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

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