Tuesday, July 23, 2013

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.

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