Sunday, July 7, 2013

Sleeping Bear, Week 7


It has been a great weekend on the island. I arrived on Friday, the 28th, on the Park Maintenance boat with a few other volunteers and the weekend maintenance worker. The ride to the island was the best I’ve had yet! The water was as smooth as could be, like glass as we motored our way towards the island. Once we arrived, we unloaded our gear and quickly got ready for the day. Ranger Chalup and intern Abbegale Hoye were already on the Island, and the three of us met the ferry at the dock around 11:45 a.m. A large amount of campers and a handful of day-visitors arrived. I helped unload the ferry as Abbegale collected the camper’s permits. I conducted camper orientation and sent the campers on their way. It was a very normal morning. As Abbegale went to conduct lighthouse tours, I patrolled into the Weather Station Campground to check on campers. Most everyone had made it to their sites by the time I rolled in. I found one site in which the campers were not present, but had a makeshift fire ring in the middle of the site. All fires on the island must be within the designated fire rings, so makeshift ones like this were not acceptable. I took photos of the site for Ranger Chalup, noticed that the embers were not hot (which meant the previous permit holders probably used the ring, not the current inhabitants) and continued on.  Ranger Chalup and I entered the site again later that night and found the group using one of the designated fire rings. We dispersed the makeshift rings and that was the end of that. I also found a group at the Bay Campground that did not have a camping permit because they arrived on their own personal boats. We later issued them a permit and then called it a night.

The makeshift fire ring.
Some old photos of the island that I scanned and posted.
On 6/29, we had another busy Saturday. I changed the weather board in the morning a got ready for the day. Right before the ferry arrived, I received a call from the Rangers on North Manitou Island that they had a medical emergency. Ranger Chalup went out on the boat to assist in the rescue. Abbegale and I stayed behind to receive the ferry, collect permits and conduct orientation. Afterwards, I patrolled into the Weather Station Campground again to check on campers. Everything was good, and I returned to the station to work on some Island projects. Ranger Chalup returned from the medical (which involved taking the patient back to the mainland) around 5:30 p.m. We noticed that the less popular campground (because of its distance, not fires and no water source) Popple Campground, was nearly full, which does not happen often. We took the opportunity to patrol the campground at night to check on campers. Abbegale had also made a contact earlier in the day with one group that was camping at Popple who may have been in possession of marijuana, so we had many reasons to make the trip out there. We checked on all of the sites before dark and all seemed OK. We stayed on the beach until the sunset and then decided to walk through the woods to watch on our suspected marijuana site. This was a great experience because I have not had many opportunities to walk through campgrounds at night, especially through dense woods. We observed the site for a while, and decided that there was no reason to stay longer. We hiked out of the campground and returned to the station around midnight. We did not write any tickets the past two days, but you sure can’t say it’s from a lack of trying!

Dune grass near Popple Campground.
Sunset at Popple Campground.
6/30- Today was a very busy day. We got a call from the ferry early in the morning telling us that they weren’t going to stay at the dock all day and were planning on picking up campers and leaving early. We tell campers in orientation that this might happen, and that they should be back at the boathouse in the morning with all of their gear to check if the boat is turning around early. However, most campers don’t take us seriously when we tell them this, and on some days they don’t even bother to check. Because of this, we decided to head into the campgrounds at 9 a.m. to warn campers who were leaving (and there we 90+ leaving today). Some were upset that they wouldn’t have the day to spend exploring the island, but others were relieved to get off a bit earlier. Everyone was back on the dock in time and the ferry left the harbor by 11:45 a.m. I gave orientation to the few campers who came on for the week. I returned to the station and received a call from Dave Chew, the maintenance worker, saying that one of the group campsites in the Weather Station Campground was trashed. I grabbed my camera and headed over to investigate. Sure enough, the site had several pieces of clothing, cigarette ends, toilet paper rolls, and other trash scattered throughout the area. I took pictures of all of the garbage for evidence collection so we could mail them a citation and cleaned up the garbage. When Since Ranger Chalup left the Island this morning, he had me do the write up for the incident and I sent him my report for final processing. It was a great opportunity to do evidence collection on my own and do the report in which Ranger Chalup will process. 

The trashed campsite.
Later, I conducted Lighthouse tours, even though only two visitors stopped by. One of the volunteers on the Island, Patty, who is a descendant of one of the Lighthouse keepers, graced us with her version of the tour. Together, we both provided one of the best tours to those two visitors that has been done on this Island for many years. I just wish more people were there to experience it! Afterwards, I completed a certification course that allows me to drive the ATV on the island. Being able to drive the ATV will allow me respond to medical situations faster and patrol the Island in a quicker manner. The past two nights I have been having dinner with the large group of volunteers who are on the island for two weeks. They are an amazing group of individuals who have been doing work on the Island for many years, and they make the best home cooked meals that I have had since leaving for the summer! Many thanks to their hospitality and stories, I’ve learned quite a bit from them. They even pretended it was my birthday tonight just as an excuse to eat some cake! Volunteers in the NPS are a crucial part of our operation, and we would truly be lost without them.

The old stove that powered the Fog Whistle.

 These few days were much of the same on the island. Starting on the 1st of July, the ferry started running on a two boat system. The first boat arrives with day visitors and individuals who are only camping one night. It drops these people off on South Manitou first and then goes to North Manitou, then back to the mainland at Leland harbor. The second boat arrives around 4:30 p.m. with the rest of the campers and picks up all of the day trips to bring back to Leland. This new system allows the ferry to bring more visitors to the island and gives single night campers almost two full days on the island. Everyone benefits! Having two boats come in and doing two orientations a day really keeps us busy. We met the boats, conducted camper registration and orientation, gave lighthouse tours and answered any and all questions. I went on a few patrols through the campgrounds during the day to make sure that everyone was set up properly and check for illegal camping. During some down time during these two days, I worked with Patty, the volunteer, to get rid of a huge pile of wood that was compiled behind the Ranger Station for many years. The pile consisted of everything from ordinary downed trees to building woods that had been scrapped. We spent two days cutting down the pieces so that they could fit into fire rings and sent them out to the accesses to the campsite for campers to burn. Usually, we do not supply wood to campers, but this stuff needed to go because it really was an eye sore behind the station. One morning, I worked up quite a sweat moving heavy logs that were too big to cut into a nice pile, and moving large 10 foot planks to the maintenance yard. Hopefully some of those planks will be used to make picnic tables in the future. I wasn’t planning on working on moving this wood for so long, but once we got started, I was determined to finish.

The original woodpile.

For the holiday and the following day, I was the only Ranger on the island. This was a real test for me, because of the high visitation during these days. I met the first boat in the morning, which only had a few campers and around 35 day visitors. I conducted registration and orientation, then did three Lighthouse tours. Before the boat came, I issued two Junior Ranger badges and patches to two little girls who had completed the program. I met the second boat on the dock around 4:30 p.m., loaded up the departing campers and day visitors, and greeting a whole new batch of campers (there were many more on this boat). Again, I did registration and orientation, making sure to remind campers that there are no fireworks allowed on the island, despite the holiday. Orientation is usually a 10 minute speech on safety and camping information. Afterward, I entered in the days statistics in our spreadsheet and had dinner with the volunteer group (who have invited me to dinner every night and are a wonderful group of people). Afterwards, a group stopped by the Ranger Station asking for my assistance with their son, who fell and had a bruised arm. I determined that his arm was only bruised and put it in a splint to take the weight off. I also gave them plenty of ice packs to ice the arm overnight (the next day they stopped by and his arm was feeling much better). At night, I went into both the Bay and Weather Station campgrounds to check permits and sites. I gave a couple verbal warnings to move tents to the proper areas and left notes in other sites telling them to not take rocks from the beach and not to hang heavy equipment in the trees (we tell campers to hang food from a line in the trees so chipmunks can’t get to it). There was one site that was supposed to be in an individual site but were camping in a group campsite (which needs to be reserved ahead of time). I had this group move their site as well. 

Put out the Coast Guard Flags for the Fourth. They read, HAPPY JULY 4!
Our Ferry information sign.
On the 5th, I had a very similar day, but there were way more day visitors (almost 95 total). I conducted 5 Lighthouse tours of 55 people and met both boats. At night, I went back into the Weather Station Campground to check on campers. All was well, despite being two campsites away from being full. I had a tip from one camper who saw a suspicious tent set up in a group campsite. I went to check it out, and things did seem a little off at first glance. There was no permit (and I had checked all permits previously, there were no extra permits left over) and the single-person tent was laid flat down on the ground with only a little gear inside. The tent was very far into the campsite and it appeared, to me, that somebody had been illegally camping here and was trying to conceal the tent from plain site. I called Ranger Chalup, who was on the mainland, to see what I should do about this. During the call, the individual arrived into the site and explained that he had come on a private boat and didn’t know that he needed a camping permit. He explained that he left his tent poles on the mainland, which explained why his tent was flat on the ground. Since his was in a campsite that was not being used and was only spending the one night, I allowed him to stay and told him to pay the camping fee when he returned to the mainland since we do not collect fees on the island. It was a unique experience for me.

The suspicious tent up close.
From further away.
Today, Ranger Chalup returned to the island and I will be heading off. We met the ferry in the morning and did our normal duties. I updated him on what has been happening during the week and we worked on our squad notes. Currently, I am writing this blog during my free time before Lighthouse tours at 2 p.m. and will be off on the 4:30 p.m. ferry back to the mainland for a four day weekend. It’s been another great trip to the island and I am looking forward to getting back! Until next time.

Sunset from the dock.

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