Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Sleeping Bear Week 3 and part of 4

Looking down the 450 foot sand dunes!
 6/4-6/7: This was another four day weekend for me (I will be working a 16 day stretch after this!) I spent my time taking runs on the beach and catching up on some sleep. The other Law Enforcement intern, Jon, and I took a trip the one day up to the Scenic Drive to climb down the 450 foot sand dune at the Lake Michigan overlook. This is a popular thing for many visitors to do because of the excitement around the shear size of the dunes. Unfortunately, the dune is fairly easy to climb down, but painfully difficult to get back up. Once the season gets busy, the Rangers receive many calls concerning visitors who are unable to make it back to the top due to a number of reasons. Together, with the Glen Lake Fire Department, the Rangers are tasked with rescuing these visitors. Imagine having to carry someone on a gurney up these steep slopes! Every step you take back up you slide a foot or so back down. Jon and I thought that it would be a great experience to climb the dune and see what it is like. Fortunately, we were able to make it back up. We saw first hand how difficult it is to climb back to the top and gained a lot of respect for the dune. I would not want to make the climb on a 90 degree day!

About halfway (200ish feet) down the dune!

Looking up from the bottom (yes, those are people way at the top!)

6/8: Today was the M-22 challenge! M-22 is the main highway that runs through Sleeping Bear. The challenge consisted of a run on the road and up and back down the sand dune located at the Dune Climb area, then a 17 mile bike ride around Glen Lake and finished with a kayak/paddle board route on Glen Lake. Myself and a team of four other Rangers worked traffic control for the event. I was also tasked with documenting the whole day with one of the fancy NPS digital cameras. Thanks to my previous photography experience, I'm happy to say that I took around 350 pictures of all the different stages of the event and contestants as the crossed the finish line. Unfortunately, I do not have any of the images in my possession because I had to hand in the camera at the end of the day. Hopefully soon I will be able to get my hands on some and put them in a later blog. It was truly amazing to see all of the contestants (900 participated) of all physical abilities finish the race. Taking pictures at the finish line was a great because I got to see the pure joy in the contestants faces as the finished the event! After the race was over, there was a bit of a scramble by the contestants to pick up their bicycles and boats and leave the event. It did get a little hectic for a while, but with the help of the M-22 volunteers and all of the rangers working the event, we got everyone out of there in a couple hours. Afterward, us rangers headed back to the station and had an After Action Report to talk about what went well with the event and what we need to change for next year. It was a great day!

Here is a picture taken from the M-22 website. It shows the finish line and where the boats were located on Glen Lake.

6/9: Today I did a ride-along with Ranger Pat Shad. We started the day early at 6 AM hoping to get some illegal camping cases in the morning. Sundays are popular days to find individuals who did not purchase a camping permit and decided to set up for the night somewhere in the park that is off limits to camping. We have two designated camping areas in the park, so we take illegal camping very seriously. This kind of camping can also disturb fragile dune environments and can run a fine upwards of $150. Despite our efforts, we did not find any campers though and proceeded to check on the smaller lakes in the park. It turned out to be a very quiet day and Ranger Shad and I had some great discussions in the car about being a Ranger and working at Sleeping Bear. We headed back to the station early because he had to catch up on some paperwork. While he did that, I found myself in the Kris Eggle Conference Room reading the large binder full of memorials and newspaper articles about Kris' death (see my first blog to read more about Kris). It was truly an overwhelming collection and I'm glad that the park honors his memory in such a way. Kris was truly a great ranger and was taken way before his prime. His memory impacts the every day lives of the rangers here that knew him and even those who did not. We all can learn a lot from the character of Kris and how he loved being a ranger. Bellow is the ending of a poem that I found on the back of one of the funeral cards. From what I've read, it shows the kind of tradition and service that Kris represented in his work, and it is something that I will look to honor as well.
The ending of an inspirational poem I found.
 6/10: I started off the day with a ride-along with District Ranger Chris Johnson. It's funny how things work sometimes, yesterday we thought we would find an illegal camping case because of it being a Sunday and our early start, but today ended up being the day. We hopped in the vehicle at 9am on a Monday morning thinking that it was going to be another quiet day in the park, but we were wrong. We drove into the parking lot of the Sleeping Bear Dunes Trail and found one car. Ranger Johnson got out and felt the hood of the car, which was cold. On a hunch (and I guess through years of experience) he decided that we ought to hike through the trail and try to see if the individuals had camped illegally for the night. Sure enough, about a half mile into the trail, we spotted a hammock tied onto two trees and made contact with the two individuals. It was great to see how Ranger Johnson approaches these situations and explains to the visitors why it is not OK to camp in these areas. The couple was compliant and the contact went smoothly. Ranger Johnson then tasked me with hiking the woods on Day Forest Road (a stretch of road that has private homes on one side and the park on the other). In the past, we have had issues with the residents of these homes dumping yard waste and other things into the woods. A few years ago, a Ranger made this same hike and documented all of the yard waste that he could find. Afterward, the Rangers went door to door to inform the residents that this was not OK. Ranger Johnson was hoping that my hike would yield fewer yard waste incidents, but my list ended up being just as extensive. We will be following up with resident contacts soon. To finish the day, I did a ride-along with Ranger Seybert. We drove to the north end of the park and made a contact with a couple that had been removing beach wood. The woman was an artist and planned on using the interesting wood for future pieces. We wrote them both a warning for trying to take resources out of the park. I got to see and do a lot of different things today! 

The woods I patrolled looking for unwanted house garbage and  yard waste.

6/11 and 6/12: These past two days I have been completing the two day course, NPS Operational Leadership. This is a popular course in the NPS that covers risk management and job safety issues. We covered a broad range of topics from SPE/GAR tests to working with a team, causes of human error, conducting briefings and debriefings, the different types of stress, designated and functional leadership roles, accident causation, etc. I am happy that I got the chance to complete this training and I learned quite a bit. My favorite part of the class was at the end when we got to practice writing and conducting briefings and debriefings. We were split into groups and given a scenario in which we had to write a briefing that covered team roles, what to do in an emergency, goals of the project, and many other things. It was great to do this because briefings and After Action Reports are something that rangers do on a regular basis to make sure everyone is on track with the task and to analyze what went well in a project and what needs to be changed. I was also happy to review the GAR tests (I had previously worked with GAR at the National Conservation Training Center last summer with the Risk Management division). 

Tomorrow I will be heading back out to South Manitou Island for a 10 day work schedule. My next blog post will be a collection of these next tens days. As always, thanks for reading!

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