I will be working the M-22 challenge doing traffic control and will then be heading out to South Manitou Island for a 9 day block. Stay tuned for next week's update and thanks for reading!


  1. Jordan,
    Reading your blog I can tell that you are enjoying yourself. Not only are you having fun but you are getting a lot of hands-on experience in both administration and field work. You even got to cook out and eat hotdogs for dinner. You’re living the Park Rangers Lifestyle and representing us Pro Rangers in a good way. Keep making the best of this wonderful opportunity.
    Daviryne Hall

  2. I really appreciate that Daviryne! Its been great up here at Sleeping Bear. I look forward to hearing more about your internship at INDE, it reminds me of home in Philadelphia! Keep up the good work and I hope your foot is doing better!