Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Field Notes

SCA Flood Recovery Corps members Chas Robles and Hannah O'Connell confer with a Park Service ranger during the Eagle Peak Search and Rescue operation.

Mount Rainier's summer volunteer program is now up and running smoothly. We've accomplished many projects, and have many more coming up on our calendar of activities, which is posted on the SCA website. This weekend we'll be working on trail projects, and campground maintenance, and training meadow rovers at both Paradise and Sunrise. We're also gearing up for some exciting family projects in the beginning of July, and our first 5-day backcountry projects as well. Personally, that sounds like a lot more fun, to me, than working in my own office, answering phone calls and e-mails. What a blog entry that would be! If anyone is interested in writing such an entry, based on your own experience working for our trail crew in the backcountry, please give me a call or send me an e-mail. I'd love to feature a "field correspondent!"

I'm writing this particular entry, though, for a much more serious purpose: to express my heartfelt thanks to the Student Conservation Association's Flood Recovery Corps, who are helping us out this summer by coordinating and leading all these wonderful volunteer projects. As many of you know from watching the local news, we had a major search-and-rescue operation in our park on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday, looking for a hiker who went missing on Eagle Peak during a dayhike on Saturday. The Flood Recovery Corps freed up nine of its members to help with the search on Monday, and another six on Tuesday, despite the many other projects they're immersed in already.

It may seem like a minor thing, or even a distraction from the primary goal of our flood recovery program. But in the National Park Service, we take these emergencies very seriously--at least as seriously as we took the flood itself last winter. Every lost hiker has a wife, a son, a mother, a sister for whom this is a earth-moving event. We respond just as a fire department or police department would--we drop everything and focus all our energy on bringing the lost soul home to his family.

This incident, unfortunately, ended tragically with the discovery of the hiker's body at the base of a cliff on Tuesday afternoon. It's heartbreaking when a search ends that way. But over the course of the search, all of its participants conducted themselves with true heroism. (I, myself, served as the park's public information officer; I got to have my face on the TV news, but truly feel that I had the easy job compared to those who were out climbing through the forest.)

I am as proud as I can possibly be to work with these National Park Service heroes, and to count the Student Conservation Association's Flood Recovery Corps among them.

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