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!|
|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!)|
|Mangy looking fox by the roadside.|
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!|
|National Museum of the Marine Corps|
|Scaring his mom by climbing on the rocks!|
|Watch your step!|
|Another cool bridge!|
|Pancakes for dinner!|
|See Mom - I told you charcoal is better than wood!|
|What is cooler than jiffy-pop?|
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.