Saturday, June 4, 2016

Wide-Eyed on the West Coast

    The start of my second summer internship has begun. Considering the fact that I have never been out to California, I did not know what to expect as I traversed the United States with two other ProRangers. Rather than flying out to California, the three of us requested Temple University for the opportunity to drive out to the west coast. We stopped in different National Park Service (NPS) units along the way. It was truly an amazing experience, driving across Kansas as the Rocky Mountains appear over the horizon.

     So, where did I end up? Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area (SAMO) was gracious enough to bring on a ProRanger for the first time this summer and I am that lucky individual. The concept of a recreation area is one of the many reasons that this NPS unit was so appealing to me. It contrasts the experiences that I had at Boston National Historical Park and allows my overall experience with the NPS to grow.

     I started out this internship by riding along with a Law Enforcement Ranger for basic orienteering of SAMO’s sites. The legislative jurisdiction stretches across the west coast of Southern California from roughly West Hollywood to Point Mugu. Within that boundary, the NPS, as well as other agencies, owns pieces scattered through the recreation area. SAMO has proprietary jurisdiction and it has shown to be a great place to use and learn maps.

     Within my first week at SAMO, we got into really exciting stuff. For instance, a multi-agency task-force held a marijuana extrication operation, involving two helicopters and about thirty officers. It was amazing to see how rewarding it can be to have continuous collaboration and planning happen with members of different agencies. It was inspiring to watch them board the helicopter, wearing their gear as the morning wore off and the heat began to set in. Their planning took shape and the mission was on.

Everyone came back safely – it was a success.
     One day, I’m seeking shelter in a car as helicopters whip dirt all around the immediate area – The next, a 67 mile long trail that has taken 50 years to complete is celebrated and Arnold Schwarzenegger is on the attendance sheet.

     I assisted the “parking-lot master” in parking about 80+ cars for this event. Honestly, I had never heard the words Backbone Trail to mean anything other than perhaps some sort of BBQ sauce before arriving to SAMO.
“Hey, you should hike the different sections of the Backbone Trail while you’re out here” – One of the first pieces of advice that had been given to me on my first day.

     The celebration showed me that SAMO has a history of working with a variety of agencies which is shown in the completion of this trail. With the final parcel of land acquired, SAMO has every reason to celebrate such hard work that so many people over the years have put in to stitching together different pieces of the trail.

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