Saturday, July 4, 2009

4th of July, Chickasaw Style

My Fourth of July started in a very patriotic fashion. Lauren announced that we were going to put the flags up at Lincoln bridge. These are flags that she special ordered for her Lincoln program on February 12, 2009 celebrating the centennial of the dedication of the Lincoln Bridge and the bicentennial of Lincoln's birth. The flags have 46 stars as they would have had when the bridge was dedicated and Lauren shared that Oklahoma was the 46th state.

It seemed like a simple enough task. Four flags, four flag posts, two pairs of gloves, and two park rangers. Easier said than done.

We arrived and pretty quickly got one flag up. The second flag not so easy. The third flag we could not do. The last flag we got up with a little bit of team work--Lauren pulled the rope down and I pushed the rope up...we finally had her hoisted.

Now, what to do with the other flag? We couldn't leave the bridge three-fourths flagged.

I asked how Lauren got the flags up in February and she said Eric had been instrumental in that process. So, Lauren called Eric and Eric kindly agreed to come down to help. While waiting for Eric Lauren and I had a good time taking photos (some of which you see here on this blog). Then, Natasha, another ranger stopped by. She had heard the radio call for Eric and was in the vicinity so she stopped by and tried her hand at that fourth flag, but didn't have any better success. Natasha offered to get a small ladder so that perhaps we could stand on the ladder and maybe put the flag up without pulling the rope down first. She drove off to get the ladder.

Meanwhile, Eric showed up. With a little bit of elbow grease he was able to get the flag up, but he noticed, as we had, that the ropes were off the pulleys in two instances.

So, when Natasha came back with the ladder she and Eric put the ropes back on the pulleys so that they were fixed.

How many rangers does it take to put up the flags? It was all about the team work.

Whew! That was a flag raising experience--that's for sure! When they were all up and the ladder was cleared out, the bridge did look very patriotic.

With the flag task accomplished we made our way over to the Junior Ranger Station for our other assignment for the day. The building for the Junior Ranger Station is fantastic. It used to be the checking station for the campgrounds. Today, it is staffed by the park as an information point for visitors and as a place for younger visitors to pick up a Junior Ranger Activity book so they can earn their Junior Ranger badge.

It was a great afternoon---people who stop by the Junior Ranger Station have questions about the park, camping, where to eat, what they can and can't do in the park, as well if there is anything special for kids. Dakota, our Student Conservation Association Junior Ranger Ambassador, works at the Junior Ranger station often in addition to working on a new activity book for the kids. The three of us "womaned" the station for about six hours.

I think the highlight for me was swearing in the new Junior Rangers. Once a child brings the completed packet back, it is checked for completeness, and then they earn a certificate, a patch, and a badge. The final step is to have them sworn in as official Junior Rangers of Chickasaw National Recreation Area. Swearing in entails a ranger going outside, having the kids raise their right hand, and repeat the pledge, line by line after the ranger. How cute is that??? And as Lauren said, it is a very ranger moment. She is so right.

The Junior Ranger Pledge for Chickasaw goes like this:

I promise to have fun at Chickasaw National Recreation Area, to continue to learn about, respect, and preserve the plants, animals and historic sites of Chickasaw National Recreation Area and all wild areas for today and always.

As we were sitting there and monitoring the clouds that were rolling in, the Superintendent of the park, Mr. Bruce Noble, and Chief Ranger Dennis Weiland stopped by to see how we were doing. Dakota took the opportunity to show Bruce her creation that she uses to teach people about the springs here. It's a fantastic visual demonstration and Dakota takes it a step further by even using the water from Vendome (the water that smells like sulphur) for her demonstration. It was a hit!

Shortly after the visit we got what we were waiting for---RAIN! I don't think I can describe how ecstatic we were! All four of us (Lauren, Dakota, Lynn, and I) went outside to feel it on our flushed faces and sweaty arms. Oh, it felt so good!

As you can imagine, the rain dampened people's picnic and camping plans. There was an exodus from the park in a fairly quick amount of time.

My night ended spectacularly. I was scheduled for a six mile run and woke up dreading the run in the heat. As the day progressed and it became cloudy and then rained I just crossed my fingers that it would stay cloudy for my run, and if there was any more room for a little extra wish, that it might cool off for my run. I hit the jackpot for my run. I drove out to Veterans Lake. There is a paved path around the lake. I wasn't sure how long the path was so, equipped with my Nike +ipod (which I love by the way), I set out. It was about 7:15 pm and the sky was dark with an approaching storm. I love dark skies in the summer because it makes the leaves that much greener. My run seemed so cool, compared to the 113 with the heat index we previously experienced today. It felt like the mid 80s. My company was Click and Clack the Tappit brothers from NPR's Car Talk. The path was smooth, the weather temperate, the sky interesting to watch with it's intermittent lightening streaks, and breeze. I thought I was in heaven. About 2/3 of the way around I heard something scamper away as I ran by. I stopped, put my podcast on pause and peered into brush. What did I see? AN ARMADILLO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I was so excited! So excited! Lauren and I found one recently hit on the road and since then I was in search of a live one. I can now check a live armadillo, in the wilderness, off of my checklist.

As I rounded the lake I could tell the storm was moving closer. I have been warned to take storms very seriously here in Oklahoma and I noticed as I was running that people were no longer on the lake, trucks were pulling out, and I was the only car left in the parking lot by the bridge. I made the decision to hop in the car and drive to another part of the park. This time I parked at the Nature Center and ran down the main road in the Platt part of the park. It was already raining when I got out of the car and I'm sure I was running with a big cheesy grin on my face. The rain felt better than any other rain I'd felt I think. I know it is definitely a run I will remember.

As I ran by the campgrounds and springs there weren't very many people. It was getting darker and with the overhang of the trees, some parts seemed much darker than the time of day it was. I finished in the parking lot and was rejuvenated by the great run and the relief from the heat and the sun. What a spectacular Fourth of July!