Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Firearms Safety

Monthly Activity: Firearms Safety

In February, Ranger Fernandez illustrated the importance of firearms safety and taught us how to properly handle the firearms we will be using in the future. Being able to properly use our weapons and officer safety are critically important. The continual exposure to this knowledge reinforces the skills that we are developing.

Defense & Control Tactics

Defense & Control Tactics 

Thank you to Independence National Historic Park and Ranger McLeod for hosting our monthly activity this past December. Ranger McLeod taught us how to properly handcuff an individual and the necessary steps we must take to maintain control of the situation. We were also introduced to defense tactics, which is pertinent to officer safety. We ran through a physical drill to get our adrenaline pumping, then had to defend ourselves from a potential threat and handcuff an individual. It was a great experience to simulate how adrenaline will effect me in the field. I am appreciative to be exposed to this material prior to the academy.

My American Dream: A Journey to the National Park Service

I am around the age where I get asked the question, “What are you doing with your life?” on a pretty regular basis. When I say that I want to become a park ranger people are usually surprised and say, “How in the world did you decide you wanted to do that?”. I get this question a lot and understand it may not be the first career people come up with off the top of their heads but for me the NPS has always played a large role in my life.

I grew up in southern California outside of San Diego. Because of this I had access to some of the most beautiful parks and monuments on the west coast. I can remember my camping trips in the Mojave Desert the best. These trips brought my family together and I always looked forward to them.

When my parents wanted to move back to the east coast they decided a classic family road trip was in order. So we took a two week trip driving across the country and on the way got to stop at some of the most iconic parks out there. Grand Canyon, Zion, Dinosaur, Mesa Verde, Mount Rushmore, etc. This trip cemented my investment in nature and all the other amazing things the NPS has to offer.

 My younger brother and I enjoying Mesa Verde and Dinosaur NM.

It was these experiences and fond memories that prompted me to look into a career with the NPS. When I was looking for Universities to apply to I stumbled upon Temple. I had never heard of the school but saw that they had an internship program for future park rangers (ProRanger) and decided that this was what I wanted to do.

But this story was not without heartbreak and turmoil. After getting accepted to Temple I quickly prepared to apply to the ProRanger program. But alas that year the program would go on hiatus. Disappointed I decided to stick out my college career at Temple.

To my surprise during my senior year the program was back and looking for applicants. I jumped at the opportunity with renewed vigor and things looked promising. But being a competitive program I was worried about my chances of getting in.

Once again my dreams were dashed as I was the 13th picked while there was only 12 spots available. But I didn’t just give up or just walk away. I let the program managers know how much it meant to me to be a part of the program and asked them to keep me in the loop.

Luckily for me someone dropped out early on and I was ready to fill their spot. This journey has been an emotional roller-coaster but I am excited for the future and grateful for the opportunities I've been given. I have learned that you shouldn’t give up on your dreams even if all the odds are stacked against you.

So why do I want to become a park ranger?

Because the National Parks are a part of who I am.

Find Your Park: Spring Break

We are well into the Spring semester here at Temple University and our Spring Break just concluded. Classes have resumed and we are eagerly awaiting our Summer 2016 park assignments. For break, some students returned home, some worked, and others went on fancy vacations with beaches and hot weather. While planning what to do for Spring Break, my roommates and I were searching for a unique trip with a change of pace from North Philadelphia, while trying not to break the bank. Our answer? Lets explore some National Parks.

And south on I-95 we went...

The top of Brooks Hill
Monocacy National Battlefield
The Worthington House
Monocacy National Battlefield

I couldn't drive through Maryland without stopping at Monocacy National Battlefield. It was great to show my roommates and fellow ProRanger John Hesdon where I spent my summer, and it was interesting to see how the landscape changed through the months. After spending the day hiking around the park, seeing some old friends, and exploring downtown Frederick, we were excited to leave for our next destination the following morning.

Hawksbill Summit
Shenandoah National Park

For anyone who believes that you need to travel far out west to see the big and beautiful national parks, I encourage them to visit Shenandoah National Park. The views were breathtaking, the hikes were challenging, and the fresh air and environment reassured that we made the right choice for our Spring Break destination.

The Appalachian Trail was covered with ice and
made for an adventurous hike. 

John and I enjoying the view at SNP

Visiting Shenandoah only added to the anticipation of finding out where my next destination will be, and I am thrilled to continue on my ProRanger adventure. I encourage everyone reading this to go out and Find Your Park like we did. 

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Lifetime Memories of Yosemite National Park

As I anticipate what National Park I get sent to this summer, I continue to reminisce the time I spent last summer in Yosemite National Park (especially the time I spent with the wilderness restoration crew in the backcountry).
ProRanger with Wilderness Restoration crew
ProRanger being taught how to use a compass and map by crew member.
The first time I worked with the wilderness restoration crew, we camped for two nights at Illilouette Creek. It is 4 miles (6.5 km) round trip with an elevation of 7,220 feet at the trailhead. I learnt a whole lot with them: the laws, the etiquettes (LNT: Leave No Trace), the cultural history of Yosemite’s backcountry and how to navigate in the wilderness.
ProRanger and crew cleaning up illegal fire pit (less than 100 ft away from water) 
I learnt how to travel light and how to repackage food to minimize waste. I had to carry my food in a bear canister and did not have to carry so much food because we were a slightly large camping group and therefore we had joint dinners. The first night, we had burritos and the second night we had pizza rolls. That was really cool because first of all, that was my first time trying both meals and secondly, I was making lifetime memories in the wilderness.

I learnt how to preserve history by only examining and not removing cultural or historic structures and artifacts like rocks, obsidians, plants, and other natural objects that were found.
ProRanger and crew scouting for cultural artifacts
Archeologist observing bedrock
ProRanger observing grinding stone
Finally I learnt how to dispose waste properly. I had to pack out all trash, leftover food, and litter; both those I brought in and those I did not. I learnt how to dispose my solid waste by digging six inches deep catholes at least 100 feet away from water, campsite, and trails and then covering and disguising those catholes when finished with pine needles and native materials.

Campsite at Illilouette creek
ProRanger and crew members connecting with the wilderness
Yosemite was very warm and welcoming to me and I wish whoever is going to spend their summer at Yosemite this year the best of times; it is a magnificent place to be.