Saturday, August 3, 2013

Sleeping Bear, Week 10 and Last Trip to SMI

7/26- This morning I left for my last trip out to South Manitou Island for the summer; I will be finishing up my last couple weeks on the mainland. Ranger Chalup was planning on taking me out on the LE Ranger’s boat so I could drive a little and freshen up on my MOCC training that I completed last year. The waves were too big though, so I took the park maintenance boat out with the rest of the crew. It was a bumpy ride, with some of the biggest waves I’ve seen on Lake Michigan since my time started here. When we got to the island, I unloaded my things and got ready for registration and orientation. Last night, all of the Rangers on both islands and the mainland gathered for a get together/bon fire at Glen Haven. Because of this, there were no Rangers on the island to meet the second boat of campers, which turned out to be quite full. This meant that today, Abbegale and I had to go around to the campsites and account for every person and site that was taken on the island. She headed out to Bay Campground, and I went to Weather Station. It’s a good thing we went, because there were a bunch of unaccounted for visitors and they had several questions about the island. We both got back in time to meet the second ferry and then called it a night afterward.
How we organize the camper's permits
Old Life Saving Service rescue boat in the boathouse.
7/27- Today was a typical day on the island, without much variation from the normal schedule. We updated the information boards in the morning and met the first ferry, then did registration and orientation. A storm was coming through all day, and the temperature was low, causing our day trip visitation numbers to be low. I went over to Weather Station Campground to check on things and wrote one note to a site that needed to move one of their tents, and another note about only using firewood that fits in the designated fire rings. I got back in time to meet the second ferry, which had another decent amount of campers. Despite the cold temp and rainy weekend weather, this weekend was actually our busiest yet. Both the Weather Station Campground and the Bay Campground were close to full and we had three groups go to the far end of the island, to Popple Campground (which isn’t as popular because of its distance from the ferry and there are no fires or water offered there).

Our campground sheet to keep track of how many sites are taken.
7/28- We had a high turnover today since it was a Sunday and most of the weekend campers were leaving the island. The dock and boathouse in the morning were packed full of people waiting to board the ferry off. We met the ferry and loaded up all of the campers, and then greeted the very few day visitors and campers that came off. I did orientation for a small group of campers and then decided to go and check on the Weather Station and Bay Campgrounds to see if any of the sites were left in poor condition. Most of the sites looked OK in each campground, with only a few that left a little trash and firewood all scattered around (but not enough to write a ticket for the mess). When I finished up at Weather Station, I was going to gather exact GPS points for my proposed trail, but after a weather report from dispatch, I decided it wasn’t a good idea. On my way back to the village, it started to rain and I waited with the rest of the campers and day trippers that were taking the second ferry off. The ferry ran a little late because of the weather, but we got everyone on the boat as quickly as we could so their stuff wouldn’t get wet. I did this past week’s squad notes and then called it a night. We ate dinner with the weekend maintenance worker, Dave Chew, and his wife and another group of volunteers. Since Dave is leaving tomorrow and I will not be seeing him again, it was a great chance to say goodbye!

Dave's wife, Joni, who volunteers her summers at the park. Here she was sanding down old directional signs so they looked brand new!
Wild grapes growing on SMI
7/29- Another typical day on the island. I met the two boats today, being the only Ranger on the island. I gave two separate registrations and orientations for the campers coming on and did 3 lighthouse tours for 23 people. After the second boat left, I decided to check on the Bay and Weather Station campgrounds again because we still had a good number of people on the island, despite it being a Monday. I talked to a couple campers about firewood that was too large for their fire ring, another about moving his tent to the designated tent area, and dispersed a makeshift fire ring that a previous camper had made the night before in their campground. All in all, it was a busy, but good day on South Manitou.
The Polaris that I often use for patrols.
Coyote tracks on the beach.
7/30- Today was one of the busiest days I have seen. We didn’t have too many day trippers (61) but there were a lot of campers coming off the island. There must have been 60 people on the dock in the morning trying to take the first ferry off, and then I had a large group of campers to register and orientate. After lunch, I did 4 lighthouse tours for 78 people (which is well above our average 9-10 person tour group size). Tours took me right up to 4:00pm and I got everyone back on the dock just in time to load up the second ferry. Between the day trippers and the other campers coming off, the ferry was nearly full when it left, and not to mention I had another group of 40 or so campers come onto the island. I registered them all, did orientation and stuck around to answer some questions. I put in the day statistics on the computer and then called it a night. What a busy day it was!

7/31- Ranger Chalup returned to the island today and decided to give me a bit of a break on my last full day on the island. We had talked about how I hadn’t had the chance to explore some parts of the island, so after the first ferry in the morning, he let me do some exploring with two of the maintenance workers who’s days had already ended. We drove out to the dune trailhead and hiked up to the top of the dunes, and what an amazing site it was! I feel bad knowing that I didn’t make it out there until my last day on the island, but the daily routine and patrols don’t leave enough time to make trips like this. From the “highpoint” on the dune, which is the highest point on the island, you can basically see a 360 degree view of South Manitou. This is a popular hike for many visitors, despite its distance. We then hiked out of the dune area along the “Bone Boat” Trail, named for the farmers who used to slaughter livestock near the abandoned boat and leave the bones inside. We got back to the village a little later than expected, mainly because we didn’t want to leave the beautiful dunes, and had a fantastic last dinner of the island. I will surely miss the good friends I’ve made on South Manitou.
View from the high point of the island.
One of the dune blowouts.
Hiking along.
The "Ghost Cedars" that have been covered by changing sand dunes.
Ghost Cedar up close.
On the dunes.
SMI Dunes and Lake Michigan.
The "Bone Boat".
8/1- August started with a boat ride off of South Manitou Island for my last trip. This was no ordinary boat ride though. Ranger Chalup agreed to take me off on the Law Enforcement boat because of the amount of stuff I was moving off of the island, and he also let me drive! Last summer, I completed my MOCC to drive the government boats, but have not had any chances this summer to drive one, despite being on a large lake. In the past, boat patrols were more common, but because of budget cuts, we really only use the boats to get from point A to point B. It was great to get behind the wheel again and polish my skills on a new kind of water than what I am used to. Lake Michigan and its waves are strikingly different from the Delaware River and its many hazards. Ranger Chalup showed me the different ways to ride into waves, and then how to use them at your back to your advantage. I drove the majority of the way back to Leland on the mainland, through 2-3 foot waves, and it was a great trip!

Shipwreck Fransisco Morazan from the boat.
Driving the boat back to Leland.
Since I returned to the mainland early in the morning and had several hours left to work, I unloaded my things at home and then met Ranger Dianne Johnson for a ride along for the rest of the day. It was a Thursday and the weather was nice, so the mainland was pretty busy. We first got a call from the Dune Climb fee staff who said that they had a large camp group unload a bus outside of the parking lot and did not pay the park fee to get in. We found the camp group, and Ranger Johnson and the reporting Ranger went to go talk to the camp leader. They figured out the issue while I stayed with the vehicle and answered an assortment of questions and concerns from the many visitors. We cleared the contact, and then not to long after got called to the Scenic Drive for a medical. A woman had been stung by a bee and needed medical assistance. By the time we arrived, Glen Lake Fire Department was already on scene with several paramedics and was handling the case. We made sure they had what they needed and cleared the parking lot, then we headed out since another Ranger planned on staying. Again, not too long afterward, we were called back to the Dune Climb for a family who reported a missing child. The 12 year old boy had last been seen on the top of the dune an hour and a half before they reported the incident. We arrived on scene and got out our binoculars to see if we could spot the child, who was wearing a tie-die shirt (easily seen). I went to check the Dune Climb Center and the men’s bathroom and there was no sign of the boy. Since it had not been to long since the boy was seen and this type of report is common at the Dune Climb, we decided to wait a bit longer to see if the boy showed up. I talked to hikers that had taken the trail all the way to the Lake (a 3 mile hike) and asked if they had seen a boy matching his description. The father and I decided to head up to the top of the dune for a better view, and sure enough when we got to the top we spotted the boy, who was coming from the direction of the Lake. He had left his group without telling anyone and hiked all the way to the Lake on his own. I took the time to explain to the boy why what he had done was extremely dangerous (he didn’t have much water and it was a hot day) and how in the future he needs to use the buddy system and always let someone know where he is heading. We weren’t too concerned when we got the call, but realistically, the boy could have been anywhere on the 3 mile trail of pure sand dunes. It was a busy day and I’m glad I got to spend the time working the mainland shift

"Leave only your footprints"
I have been off for the past two days and starting tomorrow I will be using the rest of my time on the mainland working in the different divisions. As always, thanks for reading!

I wish that was me on the board, but this is how I spend my days off, relaxing with a sunset over Lake Michigan.

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