Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Planes and Trains, Boats and Bikes

Alright, so I fudged the plane thing a little bit.  I'm borrowing the one from last week, at Antietam.  

The 4th of July cut into my past week with the Interpretation division here at the canal, but that doesn't mean I didn't get to do anything cool.  Plus, I got to go back to Philly for a few days, see some more fireworks, and catch up with some friends.

Volunteer Dave prepares to announce our program

I spent one day tagging along with park volunteers, Bill and Dave, as they gave their Trails and Rails interpretive program.  Trails and Rails is a partnership between the National Park Service and Amtrak, much like the partnership the NPS has with Temple University, the impetus behind these wonderful blog posts you so enjoy reading each week.  The program operates nationwide, giving Amtrak passengers the opportunity to experience a little of the park service along their ride as they learn about the natural and cultural resources of the region, many of which can be seen from the window.  The volunteers bring maps and props to illustrate the stories of the places rushing by and the people that have lived in them over the years.
Dave likely pointing out why West "By God" Virginia is better than Maryland

Bill and Dave gave very entertaining and informative talks, speaking about the history of Native American and European settlers in the area, the life of the canal and its competition with the B&O Railroad, and the Civil War.  Their overviews were punctuated by stories of John Singleton Mosby, the Gray Ghost of the Confederacy, and Belle Boyd, a spy during the war.  Once in a while, when the opportunity arose, I would chime in with a fact I had learned about the canal.

A rainy day on the Potomac

Dave would explain that each time the train crossed the Potomac and entered a tunnel, we were traveling from West Virginia into Maryland.  He would remark that many considered these stretches to be the best parts of Maryland.  Bill would then inform him of the difference one encounters upon purchasing the same car in each of the states, that the mirrors in Maryland say "objects in mirror are closer than they appear," while in West Virginia they read "objects in mirror are behind you."

Bill shows Dave how to send his first text

I rode the train with Bill and Dave from Cumberland, Maryland, about an hour and a half from my apartment, into Washington D.C., where there was a three hour layover, and then back to Cumberland to give the program again.  Naturally, there was a three hour delay on top of the layover at the station because, as Dave continued to remind us, "the train had a flat tire." Needless to say, it was a long day.  But great conversation was made, and I very much enjoyed spending the time with Bill and Dave, who certainly imparted some wisdom to me, both programmatic and otherwise.  This photo quite clearly illustrates the wealth of information they were, as it was Bill rather than myself who actually showed Dave how to send a text message, his very first one.  I can only hope that they equally enjoyed spending the time with me.

Ranger Carrie celebrates a birthday, complete with mule! 

I spent another day with many more volunteers, this time back at Williamsport and the Cushwa Basin.  I sat in on a meeting held by Carrie, the volunteer Coordinator.  The discussion ranged from making sure the selfless volunteers log their hours (so the park can report them and receive funding), to safety practices as the weather heats up, to a brainstorming session of what the park is doing well and where they need improvement.  The Chief of Interpretation, Catherine Bragaw, even read everyone a poem.

All of the volunteers were taken out on one of the electric tour boats, and I was invited to join.  I think I have now gone for a ride on all of the boats here at the canal.  Like the Rails and Trails interpretive program, the boat ride conveyed a great deal of information.  General facts about the canal and its history are talked about, as well as the stories of specific individuals, such as Harvey Brant, the last lock tender to live in the lock house at lock 44 before the canal ceased operations in 1924, or the boat captain who smuggled runaway slaves in his cargo holds on the underground railroad.

 Spending time with yet another volunteer, and keeping true to my pathway towards a career in law enforcement, I rounded out the day at Williamsport with a bike patrol (Disclaimer: I nor the other volunteers are commissioned law enforcement officers and therefore do not have any legal authority to enforce laws, the role is merely informational).  Nothing was out of the ordinary that day, and after riding for about eleven or twelve miles, we ended our patrol.                                            

I think I have spoken about the many volunteers who dedicate so much of their time to this park, but this week with the Interpretation Education and Volunteers division really demonstrated it to me again, so I wanted to mention it.  Which is, of course, not to say that the seasonal and full time employees at the park do not do a fantastic job as well.  Unfortunately, that kind of thing is slightly more expected of them.

Oh yeah, and my cousin Leslie and her fiancé came out and had lunch with me on their way home to Charleston, West Virginia, which was very nice!

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