Sunday, December 13, 2009

Full Day

It was another quiet day at the park, but a pretty busy day for me.  After my two days off and one day spent in preparation of the parade ride that didn't happen, I had three days away from the park.  Paperwork and e-mails were piling up.  I was a little glad that the park wasn't too busy, but its always more interesting when there are other people around.
The first thing that I did today after opening up the park, was to check on the water level.  I could see that it was still rising, but I had to make sure that the spring was still safe for swimming and diving.  I do that with a Secchi (sĕk'ē) disk, a black and white, weighted circle on a string.  I drop the Secchi disk in the water and lower it down as far as I can with the black and white sections still visible.  The length of the string that is in the water is the distance of visibility in the water.  It all sounds simple enough, but its hard to find a place to have the appropriate vantage point.  I can't stand on the bank of the spring because the water is shallow at the bank.  I can't stand on the dock because I'm not at the water.  I planned to stand on the rock in front of the spring dock, but the water is now covering the paths to it.  I climbed over the dock railing and got to the rock that way.  I was a little nervous because everything was damp and slippery.  I kept seeing myself landing in the water with my cell phone and camera.  I was very very careful.

From the rock, I still had some trouble because there were more rocks sticking out under the water.  I was able to get the information that I needed though.  Our policy is that we need more than 4 feet of visibility for a safe swim area.  We definitely still have more than 4 feet.

After I took the photo, I "cast" out again to try to get the disk past the rock ledge that I landed on the first time.  I was able to get it out a little further, but I just hit another ledge.  I put a loose knot in the string to mark the depth and measured it when I got back to the office.  We still have more than 15 feet of visibility in the deep area of the spring.

I made it back over the railing and onto the dock without incident.  I was about to head back up the hill to the picnic area when I noticed that the garbage can looked a little disheveled.  I opened the lid to straighten the bag and I found something a little unexpected, but not shocking.  Frogs just love the steamy humidity in the garbage can.  In the summer I can pretty much rely on being able to find one in there to impress an impatient or grouchy kid.

I continued my walk over to the river bank and decided to see what the Secchi disk said about the river.  The disk disappeared after 4 feet.  I really hope that the river starts to recede before the spring gets this dark.  I'm just not up for another flood so soon.

I took several photos at the river when I was done.  Of course, I took the obligatory buoy line shot to give you another daily comparison of the rise.  Look back to last Saturday to really see the difference.

There was still just a hint of fog over the river, upstream.  The fall colors seem like they are mustering up some last minutes punches of brilliance before everything fades to brown for the winter.  The hickory trees were especially bright yellow today, and I don't know why I didn't get a photo.

On my way back towards the office, there were squirrels and woodpeckers everywhere.  Both of those creatures are always around me at the park, but are the hardest to photograph.  They keep their distances from me usually and can make a quick get away.  I was surprised by this squirrel who was initially much more interested in its gathering activities than me and I thought I was being so stealthy to sneak up on it.  I had my camera ready and was snapping photos as I got closer so that I didn't miss a shot all together.  Then the squirrel turned and really seemed to be posing for me.  It wasn't scared of me at all.  Here is the next contestant on America's Next Top Model: Squirrel Edition.

I opened up the cabin and then headed to the porch to get my other obligatory photo.  The water is really starting to creep up on the shore now.  I am happy to still be able to see the rocks out in the center, even if its just barely.  Remember when they were still trying to peek out of the water?

After spending as much time outside as I could get away with, I finally headed to the office.  There, I had two days worth of paperwork to do, and of course, they were the two busiest days all week.  I had several e-mails to respond to, each involved checking back for information in my files.  I also had some extra work to do because of the spring conditions.  I e-mailed my managers and our park biologist to let them know the status of the water.  I changed our answering machine message and e-mailed someone at the district office with an update for our web page to caution divers about the rapidly changing and somewhat diminished conditions.  I also updated a spring clarity tracking sheet that will help rangers at Troy in the future know what to expect when we have similar water conditions.  I made cautionary signs making visitors aware of the water conditions and laminated them.  I got to go outside again to hang the signs at the honor station and at the walkway to the spring.  When I was driving out to the honor box, I found a lost diver's watch.  It is a rather expensive computer that tracks important information during a dive.  A diver had reported one missing, but that was days ago.  We thought it was long gone.  I was so surprised to find it on the park drive, still in good condition.  When I returned to the office, I called the diver and let him know that I had found his lost item.  I am pretty sure that I made his day.
Throughout my time in the office, I did get to wander out to greet two small dive groups, and four or five other people.  That was the extent of visitation today.  I stayed so busy with my other tasks though, that I wouldn't have had much time to chat with many more people.  I went home a little early because I was still waiting to welcome in the new volunteers at Adams Tract.  They were coming in a little later than planned.  They called me when they got close and I went back to meet them.  While I waited in the parking lot, I found one more photo to take.  A Daddy Long-legs was hanging out too.

When the volunteers arrived, I led them over to Adams Tract and gave them a quick tour of the camp.  They seem like great people and I am looking forward to getting to know them throughout their stay.  I left them to get their RV situated and to get acclimated to their new surroundings.  I will return later this week to really train them on the activities at the river camp.