Monday, July 29, 2013

Visit #1: Cape Hatteras National Seashore (7/21-7/22)

On Sunday, July 21st, I set off for Cape Hatteras National Seashore with my 5 year-old son, Finn.  He was very excited to see the ProRanger students (many of whom he had already met) and to have his first experience camping outdoors in a tent.  He was intrigued by the books that had arrived in the mail addressed to him and by the opportunity to become a "junior ranger."

We had high hopes to arrive at Cape Hatteras NS in the mid-afternoon, but traffic in Virginia took care of that.  As we inched along 95S, I resisted the urge to hop off at Prince William Forest Park!  When we finally arrived about 7pm, ProRanger Jay Copper met us at the Frisco Campground and helped us to set up camp. From there, he showed us to his favorite pizza spot for a quick dinner.  Then, it was back to the campsite, where we made the requisite s'mores, burned some jiffy-pop and met some wildlife.

It will burn if you don't shake it constantly!
Frog hanging out at the bathroom.
On Monday morning, we were out on the beach bright and early:  Jay signed us up for the "Fishing with a Ranger" program offered by the park.  The program is BYOB (bring your own bait).  Although Jay was off-duty on Monday, he met us there with bait (whew!).  Jay told us that he had been the "fishing ranger" the week before with the help of a long-time park volunteer, Russ (who I learned was retired South Jersey and had worked all over Philadelphia).  Russ helped us out with the first cast and almost immediately Finn told me that he had a fish on the line.  I was dubious, but reeled in the first of 3 fish (pompanos according to Russ).

First time fishing.

Releasing fish #2.

Finally willing to touch fish #3.

Jay Copper unhooking fish #1.
The Campus Recreation services flag atop the Cape Hatteras lighthouse.
From the beach, we headed to the visitor's center to climb the lighthouse, earn a junior ranger badge and get our passport stamped.  Walking around with Jay was like having our own personal tour guide!  He relayed the history of the park, the lighthouse and many other relevant facts.  We didn't run into a single other park ranger or park volunteer who Jay didn't know.

After climbing the 297 steps of the lighthouse, we attended a program with Ranger Matt about how the barrier islands are constantly moving and changing and Jay helped Finn with his junior ranger activities  We also got our passport stamped and collected several ranger's "autographs" for the kids' passport companion book.  After a full morning, we agreed to meet Jay later in the afternoon along with his supervisor, Ranger Mark Krebs, when he came on duty at 3pm.

Program with Ranger Matt.
Working on the junior ranger book.
Ranger Brian "swearing in" Finn as an official junior ranger.
ProRanger Jay pins on the badge.
Proud (and hungry) owner of a junior ranger badge!
The perfect place to fly a kite!
After lunch and several games of UNO (I lost) back at the campsite, Finn and I headed down to the beach for some fun in the sand and to fly his kite.  Earlier in the day, Finn had expressed some doubts about whether Jay was a "real ranger" because he hadn't been wearing a uniform.  So, despite the fact that he was off-duty, Jay donned his uniform.  When they met us on the beach, I had the opportunity to watch from a distance as Jay and Ranger Krebs interacted with members of the public (off-leash dogs and a vehicle on the beach without a permit).

Practicing his signature.
ProRanger Jay in uniform - a "real ranger"!
I got to spend some time talking with Ranger Krebs about his experience with the ProRanger program.  It is his second year supervising a ProRanger (last year Meaghan Bauder was at Cape Hatteras).  The ProRanger program relies on supervisors like Ranger Krebs who make the time to offer our students superior summer experiences that give them the foundation to be great rangers -- Thanks, Mark! 

Then we took some photos, of course!

Ranger Mark Krebs and ProRanger Jay Copper.
Future Ranger Finn with Ranger Krebs and ProRanger Jay.
Fits just right!

Vicki and Jay
After a long and busy day, we met Jay for dinner at a local seafood restaurant with a great view (and some really aggressive air conditioning!) and headed back to camp for our final night.  It was a lovely evening with a nearly full moon so we took a walk down to the beach to look for "ghost crabs," but none were to be found.  Ranger Krebs dropped by the campsite as he was making his rounds -- unfortunately for him, the fire was out and the s'mores were packed up for the night.

Ready to break down camp (still wearing the badge!)
Tuesday morning it was farewell to Cape Hatteras National Seashore and thanks to ProRanger Jay Copper and Ranger Mark Krebs for making our visit special.  We broke down our camp and began our 300 mile journey to Prince William Forest Park to visit with ProRanger Vinny Lemba and Ranger Dave Ballam.  More exciting adventures (and more junior ranger badges) to come....

Vicki McGarvey

Back in action


I have been faithfully following your blogs.  Being less than an expert with computer technology, I had not been able to comment due to an expired password and other issues.  However, now I am back online and hope to comment and post again.  I am pleased that your internships and academy experiences are going well and that you have been willing to share them with all of us.  I  will be seeing some of you at your parks soon, something to which I am looking forward.   Your supervisors have been telling me great things about you, so keep it up as we head down the home stretch!  Mr. Krug

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Cape Hatteras National Seashore: Week 9

Hello followers,

This past week at Cape Hatteras National Seashore has been full of new and exciting experiences! I began my work week on Monday morning by attending Federal Court with the Law Enforcement Rangers at the park. The parks closest Federal Court is in Elizabeth City, NC, therefore, we had to leave early in order to be on time. After we arrived at the courthouse, the Rangers met with the Assistant United States Attorney to discuss their cases. Next, we made our way into the courtroom, where each case was put before the Judge. The Judge reviewed the details of the each incident, and called on the Rangers to give their account of the events. Then, the Judge would talk to the defendant and their attorney, to decide how the cases should be adjudicated. After weighing the facts of the case, the Judge made his ruling, and the next case was called.

Throughout the entire courtroom experience I was able to learn several things about presenting cases in court. First, the Rangers report is very important to the case. It may be several months before an incident is presented in court. Therefore, the Rangers report must include every detail of the incident for future reference. As a rule, it if is not in the report, it did not happen. Another tip that I learned was the importance of dressing professionally for court appearances. At Cape Hatteras, all of the Rangers wear long sleeve shirts, ties, and class A uniform components while at court. This uniform conveys professionalism, which is appreciated by the Judge. Also, it is very important to follow the rules of the courtroom, and to speak clearly when testifying.

After my day at court, I returned to working with other park divisions for the remainder of the week. On my first morning back in the park I was fortunate enough to spend time with the Lifeguard Division. As a National Seashore, Cape Hatteras is equipped with an extensive Lifeguard program that patrols the protected swimming beaches on all three major islands (Bodie, Hatteras, and Ocracoke). My morning was spent with the Lifeguards of Hatteras Island, whose stand is located in Buxton near the Old Lighthouse site. I began my morning with the Lifeguards by helping them set-up their equipment and mark the beach area. Next, I viewed the beach from the top of the stand, as we all waited for our 30 minute Physical Fitness rotation. Once it was my turn to "PT", I attempted to complete the standard Lifeguard morning PT session. This includes running 1.5 miles on the beach, swimming in the ocean, and then practicing with the the rescue board. After completing the first two components of this training, I was given the opportunity to work with the rescue board under the guidance of the Lifeguards. Having never use a surf/paddle board, I was eager to try my luck at paddle boarding in the ocean! After learning how to mount the board, I practiced moving through the water while lying on my stomach. Next, I made the transition to a paddle boarding position, with only my knees contacting the board. After several falls and miscues, I was able to successfully move from lying flat on my stomach, to paddling while seated on my knees. This was a awesome experience that one can only get at a park like Cape Hatteras!

After spending my morning with the Lifeguard crew, I moved over to the ORV Permit Office for the remainder of the day. Since this was my second stint with the ORV crew, I felt more conformable and I was able to assist the Rangers in their duties. During the middle of my shift at the ORV Office , Ranger Krebs stopped by to let me know that the park pilot had agreed to take me on a flyover of the park during the next day!

Cape Hatteras is very unique in the fact that they have a park pilot on the Law Enforcement staff. Since there are multiple airports in the park, the pilot is able to assist Rangers in patrol and can also help with wildlife studies and other park management duties. For my flyover, I traveled to the parks airplane hanger, where I met with the park pilot. Shortly after arriving at the airport, we were taxiing to the runway and taking-off! On this flyover, we started at the northern end of the Seashore, and flew south to the Hatteras Inlet. On the day of my flight, the water was extremely calm and clear, allowing us to see many schools of fish, a shipwreck, and even sharks swimming in the water. This was an amazing experience, and it was great to see the park fro m the air! From the view of the plane, you can truly see that the Outer Banks are only a small set of barrier islands that are threatened by the wind and waters of the Atlantic.

After my flyover, I returned to Hatteras Island where I reported to the Frisco Campground. The Frisco Campground is one of Hatteras District's two campgrounds, offering primitive camping to park visitors. Visitor Use Assistants (VUA's), staff the campground during the day in order to take payments from campers and sign visitors into the campground. During my two days at the campground, I learned how the check-in/out process works, and I was able to assist the VUA's in managing the area. This included patrolling the campground via golf cart, and cleaning the campsites once visitors signed out. After my time at the campground, I had a better understanding of the rules and operating procedures of the campground, which will help me going forward.

Once I concluded my time at the Frisco Campground, I returned to the ORV Permit Office to close out my week. On this Saturday, the ORV Office was slightly busier then my previous days there, which allowed me to really get a full taste of the position. I really enjoyed working with the other Rangers at the ORV Office, and I was able to use their tips to help talk to visitors and make the permit process as easy as possible.

Thank you for reading this week's blog! Check-back soon for additional blogs from Cape Hatteras National Seashore!

Jay Copper

Independence Hall Week 8

  Sunday July 14, 2013 I started my shift a lot earlier than normally because I switched to day shift in order to keep the same scheduled hours as my supervisor. I was told that the days at INDE are very different from the nights and working day shift would give me a different perspective on the park. I arrived to INDE and changed into park service uniform then reported to my Supervisor. Supervisor Snow informed me about the opportunity to work with cultural resources the coming Wednesday and I am excited about that. I have not worked in another division other than LE since last summer. About an hour into our shift all LE Rangers met for a briefing in the east wing of INDE HALL.

  Once all Rangers were present Supervisor began talking about the transition of both him and I working day shifts. He told all rangers what he expected from them and what he is expected to do as a supervisor. I think that Supervisor Snow is a great supervisor and leader for the Park Service. He carries himself very well and professional, I believe the Days shift Rangers and especially I can learn a lot from Ranger Snow. The briefing last about 45 minutes and then we all dismissed ourselves and headed out of the east wing back into the field.  Ranger Snow and I head to the ranger station.

  At the Ranger station I logged onto the computer to check and address some emails that were sent to me. I emailed my supervisor an electronic copy of the property assignment I had been working on.  He looked over it and asked me to make some changes adding more information and description to the document about the property. I completed the task ASAP and sent the finished product back over to him. Most of my day was spent typing up reports and getting information from online. I got to explore the park briefly as I cleared the M.E.B and shadowed the Staff in Dispatch. In dispatch I watched the park visitors enjoy themselves from the surveillance cameras. I observed dispatchers multitask by taking calls, looking up visitor’s information and entering data into the computer for future reference.  To me dispatch has both an interesting and difficult job. They definitely help the operation at INDE run smoother. I took a few notes while I sat in dispatch but not too long after that I was back in 339.

  At 339 I took a lunch then back to researching MSDS Material safety Data sheets for hazardous or chemical products list I made. Attaching the MSDS to the list is very important to determine what’s in each product and how to treat a spill. I was given the task to put together a uniform for an incoming permanent LE Ranger. I will complete that tomorrow because I will need the Help of an LE Ranger for access to the uniform cache and supervision. My first day working with the day shift was very good. There are a lot more going on and a lot more visitors. I left INDE after my shift ended.

   On Monday I arrived on Park Property and jumped into uniform. I log onto the computer and checked my emails first.  After checking emails and responding to them I logged off the computer and checked with my supervisor to get my task. Ranger Snow assigned me to go into the uniform cache and put together a uniform for an incoming permanent law enforcement Ranger.  One of the LE Rangers Sinclair helped me find and unlock the uniform cache in Franklin court. When searching for the items to complete the uniform I was able to locate class A pants, long and short sleeve shirts, and an acorn belt. I was unable to find cargo pants, a tie or tie tack. Before leaving Franklin court I stopped and spot with 2 Interp Rangers working in the printing press side of Franklin court.
 Interp Rangers working on printing press

  The Interpretation Rangers were putting on a demon station in which they used ink and a printing press to recreate important documents like the declaration. I watched them demonstrate step by step and so did a few visitors. The printing that they have in Franklin Court are sold to visitors who want to take souvenirs home. Right before I left Franklin court the rangers invited me to check out The Edgar Alan Poe house that INDE covers. At the ranger station I dropped off the uniform and left the park to pick up Ranger Nicole who had been working in the Poe House.  Visitors are currently not allowed inside the Poe House due to construction, but it will reopen sometime in the late summer/early fall and I cannot wait to check it out.
When I got back to the ranger station I continued to work on my inventory reports. I am complete with researching and gathering information now I’m putting everything together so that I can turn it in.
The next day I arrived at INDE at my new scheduled time. Working mornings is something new I have to get used to. I geared up and was informed by my supervisor that I would be shadowing dispatch for half of my shift today. I am familiar with the staff in dispatch so this was something else I looked forward too. At dispatch I met Marc who has a lot of knowledge of the Park Service and INDE. He used to be a Law Enforcement Ranger and Interp Ranger so that means he knows a lot about the different sides of the operation.

   Mark informed me about the communication at INDE. He told me the different tools they use to communicate with other staff members and contacts outside the park service. I learned that each division has different communication devices. Maintenance has push to talk radios and interpretation uses the radios like R&VP does.  One of the most important things that I noted was that the alarms in the park don’t just alarm when there has been some type of threat but also they will notify dispatch that they need to be changed, reset or fix.  That is great because it makes the building more secure and hazardous things away.

  I patrolled around the park and was stopped by a staff member who was dressed in 18th century clothing. He asked me to report dead squirrels in the park that cause disturbance to the visitors especially the kids. I told him I would notify the staff in R&VP and he thanked me. I patrolled around INDE until 1400 when I was asked to meet my Program Manager Ranger Krug for a package he had for me. I met him in front of Independence Hall and we spoke briefly because we both were working during that time. After he went back to his office I walked around Independence Hall to introduce myself to the dayshift Sectek guards. Since I have been on day shift I have gotten the chance to meet with a lot more NPS rangers and Sectek guards. Everyone is interested in the ProRanger program and I give them as much information as I can from the experience I have gotten here. The remainder of my shift I spent in the ranger station getting caught up on my blog.  I left INDE when my shift was over.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Visits with ProRangers at their park internships

Since 2010, I have been working with the ProRanger program, but this year I was finally able to visit some of the ProRangers at their internship sites.  Over the past week, my son and I traveled to meet with the ProRangers and their supervisors at Cape Hatteras National Seashore, Prince William Forest Park, Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, and Antietam National Battlefield.  I also plan to make visits to Independence National Historical Park and Valley Forge National Historical Parks.  

It was exciting to see our Temple ProRangers in action!  I was able to observe all of them in uniform interacting with park visitors in various circumstances.  Each of their supervisors made the time to meet with me and review progress over this summer as well as their experiences with previous students and the program overall.  And, I was honored that one superintendent and deputy superintendent met with me to discuss the program and the challenges facing their park.

My interactions with the park rangers, staff and volunteers at every park were universally positive.  It was a wonderful week and it reinforced my feeling that I am privileged to be associated with this extraordinary organization. Over the next few days I will be posting more detailed blogs and photos of my visits.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Cuyahoga Valley NP Week 8

I started this week with shadowing Ranger Swaggard for the day. It was real overcast with many down pours so there were not a lot of people out. She showed me more about the radar, and I got a chance to check the calibration to make sure it is correct. It is very important to check it every time you turn it on so you know it is accurate, and this way it can hold up in court. I also practiced estimating in my head the speed of cars and then checking with the radar because that is an important skill to have. We ran a bunch of tags from vehicles parked, and I learned a lot more of the different offenses and there acronyms; for example DOER- Driving off established roadways.

Cuyahoga River 
The next day we kept getting many severe flooding alerts, and it was true! It rained here for 15 days straight. Not all day long, usually just one or two storms that pass, but there has been a lot of rain. The day before and this day had extreme downpour, and after the ground being saturated already from the previous weeks it just could not take it anymore. From the saturated ground, trees were also just slowly falling down and blocking the roadways. The whole day we just drove around and called in the next down tree, or helped clear the roadway, help with traffic, and so much more. We even had to check some flooded roadways to see if it was shallow enough for cars to make their way through. It was a crazy day!
One of many down trees causing road blocks

Valley Fire Dept. SAR Boat
The next day the Cuyahoga River was extremely high and flowing with a high velocity. I have never seen it this crazy. Many sections of the trails were closed because the river was flowing over them, or had washed it out. Lots of debris filled the river and washed up on shore, along with trees and logs clogging the river. Towards the evening we heard a report about a 9 year old boy who fell into the river. The local fire company, many police departments and ourselves started searching. We set up posts along the river to watch. The Valley Fire Department has qualified boat rescues, and they started sending boats out on the river. Unfortunately night fall started to arrive and it became too unsafe to continue the search, the search resumed the next morning. A few days later I heard on the news that they found the boy's body. It is a very tragic loss and makes you realize that what seems to be a normal river you see everyday can suddenly become a dangerous habitat. It also reinforces the importance that this job truly has, and you never know what to expect but must always be ready.
Flooded Road

On Saturday I was picking up some cones that were no longer needed to close off sections of the trail when a few women came up to me because they lost their car keys. I took down all the information and brought it back to the Communication Center. They showed me how the Lost is filed, and what happens if something is found. Later that evening we received a call that some keys were found, (the same ones) and I went down and picked them up and the woman got her keys back! I did some hike patrols, and moved down trees/branches (if they were not too big) that came down from the previous storms. We ran some radar and made traffic stops, checked on an alarm that went off and found nothing. There were no broken entry ways, so probably a mouse set it off, We got a call about a fawn that was hit so we found it and had to make sure it was dead, before dragging it off of the roadway. It was quite a diverse day for me, and I did a little bit of everything!
Fox sitting in front of den under abandoned house

Sunday turned out to be by far the busiest craziest day I have ever seen in the park! The river was still very high and strong. We had 2 separate incidents of kayakers getting swept down the river. We set up spots along the river to catch them in case they needed help getting out, but neither of the searches became serious as we found the kayakers on land. There were 2 separate bike accidents on the Towpath, but everyone was alright. We received a call that a horse trailer had a flat tire but it was on the bend in a road and traffic was very fast. Ranger Stell and I did some traffic control so they could change their flat. Then there was a dirt biking accident which everyone was alright, but then that turned into something bigger because they were riding on park property and did not have licenses or registered vehicles and had to wait for rides and tow trucks. Even after all that there was a bicycle accident on a roadway. No one saw it happen, but the girl's friends and the first people on scene are pretty sure it was not caused by another vehicle, and maybe she just came down the hill fast and lost control. She was barely conscious and could not speak much English, along with her friend who also could not speak much English. The ambulance came and decided to have the girl airlifted because it seemed serious and also because of all the unknowns of not knowing what happened. It was a crazy day and I sure hope everyone turned out to be okay. I got a lot of experience dealing with different incidents and seeing how they can each turn out to be very different, and also the importance your presence in the park is especially on these busy days when we had sirens going on and driving in multiple directions at a single time.

The whole week gave me a lot of different and new experiences and I cannot believe how much I am learning and how fast my time here is going. More to come still!

-Jackie Innella

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Cape Hatteras National Seashore: Week 8


During the past week I have spent my time with the Cape Hatteras Maintenance Division. The Maintenance Division is in charge of insuring that the park stays in tip-top condition, and that the visitors and staff have the best possible facilities for work and enjoyment. Throughout my time with maintenance, I experienced all of the required duties of the staff and was allowed to work on multiple projects.
Newly cleaned warehouse area

On my first day with maintenance, I spent the first part of the morning in the Cape Hatteras "Historic District". This area of Buxton, NC encompasses the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, visitors center, and the museum. The entire maintenance staff starts at this location each morning, in order to get all of the maintenance tasks completed before the visitation increases. My duty for this morning was to sweep out the steps and landings of the lighthouse. As mentioned in previous blog posts, there are 248 steps in the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse (257 if you count the 9 granite steps at the base!) Each morning, these steps and the 8 landings must be swept. This involves climbing to the top of the structure, and using a broom to clean each step on the way down. Sweeping the lighthouse was a great way to start the week, and it was refreshing to get in some exercise early in the morning!

After finishing the Historic District Duties, another worker and myself picked up litter and trash in the Buxton area. Next, we returned to the maintenance yard where we were assigned a cleaning project for the remainder of the day. The maintenance warehouse was in need of cleaning and reorganization, a perfect task for a warm summer day! Throughout the afternoon, we worked to organize the warehouse according to each area of work (plumbing, electrical, etc.). We also were able to recycle a few out of service items and free up additional space in the warehouse. At the conclusion of the day, the warehouse looked better than ever, and the maintenance staff was excited to see the improved area.

Freshly painted donation box
On my second day with maintenance I was given an independent project. At the entrance to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, a small scale "Iron Ranger" is positioned for visitors to donated funds to the park. This donation box is painted with stripes that are made to resemble the real lighthouse. Unfortunately, the replica lighthouse donation box had fallen into disrepair, and was in need of a new coat of paint. On this morning, the maintenance supervisor assigned me to repaint the box! After receiving supplies, I carefully taped off the white strips of the "lighthouse". Next, I painted the white stripes and allowed the paint to dry before removing the painters tape. The next step in the process was to repaint the black stripes on the lighthouse. Due to the fragile nature of the fresh paint, I was unable to protect the freshly painted white stripes. Instead, I decided to "freehand" the application of the black paint. With much care and patience, I was able to successfully finish the painting of the lighthouse without making too many errors. Once I touched up a few spots, the lighthouse looked as good as new!

Following completion of my project, I rejoined the maintenance staff at the Cape Point Campground, where basic landscaping duties were underway. I was given the opportunity to use a string trimmer (known as a weed wacker, or weed eater to some) in order to trim the grass around each campsite. Maintaining the campsites is crucial to the campground operations, as it reduces the amount of bugs and snakes in the area and keeps the campground looking professional.

Trimming near the cabin housing area
My third day with maintenance was spent primarily using the string trimmer to maintain the grass at several locations and to widen the Buxton Woods hiking trail. The Buxton Woods trail is a .75 mile hiking loop that allows visitors to experience North Carolina's coastal woods. Periodically, the brush on the sides of the trail must be trimmed back to allow for safe passage. On this day, two of us were assigned to this project. In order to make the most of our time, we decide to each start on one end of the loop and meet in the middle. Following almost four hours of trimming, we were able to complete the trail maintenance. I really enjoyed this project, as it gave me an opportunity to experience the trail while still completing the needed work.

Power Washed section of fence
During my final two days with maintenance I completed several other small projects that were important to park operations. The most interesting of these assignments was my opportunity to power wash the wooden fence that surrounds the ranger station property. In the next few weeks, the maintenance staff is welcoming in YCC students who will be painting the ranger station fence. Prior to their arrival, the fence must be power washed in order to remove any dirt and debris that has accumulated over the past few years. Due to the location of the fence, it was necessary to use a park fire-hydrant as a water supply for the power washer. I was given to responsibility of making sure that all of the equipment required to use the hydrant was available and was tasked with finding a suitable adapter that could reduce fire hose to garden hose. Luckily,  another worker and I were able to build an adapter that would work for our project. After all of the supplies were found, we were ready to begin work! We began my hooking up all of our connections and insuring that everything was in working order. Next, we turned on the hydrant, started the power washer, and began the washing process. Over the course of the day we were able to wash a large section of fencing. This will allow the YCC workers to begin painting sooner, and help make the project run efficiently.

Fence washing in progress
During my week with maintenance I was able to experience the majority of maintenance duties. Additionally, I was allowed to work on a few independent projects around the park. This was a great learning experience that will benefit me during my last 4 weeks here at Cape Hatteras, and in the future.

Thank you for reading! 

Jay Copper

Sleeping Bear, Weeks 8 and 9

Beach on South Manitou
7/11- Today I left for South Manitou for another long work schedule. Instead of taking the park boat out, I took the first ferry in the morning. This was a great experience because I got to see how the ferry operates in the morning. Usually, I only see their operation once they get to the island, so it was nice to see what they need to do in the morning to get everyone on the boat in time. I watched as they directed visitors to the parking lot, ran the shuttle to the harbor, and helped to load passengers. I spent time talking with visitors and the boat Captain on the way to the island. Once I got there, I had to unload my gear quickly and get back to the boathouse to do camper orientation. After lunch, I decided that it was time to start work on a proposed trail that the Superintendent wants put in on the island. This new trail will run for about 2-2 ½ miles from the Weather Station Campground to the South Manitou Lodge and connect with the trail that runs down to the shipwreck overlook. The purpose of the trail is to keep hikers off of the main road that the motor tours use. Some hikers don’t want to see vehicles during their hike, so this new hiking only trail could stop that. I started out at just north of the Lodge looking for an old road that could barely be seen on Google Earth. After hiking through some dense woods, I found the old road and it was almost too good to be true. The road was about 7 feet wide and only had a few downed trees in the way. It ran from the Lodge to about halfway to the shipwreck trail, so this old road could potentially be useful for our new trail. I took videos of my hike to remind myself of what the road looked like and started using the GPS to find coordinates for my proposal. I returned to the village in time to conduct the second camper registration and orientation. After that, I got a call from the campground on the mainland saying that a camper in a private boat was heading to the island. I waited for this boat to show up and ran him through orientation as well. It was a busy day.
Freighter I saw on the way to the island. 
Remnants of the old road. Notice the definable treeline along the road.

7/12- In the morning I worked on some homework for my ProRanger summer class, which is going very well! I met the first ferry and did camper orientation. At 1:30, I met up with some of the volunteers on the island who were running an unofficial chainsaw training. One of the volunteers, Brent, is an experienced firefighter and along with maintenance worker, Dave Chew, they taught the course. We went over the proper safety for using a chainsaw and how to take them apart, clean and change out the parts. We also went over how to sharpen the blades and put the chain back on the saw. Afterward, we went into the field and looked at some examples of dangerous situations when using a chainsaw. We talked about poor weather conditions and escape routes if a tree starts falling the wrong way. I didn’t get to operate a saw because I had to leave to meet the second ferry at the dock, but I learned quite a bit from the course about safety and use of chainsaws. I hope one day I will be able to go through the official NPS chainsaw course; it will be beneficial for wildland firefighting. After the second ferry, I worked on a witness form for Ranger Chalup relating to a trashed campsite case that we had a week or so ago. I took the write-up I did for the case and put it onto the form, which will held in the file for further questioning or court proceedings if need be.

7/13- Again, I met the ferry in the morning, which had a low number of visitors for a Saturday. As she has been doing all weekend, Abbegail has been running the lighthouse tours, which has allowed me to work on other projects. After planning out a route online and with my GPS, I decided to head back out to work on our new trail. I started out at the Weather Station Campground, quickly checking sites before starting my trail work. All was OK in the campground, and I started out hiking through the dense woods near the campground entrance, heading for the Lodge to connect to my previous work a few days ago. At the start, there were some great views of the mainland sand dunes that could be incorporated in the trail. During my hike, I got stuck in some heavy thorns and juniper. I will have to find a new route around this section for the trail. After getting through that, I started looking for an old farm field line that was somewhat visible on Google Earth. I had trouble finding the old field line, and continued to walk through the woods heading towards the Lodge. Eventually, I got to the Lodge but the hike did not go as I had planned. I will have to look at the old maps again and try to find another route. This project will be an ongoing one for the next week or so.

One of the overlooks on the potential trail. You can see Sleeping Bear Dune in the distance.
An example of the vastness of the Poison Ivy growing on South Manitou. This stuff is literally everywhere. Since there are no deer on the island to eat the Ivy, it grows uncontrollably. You will see Poison Ivy along many trails.
7/14- This morning I spent my time in the office, working on a few different things. Ranger Chalup is not on the island right now, so I had to complete this week’s Squad Notes, which is basically a weekly summary for our District Ranger back on the mainland about what we have been doing. It includes visitation numbers, number of lighthouse tours, weekly accomplishments and projects, upcoming events and projects, and how many cases we had. I have watched Ranger Chalup complete this document several times before, so it was great to be able to do it on my own and submit it to my District Ranger. Since today was a Sunday, the amount of people coming off the island was high. The morning ferry was full of campers when it left the island and I ran orientation for a small group of campers coming on. The large group of volunteers, who have been on the island for the past two weeks, left this morning and I am sad to see them go. I formed great relationships with the group and they did some amazing work mowing, painting and fixing buildings. I will surely miss the nightly dinners with them and working together. Hopefully, one of the volunteers will be emailing me some photos of their work and of all of us to put on the blog!
Chainsaw training.
Saying goodbye to one of my favorite volunteers, Pat Kelly.

7/15- In the morning I met the ferry which had a good amount of campers on it. I ran orientation and then decided to patrol through some parts of the island that I don’t see much. I took out the Polaris UTV and drove up through the historic farm loop on the island. I checked to see if there was any problems around the farm areas, and they all looked great thanks to the mowing that the volunteers had done. Mowing these fields is something that maintenance doesn’t always have to do, so it was great to see them in good shape. I took the UTV over to the Weather Station Campground and checked the few sites that were taken. Afterward, I went down to the beach to see if there was any sign of litter after a weekend of visitation. Everything was OK, and I returned to the village to meet the second ferry and conduct another orientation. After work, I have been trying to keep up with my fitness, taking runs to the old schoolhouse on the island which is exactly 1 and ½ miles from the village (the same distance as our PEB run). I’ll get in a three mile run and then jump in the cold Lake Michigan to cool off (being hot and sweaty is just about the only time I will jump in that water, unless I have to. The water is still in the 60’s).
Inside of the old school house.
The Beck Farm on the historic farm loop.

7/16- Starting this morning, after the other intern left, I was the only Ranger on the island. I will be alone until the morning of the 20th, when Ranger Chalup returns and I head off the island. Ranger Chalup and I have seem to gotten into a schedule where I am on the island for a period of time alone and then he comes back to replace me when I head off. When I return after my 4 days off, there’s a few days when we work together and then he heads off for his break. The park has really trusted me with running the island operation on my own, partly due to budget cuts, and it has been a great opportunity. I met a large group coming off the boat this morning, with 82 day trippers and a handful of campers. I ran through registration and orientation and then headed over to the lighthouse for tours early since I had a lot of visitors. I ran tours from 12:30 to 4:00, doing 6 tours (at 117 steps each tour!) and brought up 51 visitors. I got everyone all of the day visitors back on the dock in time for the second boat, which was also dropping off a second load of campers, this time with about 35 visitors. I registered and oriented them all. I stuck around for a while to answer questions about the sites and trails, and then heading into the station to complete the spreadsheet for today’s visitation statistics. It surely was a busy day.

One of the fields on the farm loop.
7/17- Today was a bit slower than yesterday, with half as many day visitors and campers. Sometimes, that’s just the way it is with island visitation. It was a normal day, with two camper registrations and orientations. I did 5 lighthouse tours with 51 people. The park maintenance boat came in today with a load of gasoline for the island (yes, we have to bring everything we need, there’s no stores on the island for anything). I kept working on the trail after the second boat came and have been putting together a presentation for it. Hopefully, I will have something together by the end of the week.
A little lighthouse history. These are grave markers for Aaron and Julia Sheridan. Aaron was the first lighthouse keeper of the tower on South Manitou. Him, his wife, and their youngest baby tragically drowned in Lake Michigan when they got caught in a storm through the Manitou Passage, and their bodies were never recovered. I tell a ghost story relating to the Sheridans on my tour.
Grave marker for a skeleton that was found on the Dunes on South Manitou Island. We believe the individual passed away on the Dunes, and was covered by the sand until found. The islanders buried him in the cemetery without identification.

7/18- Today marks one more month left in my internship. This time, come August, I will be driving home from a night’s stay in Pittsburg. I am very much looking forward to my last month at Sleeping Bear and providing the park my services. This morning I on updating my blog and completing some homework for my ProRanger summer course (only one more assignment until the final!). At 10:00 a.m. I called the ferry to see how many people to expect for the day. Usually, they are able to tell me exactly how many day visitors to expect, but it is hard to get a count on the number of campers because most come on the second ferry, meaning that they haven’t checked in yet. I ran 4 tours today for 34 people. After I saw the second ferry off and ran camper registration/orientation, I took my last hour in the office putting together a PowerPoint presentation for our proposed trail. Hopefully, the work I do will inspire the park to do a serious mapping of the new trail with GPS coordinates and an environmental impact study. I most likely will not see any further work on the trail before I leave SLBE for the summer, but maybe it will be there one day when I visit down the road!
An example of some of the food that visitors leave in our Stranded Camper box. We use this food for people who get suck on the island for a day or two and need some help.

7/19- This Friday was one of those days when you wake up thinking you know how the day is going to go, but then it turns out totally different. I guess the ferry had worse weather than we did here on South Manitou, so they decided to run the afternoon ferry only, both dropping off campers for the weekend and taking off campers from the island. Usually, if they are only going to run one boat, they will run the morning boat, so them running the afternoon one was a bit different. Only one camp group was upset about the delay, so it wasn’t too much of an issue. This freed up my morning, so I took the Polaris out to the farm loop and the cemetery to check on things. Afterward, I headed over to the Weather Station Campground and checked on the sites. Everything was OK.  I did the lighthouse tours at 2:00pm and only took two groups  up, since there were no day trips. Since the ferry was waiting on the weather to clear up, they didn’t arrive on the island until 6:00pm, much later than usual. Around 85 campers unloaded and I ran them through registration and orientation, still being the only Ranger on the island. Everything was going well until a fourth group came up and told me that they had a group site reservation for the Bay Campground. There had to be an error, because the Bay Campground only has 3 group sites and all three had been taken by other groups that arrived on the same boat. After orientation, I got all 4 of the permit holders together and asked to see all of their confirmation emails one more time. Two of the groups produced their confirmations right away and I sent them to their sites. That left two groups for one site, and both were taking a while to find their confirmations. As they were looking, we all came to a verbal agreement that the one group, who was staying 5 nights, would take the Bay group site and the other one would head out to a group site at Weather Station Campground. I felt bad for the group who had to go to Weather Station, because they brought a lot of gear thinking they wouldn’t be going too far from the village (Bay is about ½ a mile away and Weather Station is about 1 and ½ miles away) so I fired up the Polaris, loaded all their gear and drove it as far as I could into Weather Station so they wouldn’t have to carry it all and could enjoy the hike out. This, I thought, was a fair compromise. I later saw the fourth groups confirmation and it appears that the registration website had somehow double booked one of the group sites at the Bay Campground, so all four groups were correct when they thought they should be heading to Bay. This was the first time I had to deal with a campsite issue like this, and I think that it went well. I returned home, completed the days statistics, and called it a day sometime around 8:00pm.

Waves like this look harmless on the shores of the safe South Manitou bay, but are a good indication that the waves out on the Lake are much, much larger and dangerous. This is probably similar to what the ferry saw in the morning.
7/20- Today is my last day on the island for this trip. Tomorrow I will be doing a ride along on the mainland in the Platte River section of the park with Ranger Lachowski. That will be my 10th day and I will then have 4 days off. Ranger Chalup returned to the island today, despite some 4 foot waves on the Lake, and I updated him on what I’ve been doing throughout the week. We put together this week’s squad notes to send to our supervisor, and I packed up my stuff to head off the island. We both met the ferry and I did camper registration, while Ranger Chalup did the orientation, since he will be the only face they will see for the rest of the weekend. I showed him the PowerPoint for the new trail that I put together this week and he was pleased. He showed me how to work the GPS so I can go out on my next trip and find exact coordinates for the trail. Before, I was using the GPS on my iPhone and just put together a rough estimate of GPS points for the trail (enough to put together a proposal). I did 4 lighthouse tours and then took the afternoon ferry off the island and called it a day once I returned to the mainland.

Til next time, South Manitou.
7/21- Ride-alongs are the best, and today was no exception. Ranger Lachowski provided an informative and interesting ride-along. We talked about his career in the NPS, problems facing the Park Service and SLBE, going through the Academies, and much more. Despite it being a Sunday, things were a little slow in the morning (we started at 10:00). Around noon we heard a call on the Benzie County dispatch of a senior who had fallen in his home and needed medical attention. It was a non-emergency call, but after hearing the second call from dispatch and no response, Ranger Lachowski offered for us to respond. After some confusion on the address of the home, which was down a dirt road, we were the first on scene. The family was unsure of exactly how long ago the man had fallen, but it was clear that he was not himself. The man was also vomiting, which created some concern. Ranger Lachowski seemed to be running through a checklist with his care, and was totally under control, telling me what to do and keeping the family calm. We put the man on oxygen and checked for any signs of bleeding from the fall, and there were none. We then checked his reflexes, and this is where we found what may have caused the fall. Ranger Lachowski asked the man to squeeze his hands around his fingers, and then push down on Ranger Lachowski’s hands with his feet. On both tests, the man was weaker on his left side, which is a common warning sign of a stroke. The ambulance arrived about 15 minutes after us as well as the Benzie County Fire Chief. We let the paramedics take over the situation from there, answering their questions on the tests that we ran and helping them with whatever they needed. We all loaded the man into the ambulance (which was a first for me, I have never even been in an ambulance) and they took him to the local hospital. I drove back the Fire Chiefs vehicle to the Ranger Station where he picked it up later. Hopefully, the man will be Ok, but it was a great experience for me.

Later in the day, we wrote one speeding ticket for a woman who was driving 73 in a 55 and also gave out a written warning for blowing through a stop sign. It was great to see traffic stops like these because I did not get much traffic experience in my park last year (we had no road jurisdiction) and do not get any traffic experience on the island. All in all, I am very glad with the way that this ride along went, and am excited to do some more on the mainland towards the end of my internship.

7/22-7/25: I now have 4 days off to relax and replenish my food stock for what might be my last ten day trip out to the island. Today is the 23rd and I am at headquarters, working on a few projects, homework, timesheets and talking with coworkers. At 3:00pm, I will be joining Ranger Dianne Johnson on a quick ride-along until 5:30 to get some more road experience.

Thanks for reading! Until next time.