Monday, July 31, 2017

Life Outside of Work

Lake Ouchita before sunset
Normally all of our blog posts are about our work and what we have experienced as part of the internship, but I’ve decided to shake things up a bit. These internships aren’t all about just learning more about the national park service, resource and protection division, and our parks. It is also about the connections and relationships that we make with the rangers while on and off duty. I’ve been fortunate enough this summer to hang out with two of our rangers while off duty.

A week ago, my supervisor Ranger VanNest asked me if I would like to go canoeing at Lake Ouachita State Park and camp out overnight on one of the islands, and of course I said yes. We headed out early in the morning to get an early start so that we weren’t stuck paddling and setting up camp in direct sunlight and heat. Ranger VanNest is a canoeing instructor, so it was a good time going out with him and learning the tips of how to best paddle and steer the canoe, depending on where you are seated. We got to the island and set up camp, and relaxed for most of the day talking about traveling, to his interests as well as career, to where I envision myself being in a few years. Of course, you can’t forget that we had delicious MRE’s (Meal Ready to Eat) and dehydrated food to eat (no seriously I love it!). Sleeping that night was a bit tough as I have never camped out in a humid environment like Arkansas before, but it is all part of the experience which I was very grateful for! The next morning we woke up, packed up camp and made sure the site was clean as it had been before we got there, then got the canoe back into the water to head back to land and go home to enjoy the rest of the day off.

Our Campground for the Night

After my current short week of work, I was very excited and grateful to have been invited out by Ranger Little to go out boating with him and his family on Lake Ouachita. I was looking forward to meeting his family and being able to spend time with Ranger Little outside of work. During my time here he has helped me tremendously and riding along with him a lot has been such a great time, as he has truly become a role model to me and the type of ranger I want to mold myself into. I was also looking forward to finally being able to get back out on a lake in a boat, since it had been some time since my family sold our boat, not having been out on the water since. It was Ranger Littles first time taking the boat out on Lake Ouachita, so we spent most of our time out cruising around the lake and learning the layout of this 15 mile or so long lake. We took a few breaks from the heat and were able to enjoy the water while listing to some music we had blasting from the boat. After the day was over and the boat secured along with everyone’s belongings, Ranger Little invited me over his house the next day for dinner and to hang out, so we parted ways till the next day. The day boating was an absolute blast, and I am happy to say it was time well spent with an amazing family that I am glad I have gotten to know.

Later on the next day, I headed over to Ranger Littles house for dinner and to see his house and property that his family just moved into a few months ago. When I got to his house, I was greeted by their 3 dogs at the front door, along with one of their sons that opened up the door to let me in. It was as if the dogs never got attention (which they all definitely do) as they didn’t leave my side for the first ten minutes I was there. While dinner was cooking, Ranger Littles one son wanted to play Call of Duty, so Ranger Little and I, as well as his son went to the basement to play. Let’s just say that it got a bit competitive between me and Ranger Little, as it is in both of our nature to be a tad bit competitive, of course friendly as we had a blast playing. Dinner was ready after we played for a bit, so we went upstairs to make our plates and had dinner outside on the porch on a gorgeous night. After dinner, we went out in the yard (lives on 5 acres) to go check the game cameras (for hunting) and retrieve the SD cards so that Ranger Little could see what animals have been wondering about his yard. While out doing that, it was decided by his sons that we would set two of the burn piles in the yard on fire (made of branches, trunks, etc.). The first one we lite started with no problem and got hot quick. We then moved across the crick to the next one, which we had a harder time starting. When we got it started though, it took off and the flames quickly grew higher than we thought they would. We stayed out in the yard for a bit watching the fires, talking about firefighting, and working the piles (condensing leftover branches and logs) until there was no more we could do. To finish out a great day Ranger Little and I went to the basement and watched “The Assassin”, and after that the TV show “Last Man Standing”. It was a great day as I enjoyed the company of him and his family and the great hospitality they showed me while I was over.
I made a new friend!

Making relationships and memories outside of work is another great thing 
that we can do during our internships, something that I’ll always cherish and take for granted. It’s these relationships that also make our summers fun and exciting, as most relationships we build will last a life time. The National Park Service Protection Division is a small community, as it is very likely we will cross paths with many of the rangers we meet and work with throughout the summer internships. I am very fortunate and blessed to have this group of guys to work with and hang out with outside of work.

Burn Pile 1
Burn Pile 2

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