Picking up trash on a rainy morning.
October 31, 2018 | In the blink of an eye, 2 months of working in Shenandoah National Park has come to fruition. The blisters, sleeting rain, early mornings waking up in the dark with frost on the grass, and the enjoyment through it all will be with us forever. This last hitch we spent time shadowing the backcountry rangers, which was very different from our previous hitches doing trail work. It was refreshing to experience working in Shenandoah in a different light. We helped the backcountry rangers monitor backcountry campsites, install a bear box, fix picnic tables at day shelters along the the Appalachian Trail, clean privys, and pick up trash throughout it all. One day we split up into pairs and went off with the rangers in different groups.
Taylor (another crew member) and I were with a bear technician, which meant when a bear jam happened we responded to it immediately. A bear jam is when park visitors spot a bear on the side of the road and just put their car in park, creating a traffic jam. Not only is this dangerous for the bears, it is unsafe for everyone driving because Skyline Drive is a highway. Our goal with this bear jam was to safely move the sow and her cubs across the road and out of the picnic grounds. Taylor and I controlled traffic while our backcountry ranger went towards the bears. She used a paintball gun to get the bears to move without hurting them or endangering herself. The bears all began climbing up some trees, so another ranger fired a flare gun above the trees to get them down. This was quite a lengthy process because the bears did not want to cross the road. In the end, the bears did not cross the road but they ran over another ridge and away from the picnic grounds, which was good enough for us! Being a part of that bear jam process was so special, it allowed me to experience wild animals in an entirely new way.
Big smiles, even at the end of the season.
I am leaving Shenandoah National Park having gained work experience, friendships, and amazing memories that will stay with me forever. I believe the rest of my crew would say the same. I have always loved the outdoors, but working in a National Park and seeing a different side of nature has opened my eyes to the many ways to give back to the environment. Whether you join a conservation corps, pick up trash in your neighborhood, educate someone about outdoor ethics, or just go for a hike and respect the world around you, you are making a difference and contributing to the growth and future of our natural world. I cannot wait to continue making a difference.