The Adventure Through the Woods

The Adventure Through the Woods

For this blog post, I decided it would be fun to show you around my internship site. As you may know, I am working at Rock Creek Park developing programs and information about climate change. Rock Creek Park is part of the National Park Service, which is great because it's provided me some useful knowledge on how the National Parks are actually run. Since it's such a small agency compared to others, it really feels like a family. Everyone knows each other, even people who work at parks across the country.

 

Starting Off The Day

 

Typically, I have to leave for work about an hour before I get there. My job is a mere six miles away, which isn't that far considering it would only be a 10-minute drive back home. However, since we are in a major city it takes just under an hour to get to work. My morning route has me taking the Metro to a bus station, and then to the park. The long commute is actually nice since I can relax on the way to work.

 

After I get to work there is usually something to be done immediately. There are a number of small tasks such as printing, copying, or answering phones, but typical clerical work only makes up about half of the day.

 

Often, there will be a group of students that come to the park and wish to learn more about the abundant flora and fauna. In some cases, the rangers have me lead educational hikes or different programs on the animal life for these groups of students. These hikes usually go smoothly, but there are times when it feels like the Nature Center becomes mobbed with all sorts of people asking you questions all at the same time. This is good experience, however, since it's improved my multitasking and communications skills.

 

 

These two photos show the difference that only a few weeks can make in spring!

 

The park itself has many great resources that are awesome to see. The creek is rocky and beautiful. There are a number of different animals such as deer, raccoons, squirrels, foxes, and even coyotes that reside in the park. The ecosystem is rather complex for an urban park, and it feels like you're in the middle of nowhere even though you are still in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

 

The historic sites are also magnificent. Peirce Mill is a very old watermill that the park occasionally operates to grind corn for demonstrations. It's a real treat to see the wooden machinery operate flawlessly (but corn meal is not fun to clean from the equipment). The Old Stone House in Georgetown is also a very cool building. The gardens outside are wonderful, and the inside of the house has a plethora of historic information about the typical life in the 18th century. The historic Civil War forts are scattered throughout the park, and it's somewhat like an adventure to go find them all. I've learned a great deal from these sites by just working with people from the park, and I often help out when there are demonstrations to the public.

 

Not a grand vista, but it was a challenging hiking hill.

 

Peirce Mill in all its glory.

 

The park staff is also a friendly bunch. They regularly make a point to help you out even though they are extremely busy. Everyone jokes with each other, and the atmosphere is very welcoming. There is plenty of information from the Park Service that has to be researched for my climate change project. The exhibits the Park Service wants require solid data, so it can be a challenge to get it approved by the various individuals. The staff is always there to offer pointers, which makes the process easier. Thankfully, the project has gone smoothly with only minor corrections required.

 

One of the most important lessons I've learned from my time at the National Park Service is that the National Parks are real treasures. It seems like the organization is often overlooked, understaffed, and spread very thin, but they still manage to provide one of the most important services in the nation. I would encourage anyone to take advantage of the National Parks system, particularly around Washington, D.C. There are plenty of historic sites, parks, and museums that are free or cost very little. These areas are a testament to public funding and a terrific service to all citizens.

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

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