Monday, June 19, 2017

Don't You Mean "Weed Whacking?"

Well folks, I still haven't gotten to those last ten miles of the canal, but don't worry, I will keep you posted...

I spent this past week with the Facility Management department, and they put me to work! Well 

Conococheague Aqueduct

One day I was taken around to a few of the larger projects that had been completed in the last few years, including a series of bridges that had been installed along the river bank to replace the flood damaged towpath.  I was also taken to the sites of future projects in the works, like the Conococheague Aqueduct in Williamsport at the Cushwa Basin, which when completed will be the only functional aqueduct in the United States.

Each morning I reported to the Williamsport maintenance facility where I would be given my assignment for the day.  For a couple of days my task was to weed whack, or as they say over in these parts, "weed eat."  I had never weed eated before, I guess my dad didn't quite trust me with those power tools.  I actually found it pretty enjoyable.  It was satisfying work with clearly gaugeable progress, almost meditative.

That is until the next couple of days when my forearms were very sore, and I discovered that contrary to my previously held belief, I am in fact allergic to poison ivy.  But hey, look how spiffy I helped get these locks and the towpath looking. Now these are places you want to do your recreating in, right?

 I am still not quite sure why they call it "weed eating" here in Maryland/West Virginia. Weed whacking seems to make a lot more sense to me, since the spinning plastic strings literally whack the weeds.  I guess if you don't make sure to keep your mouth closed you will end up eating a few scraps of weeds.  But I could certainly think of a better name or two for the activity. I think maybe when I retire from the Park Service I will open a spa for workaholic landscapers who wouldn't want to go to a traditional spa.

One day I took care of a few different odd jobs around the maintenance yard that had been put off in order to take care of more important work. The largest of these tasks was breaking down all of this scaffolding that had been used for a temporary marina and loading it onto a truck to be hauled away.  I also transported some old wood and rubber garbage across the yard and put it in the dumpster, and I loaded some scrap metal into the truck to be hauled away as well.  They certainly seemed to be happy to have an extra pair of hands around.  The maintenance staff, like the rest of the park and the Park Service, has taken some personnel hits in recent years, so they have to focus on essential maintenance to keep the park safe and enjoyable for visitors.

My wet hat hanging from the boat to dry
Luckily for me, this week was not all work and no play.  And Brennan over in the Virgin Islands isn't the only one who gets to have some fun in the sun out on the water.  Ostensibly for the purpose of checking out those bridges I mentioned above, I got to go for a ride on one of the park's boats in a section of the Potomac called Big Slackwater.  Located behind Dam 4, they used to remove the boats from the canal and float them on this artificially placid portion of the river itself while the mules continued to pull them from the towpath.  I only lost my hat once, but it was quickly recovered.  I even got to drive!

Even though I was a little underpaid for my efforts, it felt good to actually be able to contribute to the park rather than just watching and trying to absorb as much as I can while others do their jobs.

I even got to spend the weekend doing some trail magic for the Appalachian Trail hikers as they start to cross the Mason-Dixon and approach the halfway point.  Safe to say it was another good week.

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