Almost Over, But Not Done Yet

Almost Over, But Not Done Yet

We may only have a little over a week left of our internships, but I’m still making the most of my time here in the district. I have several things on my “To Do in DC” bucket list still yet to cross off, but that hasn’t stopped me from trying.


Last Tuesday at work was extremely busy. The morning got off to an amazing start when the space shuttle Discovery flew directly overhead. No sooner had my fellow rangers and I finished discussing our lamentations at not being able to see it at the Potomac did it fly by at what appeared to be a much lower altitude than 1,500 feet. I was so awestruck I didn’t even have time to raise my camera and capture the event. The photo below is courtesy of CBS News.



We finally began our tests at Pierce Mill to make sure both the closed-circuit circulation pumps worked, as well as the wheel and the grinding stones. Once everything was greased up and the race filled, the pumps began and the mill once more sprang to live after years of dormancy. It was really interesting to see just how pre-industrial peoples manipulated grain for consumption. The mill is going to make an excellent interpretive tool for the rangers, just as soon as they can find someone to operate it on a regular basis. The miller we had that day graciously joined us from his regular position at Mount Vernon (where he also brews traditional whiskey).



Grinding some corn at the mill. This wasn't consumption quality grain I'm afraid, so no homemade cornbread.


While the rangers spent most of their time milling grain, adjusting the flow of water, and cleaning up the inevitable mess, I was outside conducting an amphibian rescue in the mill’s race (the area that houses the recirculated water). Since the mill had been inactive for so long, and because it was directly connected to the creek up until that week, a whole variety of frog and toad species had taken up residence inside. An unfortunate side effect of the pumps were that they were sucking up the frogs, and spitting them out at the top. My job was to remove them as they surfaced, as well as any and all tadpoles and eggs I could gather. By the end of the day, I had rescued nearly two dozen American Toads, countless eggs & tadpoles, and one giant bullfrog. They amphibians were all relocated to smaller, quieter areas of the park free from human interference.


Who has a bucket full of frogs? This guy. (Well, technically they're toads.)


This is a pair that I rescued while still coupled. Hopefully they will continue to reproduce in their new pond.



For the rest of the week, I resumed all of my regular duties, such as guided hikes, informal visitor contacts, animal care, and working on my multimedia presentations. I did get one brief moment of excitement when this lovely guy stopped by the nature center. I convinced him to stick around and pose for a few pictures before he went on his merry way.


Black rat snake, approximately 5ft. Didn't strike, but it musked, A LOT.


This past weekend I finally made it over to see an exhibit I’ve been waiting to see for some time now: The Art of Video Games at the Museum of American Art. My inner nerd delighted at the chance to relive some of my youth by seeing systems I had grown up with: Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, N64, and so many more. Games and characters I knew as a boy once again jumped off the screen (and the walls) to remind everyone visiting not only of their technical significance, but of their emotional impact as well. My only complaint of the exhibit was that they wanted $40 for the book; a price I felt was grossly overpriced.






Since I was already at the portrait gallery, I took time to visit the presidential portrait gallery to pay homage to my own personal inspiration: Theodore Roosevelt.


"No other president ever enjoyed the presidency as I did." -- Theodore Roosevelt to Henry Cabot Lodge, September 10, 1909


It also so happened that Sunday was Earth Day. I could think of no better way to appreciate the holiday than to examine some of the best paintings done of the raw American wilderness created by the 19th century’s most prolific transcendental painters: Thomas Cole, Albert Bierstadt, Jasper Cropsey, and so many more. Their dramatic landscapes helped to define a nation without a history. Additionally, their sublime, romanticized pictures of the west inspired what would eventually become the “manifest destiny” movement in the latter half of the century.



Albert Bierstadt (1830–1902)

Among the Sierra Nevada Mountains, California


oil on canvas

183 × 305 cm (72 × 120.1 in)

Smithsonian American Art Museum



These are a few orchids that were planted in the courtyard between the Museum of American Art and the National Portrait Gallery.


My last good bit of news is that I finally was able to meet with a staffer from Senator Nelson’s office. While I would undoubtedly have proffered to meet the Senator himself, I understand he is a busy man and has other obligations. The meeting was brief and direct, but informative nonetheless. At the meeting’s conclusion, she presented us with tickets to visit the Senate Gallery later in the day, when they would be in session to vote on a bill about reforming the postal service. The security was overwhelming (they even took my cell phone!) but it was pretty incredible to see my government in action. The best part is – I still have my pass so I may just go again next week.


I hope everyone is remaining as busy as I am. We only a handful of days left here – the last of which I’m sure will be occupied by cleaning and packing – so be sure to get out and make them count!


Until next time.

Experience a Day in the Life of an Intern at The Washington Center

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