Monday, May 28, 2012

A Caretaker's Life at Annapolis Rocks, Maryland

Annapolis Rocks, Maryland where the Maryland ridgerunner oversees the campground there

Ah...a day in the life of a caretaker for the backpacker campground at Annapolis Rocks. Actually, the very first day as the official caretaker. What I do not know won't hurt me, right? That's what you have to believe when called upon to do extraordinary things.

Like having the boss hand you a four man tent (in this case the REI Hotitat 4) and tells you - here it is. And you must carry the 15 plus pound tent up the trail to the caretaker site at Annapolis Rocks.Unfortunately the rain is coming down as I hastily read the short version of tent set-up printed on the outside bag. Laying out the tent on the dripping wet tent platform, I try to keep the tent dry by draping the rain fly over it. The poles are fairly easy to maneuver. But then comes the grand daddy of them all, trying to raise the tent by myself as rain is making it heavier and heavier. This is looking like an impossibility as the tent teeters to one side and falls. I envision the fabric ripping and myself huddled in my little MSR hubba amid a thunderstorm-soaked week. With a feeble prayer, I ask for heavenly intervention, and suddenly the tent seems to spring to life. The poles go in. The tent stands upright. Suddenly I have a tent on the platform. A miracle has taken place this dreary day, and I am fairly beat after that.

But now I must make a hasty departure to the ranger station at Greenbrier State Park. It's time for me to be introduced to my assorted gadgets. I've already been given a brand new cell phone by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. I am now handed a pager (which I have never used) and given a lesson in its operation. I then am given instructions on how to use a walkie talkie - not just any one, but one with so many buttons it makes my head spin just a bit. Especially as I need to use different channels for different places along the trail I am monitoring. I leave the ranger office rather benumbed and still wet from my wrestling with a Hobitat 4, equipped with probably five more pounds of electronic gear that must be carried up to Annapolis Rocks (which I am now calling The Rock for all intent and propose).

But before I can settle in to my duties, I must get the caretaker locker open. WHne I first arrived with the tent, I tried opening the lock for nearly 15 frustrating minutes. The lock refused to budge. It hates me, even as I tell it that I am the caretaker and am even wearing the badge of honor - a drenched green work shirt with the appropriate patches that say "Ridgerunner" hastily sewn on (and which promptly came off as soon as the backpack strap brushed against the sleeve, sigh). I prevailed upon the ranger at my meeting to teach me also a simple system to unlocking a lock that won't unlock but remains locked. Armed with some insight, I try once more more. It opens. Another miracle unfolds at the Rock!

Setting up the site now, I am feeling more and more at home. The hikers are passing on by. I am in full greeting mode. A few ask about the spring that gushes profusely from the raging storms that hit each day I am there. The climbers come to try their hand at scaling the rocky faces that make this area famous. And many other hikers simply linger on the rocks, some for hours at a time. I even convince a few thru hikers to stay and enjoy the area.

Hikers are conquering a trail. Climbers are conquering rocks. I am slowly conquering caretaking of a nice campsite area and the beauty of a fine view.

Up next...conquering ridgerunning itself....


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