Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Cuyahoga Valley NP Final Weeks

Week 12 and Final Week

Tract Trekker Meeting
I started my last full week helping one of the Rangers out with a dinner. Ranger Pugh is in charge of the Tract Trekkers- a volunteer group that hikes the park boundaries and checks the posts, and puts in post where they are missing. This is a very important and time consuming job because the park is very large and it has many different jurisdictions going through out it. You must be careful and precise and know how to deal with people who may own private land up against park land, because they sometimes get very uncomfortable with people practically in their backyard looking for exactly where the true boundary is. Also having past records of the land is very important in case there is a dispute.  A lot of hard work and time goes into the work these volunteers do, so every year Pugh organizes a potluck dinner for them. I helped set up the tables and chairs at the Hines Hill Conference Center, and I got a chance to meet many of the Tract Trekkers and talk to them and hear about their work. It truly sounds amazing and is very rewarding work. They were presented a plaque of appreciation that will get hung up at Coonrad Ranger Station. Afterwards I helped with the cleanup. The dinner went well and everyone had a great time!

I got a chance to work with Ranger Rickelman on a day that she was doing Vacant Structures Check. When Cuyahoga Valley became a park it took a lot of land that people used to live in. Some of the houses have become park buildings for administration, ranger stations, dormitories, and a variety of other types. Some were in bad condition so they were destroyed and the land restored back, others have just remained vacant. The park being large and some of these houses are in remote areas that are not easily gotten to – it is easy to go a while without seeing some. So about once a month Ranger Rickelman goes to these structures to check the condition and report if there is any new type of damage; whether it is the house in bad condition naturally or kids trashing the place. She documents and takes photographs, and also checks the entry ways to make sure they are secured. Sometimes people try living in the houses illegally (known as squatters) so it is important you do check to make sure it is secured. I got to go with Rickelman to these houses, most of which I had never seen before because I had no idea they were there! The condition of the houses ranged from some really nice ones (that I would not mind living in) to some that there is no hope anymore, and they need to just be torn down. It was a great way for me to really see more secluded areas of the park.

Litter Training!
Using the wheel
I got another chance to act as the victim in the litter while the rangers did their litter and wheel training! This time I started on the ground (I supposedly fell out of a tree) and they practiced communicating as they put me on the backboard keeping my neck and spine in place, then putting cushions and tape down to keep my head in place and cushioned, and then lifted me onto the litter and practiced attaching the wheel and walking around with it. Being familiar with how all the pieces work is important, as well as communicating to each other and being familiar with the terminology of how to switch out with someone if fatigue is set on during a carry out, or any other possible encounter that needs to be communicated.

Boston Mills
Szalay's Farm
In my last few days I got to encounter kayakers with opened containers, a found wallet and a found wedding ring (separately), ran a tag on my own, found kids shooting off explosives and having alcohol (cited for the alcohol, warning for explosives and I got to watch some more SFSTs), another car lock out, disabled vehicle, more fishing license checks, hike patrols, a vehicle left past dusk and the registered owner could not be located or contacted, and probably a whole deal more of things I am forgetting to mention. At this park that is a normal amount, which is something I very much enjoy, is that there is always something going on and it is always unpredictable and different.

     One thing that was quite unique and new to me was the White-tailed Deer Management Plan Public Comment Meeting. For many years the White-tailed deer population has been studied along with the population of native plants and other animals. With the given habitat the land can handle about 20 deer per acre. At this moment there are about 40 deer per acre- double the amount! It used to be higher (about 50 deer per acre) but has since gone down because the Metro Parks have implemented some raffled hunting. Cuyahoga Valley in an effort to maintain the wildlife has decided to take some action. Since it is a National Park, legally there can be no hunting. They have looked at a series of different solutions, and feel the most effective and cost efficient is for lethal actions- which involves sharpshooting. The public has 60 days to review the plans and comment and question online or by mailing in. Two public meetings were set up to present the plan and allow people to comment. Law Enforcement Rangers were scheduled to be at these meetings to make sure nothing got out of hand and to protect the rights of citizens. I was excited to be able to go to observe to see how it all worked. We had an area coned off for First Amendment rights (people protesting) and signs up about no firearms, and we can check any bag or other type of parcel. The evening meeting I was able to observe turns out did not have a lot of people show up. Since Metro parks already have hunting, perhaps the people don’t see our plan as anything new. There were some people who were questioning and commenting at the meeting so it was interesting to see how it is handled. Everything else went smooth and it is very exciting to see the start of this management plan.

Riding the Train!
Train Engine
I also got the chance to (last minute) ride the train! The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is very known around here. Many visitors enjoy using it for Bike-aboard, just to enjoy the scenery, getting back to their vehicle after a long hike or run, or any other special events they do on the train (including Thomas, Polar Express, Wine nights, Beer nights, and a whole handful of other activities they do). I have heard the train whistling through the valley many times, and have been stuck waiting for it to pass many times, so I had no get on the train at least once before my time here was done. The staff at CVSR is very friendly and nice, and they even let me ride in the engine with them! It was very cool, I have never been up at the engine, and I got that chance! To get to where the engineer is, you must walk past the actual engine, which on the one end it was large and very hot! I enjoyed viewing the park from a different angle, and waving to all the people as we rode by! It was a unique experience, so thank you CVSR!
Baltimore & Ohio 
     I want to thank everyone at Cuyahoga Valley for giving me a truly unique and experience filled summer. I did so much more than I expected and learned more than I could have known possible. Everyone helped me out so much and really made me feel welcome and part of the team. The summer went by too fast because I was busy learning and having fun, and getting into all sorts of new and different experiences. I did not realize how cool Ohio could be, because it is always the people that make the place. I miss Cuyahoga already! 
Ranger Stell and I 
Thank you to family and friends who have been supporting me this whole time, and thank you to the ProRangers for your support as well! I am proud of us all!

     -Jackie Innella

Monday, August 26, 2013

Cape Hatteras National Seashore: Week 13

                                                                                                  ProRangers and Followers,

After several weeks and numerous days of new experiences, the time has come to write the final blog post of the summer. Fittingly, the final week here at Cape Hatteras has been especially unique. As mentioned in my last blog, I began this week by taking part in Defensive Tactics training, which was administered by a Ranger from Bodie Island's District. We began the class by going over the fundamentals of defensive movements and positioning. After practicing these basics, we moved to working with the ASP Baton and talking about possible scenarios for use. Next, I was shown the proper handcuffing technique, and was allowed to practice placing handcuffs on my supervisor Ranger Krebs.

After reviewing these fundamentals (positioning, ASP, and handcuffing), the instructor suited up in a padded suit and I prepared to encounter a few scenario drills. In order to increase my heart-rate prior to the drills, Ranger Krebs instructed me to run through the parking lot, and complete a series of push-ups and mountain climbers. Once my heart rate had increased, I ran back into the Ranger Station to encounter my scenario. In total, I was part of two separate scenarios, one resulting in me using my TASER, and another in using the ASP Baton (foam for safety). These two situations showed me how the body operates differently under stress and how "tunnel vision" can limit your awareness. It was a great experience to be able to use the techniques that I had just practiced in a scenario.

After my lieu day, I returned to work on Monday. As I was preparing for my shift, Ranger Krebs called to notify me of a fatal in the park. Due to this incident, we began our shift early, and immediately responded to the incident location. Once on scene, we blocked the entrance to the area in order to limit traffic. The Rangers, Deputies, and EMS personnel on scene advised us that the deceased individual was found unconscious in his vehicle by a visitor. The initial investigation revealed two suicide notes, as well as other signs of a suicide. After making sure that the investigating Ranger had photos of the vehicle, Ranger Krebs and I began to inventory the vehicle contents. At this time, EMS personnel removed the deceased for transport to the local hospital. We recorded each item in the vehicle, and took special note of items that could contribute to the investigation. One the vehicle was inventoried a local towing company removed the vehicle and placed it in the parks gated lot.

After returning to the Ranger Station, we further inventoried the evidence by placing it in evidence bags and labeling each of the bags. We carefully recorded items that may have contributed to the cause of death, and placed them in a locked evidence locker. Death investigations must be taken very seriously, and all evidence must be secured and recorded.

Later in the night, Ranger Krebs and I were patrolling the Cape Point Campground when a vehicle flagged us down. The passenger of the vehicle advised us that someone in a white van took their tent while they were at the beach. Immediately, we realized that the white van was our fee division, and that the tent was thought to be abandoned. Ranger Krebs and I retrieved the tent, and brought it back to the campground for the family. Then, we helped set up the tent and make sure that everything was accounted for.

At the start of our next shift, we followed up the tent incident with the fee supervisor. After searching the records, the fee staff found that they had not received payment from the campers in five days. Ranger Krebs contacted the campers by phone to investigate the lack of payment. He advised the campers of the cost and methods of payment. As of today, the tent has been removed and we are waiting to find out if payment was received.

On Tuesday night, another unique call occurred in the second park campground, Frisco. Central dispatch advised us that a group of campers had reported a snake in their campsite. Rangers Krebs and I went to the site, and found the campers huddled on top of their panic table. The campers showed us the snakes location, and we were able to locate the snake in a wooded area near the campers tents. Using a shovel, and trash-picker, and a borrowed plastic tub, Ranger Krebs and I were able to corral the snake into the tub, and transport it to another area of the park. The campers were very appreciative, and can now enjoy their time at Cape Hatteras.

Prior to being called to the snake situation, Ranger Krebs and I conducted several mock traffic stop scenarios. In a controlled environment, I made traffic stops on Ranger Krebs, and he presented different behavior as I moved through the scenario. Using "Red Guns" (plastic weapons), Ranger Krebs simulated many situations that occur on traffic stops. This was a great training tool, because it shows that no stop is "routine". The officer must be ready to handle any threats that are presented, and problem solve during the stop. Fortunately, we were able to film all of the scenarios, and look back at them for review. After watching the video, we discussed why we each did certain actions, and how we could make better decisions.

Later in the week, on Thursday night, we received a call that is unique to Cape Hatteras in August. Dispatch advised us that a vehicle was stuck on the beach due to a Loggerhead turtle hatching. While leaving the beach, a family witnessed 35 to 40 turtle hatch-lings goings from the dunes into the ocean. We responded to the area, and advised natural resources of the incident. Armed with advise from the natural resources supervisor, we found the nest site. Upon our arrival, all but one of the turtles had made it to the water. After assisting it, we began to search the area for additional turtles. Our extensive search yielded no turtle hatch-lings, and we directed the stranded vehicle through a clear area. Before leaving the scene, we marked the nest with PVC markers so that the morning turtle patrol could examine the site.

Friday marked my final day at Cape Hatteras National Seashore. As is custom, Rangers Krebs and I traveled north to headquarters to complete my final paperwork and have lunch.As luck would have it, our trip coincided with a birthday celebration for Virginia Dare (first English born child in the Americas).  Superintendent Trimble served cake and ice cream for the event, and I got to see the Lost Colony site one final time. After enjoying our ice cream and lunch, we headed south to Hatteras Island for my final checkout.

This summer at Cape Hatteras has been full of great experiences. Cape Hatteras offers excellent law enforcement opportunities, coupled with the unique characteristics of a seashore park. My 13 weeks in the Outer Banks went far to quickly, as I was able to meet many great people and gain several new skills. Thank to all of the Rangers, VUA's, Volunteers, and everyone who made this summer something to remember. Without your dedication, the ProRanger Program would not be possible.

Thank you for keeping up with my experiences this summer!

Jay Copper

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sleeping Bear, Final Week

8/9-8/10: These two days I worked the Port Oneida Fair in the Leelanau section of the park. The fair is a great chance for visitors and locals to come out and tour some of the historic farmsteads within the park that are not always open throughout the year. The Fair also brings in several different vendors that sell a variety of food and period influenced goods, from furniture to clothing and much more. It is also an opportunity for volunteer groups within the park, such as Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear, to showcase the projects that they have been working on, recruit more members, and raise funds. All in all, the Fair is a great weekend for everyone involved.
On the first day, I arrived not knowing exactly what my tasks for the weekend would be. I went to one of the main farms in the fair, the Olson farm, and offered my services to the Preserve Historic Sleeping Bear coordinator. We set up the majority of the tables, chairs, banners and information for the day, and started to receive visitors around 10am. I stayed at Olson farm until about 2pm, answering all sorts of questions about the farms and the park in general. There were several games for kids that I supervised, and I got to enjoy a show put on by the “Great Lakes Schooner”, a man who educated the public about boating on Lake Michigan in the early 1900s. At one point, one of the cooks in the house, who was displaying how to cook period specific food, set off the sensitive fire alarms, and I worked with a maintenance worker to deactivate the alarms. After 2pm, I headed over to the Burfiend farm where other vendors and games were set up. I participated in a game of cricket with a volunteer who was showing the visitors how the game was played in the early 1900s. We had a group of about 20 visitors play a couple innings in a formal game. Afterwards, I ran into a group of volunteers who I had gotten very close with on South Manitou Island this summer and did not expect to see again before I left, so that was a real treat.

Great Lakes Schooner giving his presentation.
Band setting up for an evening performance.
Fair at the Olson Farm.
Playing cricket.
Period music.
On the second day, I again had the freedom to help out wherever was needed. I had heard that largest parking area at the Dechow farm had been difficult to manage the day before, and only had two volunteers working the lot. I decided that some flat hat presence was in need, so I headed over there first thing in the morning. For about 4 hours, myself and the other two volunteers guided in around 1,000 cars into the grass parking area that did not have painted lines. The two volunteers directed the cars to where I was currently standing in the lot, and I had the responsibility of making sure that they were properly lined up in as best of a row as we could make them. By 1pm, the lot was nearly full and the designated parking areas were made obvious to new coming visitors. One of the supervisors for the Interp. Division asked me to relieve one of the volunteers who was running the barn tours at the Dechow farm around 1:30pm. I met with the volunteer, who showed me the highlights of the barn and then I took over. Once I’m showed a tour once, I feel very comfortable with conducting the tour myself, and the rest of the day went very well in the barn. The oldest section of the barn was built in the late 1800s, with the new, and more intricate, dairy section of the barn built in 1939. Twelve areas were built for cows to feed at while they were being milked. I explained to visitors the process of bringing in the cow, milking it, and selling the product to the local milk man. I also showed them how the silo worked and explained what types of foods the cows preferred. It was a great chance for me to polish up on some interpretation skills and talk to visitors. At the end of the day, I helped take down some tables and chairs and called it a night.
Some of the food served at the fair... yum!
One of the many livestock animals for the public to see.
The parking lot that I managed. There were six rows of cars total.
The dairy barn that I gave tours in.
8/11- Today I worked with SLBE dispatcher, Tom Davison. I reported to headquarters at 8:00am and we jumped right into the day. We collected all of the information needed for the morning report, such as campground availability, weather information, fire danger, and Lake Michigan wave info. Tom did the morning report, and then we got to work on filing fee warnings. Tom is responsible for filing all of the Law Enforcement tickets and warnings, and he has a very organized system. We taped all the warning onto normal sized sheets of paper for proper filing and got around 700 warnings into that cabinet, all while taking radio calls from all of the divisions within the park and answering all types of visitor questions on the phones. Tom has a very complex job that demands him to multitask quite often. It was fun trying to keep up with everything that he was doing.
Filed all of these fee warnings.
Throughout the day, Tom showed me more on the websites that he gets his weather information, NPS information, and local news from. He also showed me other programs, like IMARS, which I have seen before. We also entered a few tickets that had been written the previous day into a document to be sent to the Central Violations Bureau. At 3:15, Tom let me take over the dispatch calls. It was a little nerve wracking at first, but I began to feel a little more comfortable after a few calls. Around 3:45, we got a call from the Dune Climb about an “unconscious 18 year old female who passed out on the top of the dune”. Tom took over because of the seriousness of the call, and it was exciting to watch his process; talk about multitasking! Everything turned out OK with the medical and I got ready to do the afternoon report at 4:15pm. Again, it was exciting but a little nerve wracking to give the afternoon report to the entire park, but I am happy to say that I did a good job, only making one mistake throughout the whole speech. I am confident that I would get the hang of that after a couple times. We finished out the day getting schedule information to the Indiana Dunes dispatchers, who take over for Tom at nights on during his two days off every week.
Working the desk at dispatch.
Tom is our only dispatcher in the park, and he does quite a bit to keep all of us afloat. I wish that I had gotten a little more time working in the dispatch office, because it can truly be a complex working environment that takes many years to master. I am very thankful for all that Tom does for the park on a regular basis and am glad that I got to spend this time working with him. Today, I learned to be a little more patient and understanding for when a dispatcher is taking longer to get information out. It is not an easy job, and it is something that I think all Rangers should experience so that they can appreciate the help when they are in the field.
8/12- Today I worked with the interpretive division here at SLBE. At 10:00am, I shadowed Ranger Fredericks through her tour of one of the farms in the historic Port Oneida section of the park. We started at the school house, explaining its importance and talking about regular daily life on the farms in the area. We then got in our vehicles and led the visitors to one specific farm to show them a typical barn and talk about working in the fields. We had a good group of visitors during that tour, so we decided to extent the tour a little further and take the group up to the area where the family originally built their log cabin. We hiked to the top of a dune that overlooked Lake Michigan and the Manitou Islands, and saw a cleared out area where the house once stood; it would have been an amazing view. The family had to move the house down the hill because of a property dispute, but it was a great chance to explain to the visitors what the entire shoreline might look like if the park was never created. Houses would be running all up and down the coast. After the tour, Ranger Fredericks and I did a “rove” through the Dune Climb and the Scenic Drive. The interp rangers do these roves to increase their visitor contacts and check on the key areas of the park. We got out at one of the overlooks on the Scenic Drive to talk with visitors, and it was a great chance to see how amazing interp rangers really are when it comes to educating visitors and getting them excited about the park.
Ranger Fredericks giving a tour.
At 2:15pm, we started setting up at the Maritime Museum (which is one of the three old Life Saving Service Stations in the park that is now a museum) for a program called “The Heroes of the Storm”, which covered the daily life and duties of the men in the US Life Saving Service. Ranger Fredericks ran the program, which got the kids of the audience involved, playing the roles of the actual men of the LSS and the sailors who were in distress. I played the role of the boat captain whose ship was sinking in Lake Michigan. Ranger Fredericks showed the audience how the LSS would set up the Lyle Gun, which would shoot a projectile attached to a rope towards the ship in distress, and allowed the LSS to pull the sailors back to the beach with the aid of the breeches buoy. It is actually a very complex system and took a lot of practice and preparation to complete properly. She then told the kids playing as the LSS crew members that the buoy could not support the weight of us three crew members, so they pretended to get out the surf boat and row out to our aid. Alas, we were rescued and brought safely back to shore! The program took a lot of imagination of the children and audience’s part, but was a great chance to show the importance of the Life Saving Service.
At 4:00pm I met Ranger Peg at the #9 overlook at the Scenic Drive for another program that took visitors on a guided hike from the #9 to the #10 overlooks. We only had a group of 5 visitors, but Ranger Peg talked about the geological formation of the sand dunes, what the visitors could actually see when standing at the overlooks, and the Legend of the Sleeping Bear (where the park got its name). I don’t believe that I have told you all the old Native American legend, so here it goes:
There once was a mother bear and two cubs who lived on the Wisconsin side of Lake Michigan. One day, the mother bear decided to take her two cubs and swim across the lake to the  Michigan side in search of more food and a better place to live. She swam for nearly 50 miles, constantly trying to keep her cubs by her side. Finally, she arrived in Michigan, but her cubs were nowhere to be found. She climbed on top of a large bluff to search for her two cubs, but they had drowned in the Lake. The great god, Manitou, saw how upset the mother bear was, and surfaced the two cubs and made them into the two Manitou Islands, North and South. The mother bear still rests on top of that bluff (now the 450 foot tall Sleeping Bear Dunes) watching over her two cubs.
The story is, indeed, a sad one, but it was a way for the original people of this area to explain why the dunes and the islands were here. The story has several variations, some claiming that the bears left Wisconsin because of a fire, not hunger, but that sort of thing tends to happen with oral legends.  From the #9 overlook, you can see one area of the dune that sticks out a bit and has more vegetation on it than the surrounding area. Apparently, that area once had a group of very healthy trees growing on it, and it would have been hard to explain why it was there a few hundred years ago. The legend, and the Rangers, still say that that area is where the mother bear lays.
At the end of her program, Ranger Peg allowed me to talk with the visitors about the Manitou Islands, since I knew a bit more than she did from spending my whole summer out there. I told them about the once thriving farming and logging industries, and why the island was so important as a safe harbor. I answered some questions about taking the ferry out there and camping on the island, so maybe I encouraged the group to take a trip. The islands receive fewer visitors than the mainland, so it’s great to advertise how special of a place they really are. We took a few pictures with the group and then headed back to headquarters to drop off our vehicle and called it a day. I wish I had a little more time to spend with interp, but I got a lot of interp time on my own being the only Ranger on SMI and conducting the Lighthouse tours. Every Ranger needs to have interpretive skills, and today was a great chance for me to polish mine.
One of my favorite parts about Sleeping Bear- finding back-road corners of the park that stun you with their beauty. This lake caught me off guard when we casually drove by it.
8/13- Today may have been my last official ride-along for the season. I started at 2:30pm (which was great because that gave me time in the morning to run errands and get my car ready for my big trip home) and hopped in a vehicle with Ranger Chalup. It was a colder day, so we decided to hit some of the less popular spots in the park that we do not get around to patrolling too often. We drove through the campground to scout out any problem sites for later that night, but everything looked OK. Ranger Chalup finished his shift at 4:30pm, so I went back to the station and watched Ranger Mazurek complete some evidence collection from a previous case involving possession of marijuana, mushrooms and ecstasy. Ranger Mazurek ended up taking the individual to jail, and had a lot of evidence to process. I wish that I was on the original case, but it was a great chance to see the evidence collection process again. He told me about the importance of an officer’s chain of possession and how to be very detailed with your report, in case the violation goes to trial. I watched as Ranger Mazurek painstakingly cataloged and bagged every piece of individual evidence and did a write up. We locked everything away until it would be needed again, and then headed out for patrol.
It was a cold night for the middle of August (it felt like fall) so there weren’t too many people out and about. We drove past a vehicle that was parked on the Crystal River, and observed a family of four fishing. We went out to check their licenses, which the two who were older than 16 were unable to produce. Ranger Mazurek could have written them a ticket on the spot for not having their license on their person while fishing, but decided to see if he could pull up their fishing license through their driver’s license, since they claimed to have a valid fishing license. It came back that the mother’s last license was purchased in 2008, and that the one son never had one on file. We wrote both individuals a ticket for fishing without a license.
The rest of the night was pretty quiet. At one point, we heard a call on the county dispatch of a blue truck that had tried to steal a sign in one of the local towns. We were near the road and the direction that the vehicle was last seen heading, so we decided to set up at a close intersection and watch for the vehicle. It would have been great to catch them, but we never saw the truck nor heard any further report from any county officer. We checked some of the beach access roads, which were almost all empty, and then headed to the campground for a quick check. All was quiet, and we went back to the station to finish off our night. Tonight was a great chance to me to do a night time ride-along, which I have not seen too many of. It is a whole different world once the sun goes down, and it was exciting to be out there, despite the slow evening.
8/14- In the morning, I had the option of doing whatever I wanted. I had plans to hike a trail that I have not had the chance to try out yet, but decided to use the time to work on my final presentation for our ProRanger summer class that I will be giving when we return to Temple next week. The presentation talks about Sleeping Bear a little, and then goes into my duties and responsibilities throughout my time here. I’m excited to share my experience with my fellow ProRangers and NPS staff.
Since two of our officers are out of the park for training reasons, we were a little short staffed today on the mainland. My District Ranger put me on the schedule to go up to Leland and cover the North Manitou camper registration and orientation. I did not work on North Manitou, and only went to the dock twice this summer, so my knowledge of the island is limited. Since we do not send out a Ranger to North during a few weekdays, we have to register and orient the campers at the dock in Leland before they take the ferry out. Most of the registration was similar to what I did all summer on South, and the orientation also had a few similarities. I oriented around 30 campers, and stayed around to help unload and load the ferry. To be honest, I was a little nervous about giving an orientation for a place I have never been to, but I think I did a great job. I headed back to the office to finish up my presentation and update my blog.
8/15- This morning I started with finishing up some projects in the office and making a list of things I need to do before my departure date. Before I headed up to Leland for orientation, I decided to check out the historic blacksmith shop in Glen Haven, something I had not really explored before. Maintenance worker Chris was manning the shop on one of his days off, and he showed me around the shop a bit. It was interesting to learn about the process of making literally anything you needed, and how much skill is involved. Chris asked me if I wanted anything to bring home, and I told him it was my stepmother’s birthday on the day that I return home. Together, we made a flower pot hook and it turned out very well! My time in the blacksmith shop was a great look into how difficult even the simplest of things were back around the turn of the century. We surely take a lot for granted when it comes to modern machinery and construction.
Ranger Seybert and I headed up to Leland to catch the North Manitou campers before they took the ferry out. We ran them through registration and orientation, which also went smoothly. I will be doing my check out later this evening, handing in all of my gear and start packing for my trip home..
8/16- Today I spent the majority of my day packing up my things and getting the car ready for the long trip back home. My Chief Ranger and I grabbed lunch in Empire and said our goodbyes. He presented me with a 2013 Ranger Coin, which was a great honor and something I would hold onto for the rest of my life. I made sure that all of my checkout paperwork was completed, and went down to the beach to enjoy one last sunset. What a great way to finish my internship, with a sunset over Lake Michigan!
My Ranger Coin.
8/17, 8/18- It’s been an amazing summer at Sleeping Bear, and I would like to take a moment to thank everyone who has made special. To all of the Law Enforcement Rangers in the Leelanau and Platte Districts, the maintenance workers, administrative personnel, interpretive and fee staff, dispatchers and everyone else at SLBE that I met along the way, thank you for doing everything you could to make me feel welcome and help me along the way. I enjoyed working with each and every one of you. I knew that this internship would go quickly, but I didn’t think it would come and go as quickly as it did. It’s amazing what you can learn and the relationships that you can build in three months, and I am truly lucky to have had the opportunity to do both at Sleeping Bear.
And it ends with a sunset over Lake Michigan.
I started my long drive home on the 17th, stopping in Youngstown, Ohio for the night. I will make the rest of the drive back to Philadelphia on the 18th, and it will be great to be home for a week before school starts again.
To all of my readers who have followed throughout the summer, thank you. ProRangers, it has been great reading your blogs as well, and I am looking forward to seeing you all at the academy graduation and the AAR. As always, thanks for reading!
Pit stop at the University of Michigan on the way home. What an amazing state!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Visit #2: Prince William Forest Park (7/23-7/24)

On Tuesday morning, we broke down our camp, loaded up the van and started the 300-mile drive back to Virginia and Prince William Forest Park.  Traffic wasn't bad, but a stop near Williamsburg for lunch and gas turned into an adventure.  So, we arrived two hours behind our expected schedule.

Ranger Dave Ballam met us near the front gate and showed us the way and helped us to transport and unload our stuff.  Although Prince William Forest Park does have several campgrounds, we decided to stay in one of their historic cabins built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.  They are rustic - but come equipped with a ceiling fan - so quite comfortable for sleeping!

Range Ballam presented us with several welcome gifts, including maps, patches, Smokey-the-Bear materials and a "spy" kit (an ode to PRWIs history as a site for training spies during WWII).  There was also a special gift for me:  a Law Enforcement challenge coin!

PRWI LE Challenge Coin

Arrival at Prince William Forest Park

Ranger Ballam bid us goodnight and walked off to his house since he lives within the park.  I envy his commute!  ProRanger Vinny Lemba took us on a brief driving tour of the park.  Since the park is over 15,000 acres, we stuck to the public, paved areas.  Nevertheless, we saw some wildlife - two deer near the side of the road.

Deer by the roadside.

We made a run to the local grocery store for more jiffy-pop and had a quick dinner.  Then, we returned to the cabin where I unsuccessfully attempted to start a fire.  Finn chastised me for not purchasing more ready-light charcoal.  So, we settled for some chocolate from the s'more supplies and headed to bed.  Despite the nearly full moon, the heavy cover of trees made it nearly pitch black and the air is much cooler in the park. And, although, there is no sound of the nearby highway, it is anything but quiet!  The sounds of the crickets, frogs and -- I don't even know what all those calls were! -- is surprisingly loud.  I worried that my city kid would be a little nervous, but he climbed into his sleeping bag and was out like a light!

Getting ready for bed!
Breakfast by the cabin!

The next morning, we met Ranger Ballam and ProRanger Vinny Lemba at the Visitor's Center and then headed over to park headquarters to meet with Superintendent Vidal Martinez and Deputy Superintendent George Lippert.  I am grateful for their time and support.  I appreciated the insights Superintendent Martinez shared with me.  Under his leadership, Prince William Forest Park has been a strong partner and supporter of the ProRanger Philadelphia program since its founding year and has been instrumental in providing exceptional summer experiences for our students. I was honored that Superintendent Martinez presented me with a Prince William Forest Park challenge coin.  Special thanks to Tracy Ballesteros for help in arranging my visit, providing toys to keep Finn occupied during our meeting and for taking the photo below.
Ranger David Ballam, ProRanger Vincent Lemba, Temple administrator Vicki McGarvey (Finn McGarvey), Superintendent Vidal Martinez and Deputy Superintendent George Liffert (L to R)

Prince William Forest Park Challenge Coin

From park headquarters, we headed back to the visitors center and Vinny worked with Finn to earn his junior ranger badge (#2 for the trip)!  Then it was off for a tour of the park's fire roads in the "mule", selecting some smooth stones along a creek bed, and then a lesson from Ranger Dave in skipping stones!

Working on junior ranger activities.
Congratulations after taking the junior ranger oath.

What a fun way to travel!

Hanging out in the mule!

Lesson in skipping a stone (from an expert!)
Cool bridge!

Mangy looking fox by the roadside.
We left the park for lunch. You can literally see the entry ramp for I-95 from the park entrance.   I was amazed at the quick transition from the serene quiet of the park to the traffic and bustle of suburban Northern Virginia.

When we returned to the park, Ranger Ballam taught ProRanger Lemba how to convert the mule to a fire vehicle and prepare it for use.  Vinny got a little help from Finn in filling up (and then emptying!) the water tank.

Loading the generator and tank onto the mule.
Fill 'er up!
Ready to fight the fire!

This is hard work!

After the fire equipment was restored, Vinny, Finn and I took a quick trip over to the National Museum of the Marine Corps before they closed.  The museum is less than a mile from PRWI and I recommend it to anyone visiting the area - you can't help feeling proud and moved by the sacrifices made by the men and women who serve.  I also had the opportunity to do a little Christmas shopping for my dad ("once a Marine, always a Marine!")  One the way out, we asked a passerby to take a photo of the three of us with the Temple Owls flag.  We learned that we had asked a Temple alumnus from SCT who is now a Pennsylvania State Trooper.  It's true:  "Temple Owls are everywhere!"   

National Museum of the Marine Corps
After heading back to the park, Vinny took us on a short hike to one of his favorite spots in the park.  We took some photos by the waterfall and bridge.  Then, of course, we climbed on the rocks for a while and, on the way back, investigated the droppings we encountered in a large meadow.

Scaring his mom by climbing on the rocks!
Watch your step!

Another cool bridge!
Pancakes for dinner!
After a long day, we headed out for some dinner  and a stop by the grocery store.  Thanks to the ready-light charcoal, I was able to successfully get the fire started and then add the wood!  We had some marshmallows and jiffy pop, played some card games and retired to our cabin for the night.  

See Mom - I told you charcoal is better than wood!
What is cooler than jiffy-pop?
On Thursday morning, we got up early for a relatively short drive to our next adventure. First, we headed off to Harpers Ferry National Historical Park for a morning with ProRanger Jennifer Pflugfelder and Ranger Mark Howard. Then it was on to Antietam National Battlefield to spend the afternoon with ProRanger Jess Cooper and Ranger Tom Jones.

While I drove, Finn contemplated whether he wants to stay in another cabin or to camp in our tent at our next visit to PRWI.  Thanks to Superintendent Martinez, Ranger Dave Ballam, ProRanger Vinny Lemba and all the other park staff - we'll be back!

Up next:  HAFE and ANTI.

Vicki McGarvey