Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Alabama and Back

A bright Box Turtle between the Poplar blooms, May is fantastic!

April 18- 22nd the SMG crew and a few Old Rag Mountain Stewards traveled down to Little River Alabama to instruct and learn high angle rescue for the week. I kind of wrote up the EHART week so it could stand alone from the blog so it sounds a little different from my normal write ups. Sorry it has been so long since I've posted but I have been having a lot of difficulties with blogger. I hope the pictures show up full resolution.

Why the Park Service has an EHART.
The instructor hangs vertically from a cliff above Alabama’s Little River, 50 feet from the rocks and the raging water beyond. With ropes and webbing she is tied securely into a rescue litter, unable to move anything but her eyes. The instructor’s life is entrusted to her team of students who for the last week have been learning the ropes -- of vertical rescue. The cliff is real and a fall could be fatal, it’s up to the students now.
The silence is broken when a student yells, “Haul!” Within an hour, the team transports the instructor off the cliff and into the safety of a mock ambulance.
The live-patient scenario culminated this year’s 50-hour National Park Service Eastern High Angle Rescue Training, or “EHART” for short. For 5 days this April, more than 50 student park rangers, volunteers and instructors converged from across the country (especially the East) in the honorable pursuit of saving lives in the vertical world. This year’s course was hosted at the Little River Canyon National Preserve in Alabama.
Over its 15 year history, the course has been held in six different locations, offering students an extraordinary amount of training variety. Although the eastern course’s approach differs somewhat from its western counterpart in Moab, Utah, the goal remains the same: to provide rescue in an environment where few people dare to go.
Why do the participants do this? They come because they care -- about the parks and about the people who use them. Providing rescue services is a classic ranger skill, and these are the East’s classiest rangers. In an era where budgets are tight, these rangers and volunteers are serving double duty -- rescue and their regular jobs.
For the rangers and volunteers, putting their lives on the line is a labor of love. They are climbers with first ascents spanning the globe, and cavers who descend far into the underworld. The are botanists and bicyclists, firefighters and tree-huggers. It’s a love of the parks that binds them together like the fibers of a kernmantle rope.
Over the course of the week students trained rain or shine, day, and into the nights to learn every aspect of a high angle rescue. Skills students learned included knots, anchors, litter tie downs and attending duties, ascending, descending, and managing ropes, mechanical advantages, haul team systems and much more. Those many skills were all then applied during the high stakes scenario, an experience that will prove invaluable when the call comes, and it’s time for the real thing.
Just as the students are finished packing up from their final scenario, sirens fill the air. A few miles away, a rescue is underway and this time it’s for real. The students are put on alert and informed that minutes downstream a park user was swept away by the rivers high water and is currently stranded on a rock. The situation is not desperate but the park user’s life is at stake as they are not far above the next pounding waterfall. The long days of training have paid off, and the students and instructors are ready to help. Some of the rescuers gather their equipment and head over to the scene.
The students are now prepared to run a high angle rescue on their own, and although this is swift water they plan as if they were already back in their own parks. At the same time, the veteran rescue group from Little River National Canyon Preserve was also prepared. When the newly graduated class of EHART 2011 showed up to lend a hand, the old hands at Little River were just finishing up with the job. So the next time there’s a rescue needed in a park near you, rest assured that it will be managed by good hands!

Here's a few more pictures.

One evening after class was over for the day a few folks jetted out early (about 8pm)and went on an extracurricular trip to Neversink cave. The free-hanging night rappel and rope ascent back out is 168ft and spectacular. The cool evening, air lush plants, and near by free falling waterfall made it an all around unforgettable experience.

The above picture was taken from the top of the cave as one of the crew was ascending back out. The two below pictures are of the amphibious locals who live at the bottom of the cave. The picture with the frog (who just happened to be there) brought us full circle and back to the realities of rescue in these amazing environments.

And now more from May!

A Red Eft Newt, you can't help but love these guys.

Sweet upside down boulder problem, Lizard.

The rare and beautiful Yellow Lady Slipper Orchid.

This Six Spotted Tiger beetle looks kind of mad. I think it's because some people mistake him for those invasive pest, the Emerald Ash Borer.

A Scarlet Tanager, and I can't believe how close we got! I guess it couldn't hear us over the waterfall at our backs.

The blooms of the Pawpaw tree are often missed just like the sweet edible fruit which follows.

Columbine poses before Overall Falls.




an Ant, yea we see lots of cool stuff, hope you can get out and see cool stuff too.

Yea, that's Shenandoah! We have been enjoying the rain, the fog, and the nice weather too. Ascending a rope into a tall poplar tree is just one of the good fun, foggy day activities around here.
That's all for now, I will try not to hang out in the fog so long before I post again.
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