Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Visit #4: Antietam National Battlefield (7/25)

After leaving our home in Philadelphia bright and early on Sunday morning, we had already traveled over 800 miles and visited three parks.  On Thursday afternoon, Finn and I left Harpers Ferry National Historical Park for the 18-mile drive to our final park:  Antietam National Battlefield!

We met ProRanger Jess Cooper and Ranger Tom Jones outside the Visitor's Center.  Then, Jess started our tour of the park with the most important things:  getting a copy of the junior ranger book and getting our passport stamped!

ProRanger Jess helps Finn with his junior ranger activities.
We began a driving tour of the park.  It is obvious that Jess had been studying her Civil War history this summer as she took us around the park and pointed out various major landmarks of the battle.  Jess confessed to being partial to historical parks and her hope that she gets to work in one in the future!  She shared with us many of the great events and activities that she had been a part of that summer.  I was impressed by the spirit of the park and its staff -- it seemed as if they all worked together very closely, regardless of their formal title or division, to make sure that things got done.

Jess took us to one of her favorite spots at the park - Burnside Bridge and the Witness Tree.  It was easy to see why she liked that area -- it was serene and peaceful.  In fact, the entire park is serene and full of rolling hills and beautiful vistas -- it is easy to forget that it is not just a park, but was a battlefield.

ProRanger Jess Cooper displays the Temple flag on the Burnside Bridge.
The Witness Tree
Jess Cooper and Vicki McGarvey
The junior ranger book had many "find and circle" activities - Finn has found one!

More finds for the junior ranger book.

Jess Cooper with one of Antietam's many cannons!
 We returned to the Visitor's Center to complete the junior ranger book and then Jess administered the fourth oath of the trip and the second of the day to Finn.  He was beyond proud and excited to receive his fourth junior ranger badge!

ProRanger Jess helps Finn complete his final activities.

2nd oath of the day!

Badge #4!

Four badges!
From the Visitor's Center, we headed back to the ranger station to meet with Ranger Tom Jones.  We pulled up in front of a typical suburban ranch-style house and entered through the breezeway door into Ranger Jones' office.  The NPS is certainly very resourceful and innovative when it comes to making what they have work!

ProRanger Jess Cooper and Ranger Thomas Jones
Jess Cooper and Vicki McGarvey

This trip was my first time meeting Ranger Jones.  I enjoyed hearing about his history of working with various ProRangers over the past summers.  Thanks to ProRanger Jessica Cooper and Ranger Thomas Jones and the rangers and staff at Antietam National Battlefield.  We will definitely plan for a longer stay next time!

After meeting with Ranger Jones, we were exhausted and ready to hit the road for the 180 mile trip home!  We passed two National Parks on our way home (Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site and Valley Forge National Historical Park) and I am proud to say that Finn can spot a brown sign and the NPS arrowhead from a mile away!  He is on a mission to keep earning junior ranger badges - he received a fifth badge during a trip to Mt. Ranier in August and now proudly displays them on an official junior ranger vest.  Finn is an official NPS groupie!

The trip was both a professional and personal success.  I enjoyed seeing each of our Temple students working in the parks and proudly wearing their NPS uniforms and ProRanger gear.  It was a pleasure to meet and interact with so many wonderful NPS staff and volunteers - their pride and their enthusiasm for their parks is contagious. Again, I am very privileged to be a part of this program.

Up next:  visits to INDE and VAFO (without Finn - don't tell him!)

Vicki McGarvey

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