Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Keeping the Visitors Safe and Aware


A foggy Fourth of July hike.

        July 4th weekend came and went, along with the visitors. It was quite calm though luckily. I spent the 4th heading out to a couple of different trailheads to help keep up the preventative search and rescue in the park. Unfortunately though, the weather forecast called for rain and thunderstorms throughout the day. We waited at the trailhead for a bit of time and when little to no visitors passed by we made the decision to hit the trail. We passed few people along the trail, but those that we did we made contact with to make sure they were aware of the predicted weather for their trek ahead. All seemed confident and kept moving along to reach the summit of Old Rag. After taking lunch and enjoying watching the fog move in further through the trees we pressed on toward the rock scramble and then the rain came. We enjoyed the day even with the weather, making me appreciate the job all the more.
The day after the fourth, when the end of patrol was nearing we got a call of a reported missing person. Apparently, a college professor and a couple of his students were looking and studying salamanders as they drove through the park on their way to a convention in North Carolina. The students had stayed close to the trail, but the professor wandered a bit too far away from the trail. He was reported to be an older male, without any water or food on him. The one ranger staged herself up at the parking lot and she had me go and bushwhack down the hillside, our guess was he wouldn’t be near the trial. After 10-15 minutes of going downhill and calling his name an answer finally came back. He made his way pretty far down the hillside and when I got to him I provided him with some water and Gatorade. He didn’t seem to want to admit he was lost, but he was surprised at how far off of the trail he was and wondered where the students he was with were. We got him safely back up the trial and on their way, but before we left I explained to him how important it is to always let someone know where you are going when you're hiking together instead of just wandering off. 
Mary's Rock Tunnel all socked in from fog!
The bear technicians for the park came up to central district to put on a class going over various methods to haze bears and what we can tell the visitors to do if approached or come across a bear on a trail. We practiced using slingshots and used a cone as our target. Clapping your hands, loud and quickly can really help frighten the bear to get moving, but in the past rangers have deployed bean bag rounds and paintballs in order to get the bears away from visitors or out of campsites. Shenandoah has had a pretty rough bear problem this year. It has gone to the extent to even have to shut down several trails throughout the park. My stay in Central District went by quickly and I enjoyed getting to work with other rangers and seeing what goes on in one of the busier areas of the park. I’ll be off to South District in just a couple days now!
Studying the Central District map before departing to look for our missing person.

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