Thursday, September 22, 2016

My Summer of PSAR Draws To A Close, 2016

Bob and Mt. Humphreys
 in the Distance
My summer stint with the US Forest Service as a volunteer "Roving Ranger"is soon coming to an end and I will be transitioning to new volunteer duties in the Flagstaff, AZ area. (Itinerary below)

Since I've written extensively lately about Search and Rescue, I won't dwell on the summer's activities again other than to say its been fun, educational, and rewarding. For the most part all the volunteers and NPS and Forest Service staff I've had the privilege of working with have been great. The more I explore and volunteer, the more opportunities that seem to present themselves.

Every year the names of the Forest Service seasonal volunteers are carved into wood signs for posterity to revere with awe and gratitude <g>. Nearly twenty years of these panels hang in the wood shop. Somehow the sign makers managed to remember my name this year. Some volunteers are long-time, repeat offenders returning for more than a decade of service.

One sideline activity of my PSAR work this season is that I have been giving weekly talks to sixth graders at the Flagstaff Unified School District's summer facility: Camp Colton. The SAR team is seeking to modify the PSAR curriculum based on Hug A Tree and Survive that us normally geared to 10-14 year old students. The goal is to modify it for both kindergarten level students (never too early to learn survival tactics) and high school students. We hope to produce and distribute nationally a new video on the revised curriculum. 

Besides the PSAR work, I've also been involved with the Interpretive Partnership, a joint project of the Forest Service, National Park Service, and other local agencies dedicated to providing educational and recreational services to the public
Every week the 20+ volunteer members in the partnership provide guided walking tours of cultural and natural resources in the three Flagstaff area national monuments (Walnut Canyon, Wupatki, and Sunset Crater Volcano) and at other regional trails of significance; campground talks, stargazing sessions, nature walks, and more. We also serve as roving rangers on Mount Agassiz at the top of Arizona Snowbowl where we describe the landmarks and history of  100 mile+ viewable area.

Walnut Canyon Trail Cliff  Dwellings
In exchange for volunteering the partnership agencies provide RV sites and extensive continuing professional education opportunities. Nearly every week we benefited from some scientist or other expert providing us custom talks or field trips to historical or scientifically important sites in the region.

For example, we visited rarely accessible petroglyph sites in the Zuni Nation, saw hidden, ancient pueblo ruins, were lectured about ongoing archaeological investigations, shown photo collections from Flagstaff's Lowell Observatory about recent satellite flybys of Pluto System and the Keuper Belt using NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft, and much more, The Pluto images we saw were trypically only accessible by project scientists for their research work.

Due to my work with both the Preventative Search and Rescue Program (PSAR) and Coconino County SAR team I'm now serving as an adviser to a Northern Arizona University Wilderness Studies program. The class is charged with developing several research products this semester. The two I'm working with address designing:

  1. Better delivery methods of PSAR training for a target audience of high school students.
  2. A digital communication package (web portal of smartphone application) to prepare visitors for hiking in the Kachina Wilderness using Humphreys Trail. The trail leads to the highest summit in Arizona. 
Yes, it's been a busy summer, but the seasons change.

In less than a month, on or about October 18th 2016, if circumstances don't change, my core PSAR duties on Mt. Humphreys will end and I will transition to a new volunteer opportunity at nearby Walnut Canyon National Monument. I will trade in my green US Forest Service uniform for the grey, green, and brown of a National Park Service Ranger (Smokey Bear hat and all. Woohoo!)

I will move Toad Haul Manor to the monument compound and attempt to survive a Flagstaff winter's snow at 7,000 feet. I will work out of the visitor center providing interpretive services: giving talks and guided tours of the ancient pueblo dwellings last occupied in the 1200's, explaining the special ecological and archaeological features of the canyon, and staffing the visitor center answering questions and selling monument related publications and other educational products.

Walnut Canyon In Winter After a Heavy Snowfall

I'm not done with SAR work. SAR missions will continue this winter when the emphasis will shift to avalanche safety concerns in the mountains. 

In February, I will transition to yet a different location that I will describe to you'all later this winter. 

Until then, please stay tuned. The Toad Haul Manor adventures will continue.

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