Sunday, June 18, 2017

Saturdays are for the Rangers!

Hello All! I know it’s been quite a while since I last posted, as it has gotten busy at Hot Springs National Park with school letting out and summer officially beginning. Well my week on Thursday started out with going on patrol with my Supervisory Ranger, David VanNest. Ranger VanNest and I drove to the campground to make sure everything there was in good shape, and then after the check was complete we proceed to drive around the park and look for any illegal activity that may have been going on. With it being a slow weekday before the weekend rush, Ranger VanNest took me to our maintenance yard where our wildland engine is stored, and he taught me how to pump (getting water to the hose), since this was an older pumper that I was not familiar with. Along with that we made sure the truck was clean and had all the right amounts of fluid it needed in order to run. Our final activity for the day was going up the observation tower, which I had not had the chance to visit until that day. The Observation tower gives you an amazing bird’s eye view of the park, town, and surrounding areas!

Quarry Cave in the Hillside!
On Friday, we started out the day again by stopping by the campground and making sure all the folks camping were okay and didn’t have any problems. We also checked to make sure that all the campers, whether having a RV, towable home, or a tent were complying with all the rules and regulations that come with staying there. We found one camper to be in violation of the length of time that you are allowed to stay before having to leave. You can stay for 15 days, therefore after 15 days you must leave for 7 days before you can come back for another 15. Along with that, you are only allowed to stay in the park for a total of 30 days in a calendar year.  We wrote the violators a written warning since no one was there. We came back later to find the owner there, who was visibly upset with us as we contacted him, and was in the process of packing his stuff out and getting out because he thought the situation was “ridiculous”. After that, to finish off our day Ranger VanNest and I hiked to a newer cave that had been dug deep inside one of the mountains to quarry stone, to make sure that the “No Graffiti” signs were working, which by his observation slowed the activity. Another successful day in the books!

Observation Tower!
Saturday was the busiest day of the week, as it was jam packed with a bunch of different calls and learning experiences! To start off the day, Ranger VanNest taught me how to take care and ride the patrol bicycles. While a great learning experience and enjoyable, I am just glad that no one else got to watch me try to master this very hard skill, as it took a few spills and perseverance to get it done, but it did happen! Once I improved my skills, we headed out on bike patrol on bathhouse row, then made our way up Hot Springs Mountain, which was a new challenge on a bike for me, but was an enjoyable ride and was glad I could make it up and down the entire mountain! On our patrol we stopped to help a few visitors who had questions, and found no one violating any laws.

Traffic Control for Bomb Incident.
On our way down the hill as we approached the bottom, we got a call over the radio that there was a potential bomb scare happening at our Mountain Tower Observatory, which was at the top of the mountain that we had just biked up. So instead of biking back up that would have taken us a bit of time, we provided traffic control at the bottom of the hill as other Rangers were coming on duty at the time that had their patrol vehicles. We closed the mountain drive that lead to the top, allowing only emergency vehicles responding up to the top. We had a big emergency response presence as Hot Springs FD, Hot Springs PD, State Police, and a Little Rock Bomb squad expert, as well as our rangers were all called to the scene. The interagency cooperation from what I witnessed and heard was great, something that the Rangers at the park continue to improve on, as the cooperation between the cities PD and the Rangers is already top notch. The incident lasted about 8 hours total, but half of that includes three rangers waiting for the bomb tech from Little Rock to arrive on scence. This lead to myself and Ranger VanNest as well as most of the other first responders being relieved from the scene about half way through the entire incident. I headed back to the office to ride with Ranger Little and K9 Konyak for the rest of the night as Ranger VanNest was off duty at 1700 hrs.

Patrolling Boat Home 
While riding with Ranger Little and Konyak, I was learning more about the K9 program and what is involved, as working as a K9 handler in the park service is something I want to do! While talking about it all, we were sitting doing traffic control as we caught someone speeding through a low speed zone throughout the park. We conducted a traffic stop which was different from any one I have done yet so far. During the middle of the call, another came out for a group of juveniles fighting on bathhouse row, which changed the dynamic of the traffic stop. It was a learning experience to see how you could be in the middle of a traffic stop, and have a more urgent call come in with other rangers being tied up still with the bomb threat, and how we had to adapt with it. Ranger Little wound up giving the driver a verbal for speeding, as they were young and cooperative with him and apologized for his actions. From there we were on our way to assist Ranger Ballard who was the only officer not tied up on an incident that was responding to the fight where he was outnumbered.

Ranger Ballard got to the scene before us, and as he approached the group they spread out and ran. We got a good description of the two main fighters that were leading the groups, and set out on foot with K9 Konyak to look for the perpetrators. We were unable to find them after walking around the row, but we decided we would spend the rest of the night on the row looking out for any suspicious groups of juveniles, or other visitors to the town that may be violating the law. We wound up having to deal with two groups of kids that were blocking the walkway as well as riding bikes on the sidewalk which is prohibited on park grounds. Multiple verbal warnings were given multiple times until it was time to for the park to close and we gave one last verbal warning and told them that if they were to come back onto property they would be charged and not allowed in the park for 6 months. Overall the day was very busy, with many learning experiences that I took away, and will be able to use in future contacts and incidents.

After an eventful Saturday, I had the next two days off before week 3 started. I made the most out of it by doing a lot of hiking in the park and familiarizing myself with the trails. I was very fortunate to get amazing weather and enjoyed the entire day outside. After my hike I walked bathhouse row and learned some new history about the park that I never knew about! Along with hiking, both days I continued going to the gym and improving my physical fitness! I am slowly and surely reaching my goal, and trying harder and harder every day to improve. I can’t wait to see what the results yield at the end of the summer, and beyond! I hope all of you are having a great summer! Stay tuned for more blogs and eventful stories! Also, thanks for all the support from everyone, it means a great deal!

Pictures from left to right: View from Dead Chief Trail; Mile time under 8 minutes; Memorial Rock for Ranger Killed in line of duty at HOSP; Buckstaff Bathhouse on the row!

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