Tuesday, July 14, 2009

2 Days Until Graduation!!!

Yes, that's right--Mike has just 2 days until he will officially graduate from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. This week was a busy and stressful one for him. On Monday he had his final defensive tactics physical exam, as well as his final written exam. Today he finished up with arrest warrants and the final physical efficiency battery (PEB), which includes benchpress, agility run, flexibility, and a 1.5 mile run. He improved on most of his scores from the mid-term PEB, and I'm so proud of him! So...at long last, on Thursday the 16th, he will graduate alongside his classmates, and be released from the hallowed halls of FLETC.
So Mike will soon drive north toward Michigan, and then west, west, west. We'll be able to spend a few days together before he'll drive 13 hours to the south, to begin a (the 1st of 4) 3 week "field training" session. During these next 3 months, he'll be a commissioned officer in various areas of California, Nevada, and Washington, working very closely with experienced BLM rangers. Then he'll return to his job (and wife) in Humboldt County. Yay. :)

Fern Canyon, its steep walls covered in lush green ferns of many varieties (where part of the Jurassic Park movie was filmed)

Redwood NP has such a diversity of habitats! I was surprised to see the "Bald Hills" area, high above the redwood forests.

Pretty in pink!

Pink rhodedendrons in the Lady Bird Johnson Grove of Redwood trees...

Tiger or Columbia Lilies

Wood rose

Douglas iris

The rhodedendrons are ever brighter than this...you must come and see them blooming sometime!

(As for me...) I've seen some beautiful scenery lately, while becoming oriented with the trails in Redwood National and State Parks. The rhodedendrons were still blooming as of last week in the Lady Bird Johnson Grove...my photos didn't capture their full color, but they're still pretty.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Snorkeling in the Keys

Bahia Honda State Park (middle of the Florida Keys)

Mile 0 of US 1 which goes from Key West, FL all the way to the Canadian border above Maine!

This Key Deer (above) is about the size of a medium-sized dog. They are only found on Big Pine Key and one neighboring key.

Mike spent yesterday snorkeling in the Florida keys with a buddy from FLETC. Imagine the clear water and the variety of colorful fish they must have seen! At one point, they were surrounded by a school of at least 1,000 fish, making Mike feel as if he had become a member of the underwater world. One of his friends lives and works in that area, so today they plan to go out on a boat and leave their FLETC worries behind.

By the way, he has just 9 working days left at FLETC!!!

My job as the lead education ranger at Redwood National and State Parks is based out of the Wolf Creek Education Center. I've been through two days of training, and I'm enjoying it so far. The commute is a bit long, but there's not much traffic and the road follows the gorgeous coastline, so it's as pleasant as it could be. I plan to buy a prius later in the month, while trading in our gas-guzzling Explorer through the new government car rebate program (cars.gov).

So all is well in our lives. I'm readapting to life in northern California, and Mike is getting ready to finish up with his Georgian lifestyle. I wish we could fast-forward through the next few months, so that we could be living together under the same roof again!

Have a happy Independence Day!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Isle Royale

Washington Creek sunrise
View toward Canada from Minong Ridge
I didn't see another person for 47 hours, so I entertained myself with insects...
Foggy afternoon at Little Todd Harbor
Wolf track near West Chickenbone
Lady Slipper Orchids
Sunset over Tobin Harbor
Ranger III passenger ferry in Rock Harbor
The house I grew up in, in Hancock, MI
Every time people visited us on Isle Royale (while I was growing up there), we all got our picture taken together in front of this sign.

I had a WONDERFUL visit to Isle Royale National Park, in Lake Superior. I grew up in the park, and spent 3 summers working there, and met Mike there for the first time in 1998, and absolutely LOVE the island. Soooo, I was very excited to return for a 2-week volunteer gig. I flew from Georgia to Wisconsin, and had a chance to reunite with a couple of friends before heading to the island. The water was calm and the weather was beautiful on the 6 hour trip aboard the Ranger III ferry from Houghton, MI, to Isle Royale. I wasn't exactly certain what my volunteer duties would encompass, but it turned out that I had plenty of opportunities to "experience" Isle Royale. After training the new interpretive staff on the "how-tos" of a guided hike to Passage Island, I was free to begin my trail roving duties. Over the course of 10 full and 2 partial days, I backpacked over 71 miles with a full pack and day hiked an additional 17 miles or so.

If anyone is curious about my specific route, here goes: I started off with an overnight to Lane Cove, with a brief stop at Mount Franklin. I spent a pleasant (although stormy) night listening to the loons in the cove, and saw my only moose of the trip on the return hike to Rock Harbor. The next day, I set off toward Daisy Farm. Surprisingly, I ended up with four blisters on my toes, probably because the pack is much heavier than I'm accustomed to carrying (since Mike, my trusty backpacking buddy, is still at FLETC in Georgia). I took a couple of quick dips in the 34 degree waters of Lake Superior and felt refreshed!

The next day I hiked about 10 miles to West Chickenbone. From this point on, I saw very few people, no moose, and little sign of wolves. I felt like I had the island to myself! The weather was great, overall, so I was really fortunate. Every afternoon after arriving in camp, I took pictures of my growing blisters, to document their progress. Next, I spent a night at Hatchett Lake, then a very mosquito-filled hike to Little Todd Harbor. I camped all alone there, and spent the afternoon swimming and photographing pretty rocks on the beach. The next day was gorgeous weather, and I backpacked my FAVORITE section of trail along the Minong Ridge, from Little Todd to North Desor. The views of Canada were phenomenal, and the wildflowers were in full splendor. That day alone made my whole trip, and all of the difficult logistics on either end of the trip, completely worthwhile. I lounged around in Lake Desor, rinsed out my only hiking clothes, which by this point were quite salty, and relaxed. Instead of hiking directly to Windigo the next day, I extended the trip by heading to Huginnin Cove for a night. Once again I swam (actually I waded out to water that was about 2 feet deep, then immersed myself for about 15 seconds, until my body felt like it was on fire from the freezing temperature of Lake Superior!...but I still count that as swimming). And the next day, I hiked into Windigo and visited with lots of old island friends.

The Ranger III departed from Windigo (because of a special dedication ceremony for a new building there) and a smooth trip brought me to Houghton, where I was fortunate to spend a couple of evenings and a day with wonderful family friends at their beautiful home on the shores of Lake Superior. I love the Northwoods! Thanks to everyone who made this trip so wonderful!