The lhip internship may be over but my rock creek journey continues- Ana Karen Sanchez

When I arrived at Rock Creek Park for my first day, I felt like a little bird trying to take everything in. Realizing I knew very little about the native and invasive species, the intricate trails available, and the wide array of resources, partners, and programs gave me so much to look forward to!

Today, I arrived at Rock Creek Park for the first day of my final internship week. I no longer felt like a little bird and more like Pokey, an Easter Box Turtle who lives at the Rock Creek Park Nature Center. We let Pokey out of his tank a few times per week so that he can get some exercise. He is very independent, confident, and aware of his surroundings as he walks around the exhibit and everyone’s workspace. This is the way I feel about my presence at Rock Creek Park as I near the end of my summer internship. I can independently identify resources and accomplish tasks, confidently respond to guest questions, and be aware of my surroundings as I navigate through the park and the Nature Center. If at any moment I need assistance, I know I can depend on my Supervisor Dana Dierkes and the rest of the Rock Creek Park staff. Thank you all for sharing so much kindness and patience with me throughout these past couple of months!

Pokey, the Nature Center’s resident Eastern Box Turtle

One of my favorite internship moments occurred during my first week at the park when I would be visiting Peirce Mill for the first time and observing a milling demonstration with Jeanne Miner. She is one of the few millers around the world and one of two women millers in the country. Peirce Mill is over 200 years old and holds an important part in Rock Creek Park’s history as a historic structure and the last of 8 original mills along Rock Creek Park. Although milling is a highly technical process, this wooden milling system is powered entirely by moving water, originally from the Rock Creek headrace, now from the D.C. public water system. The successful operation of a mill relies on the miller’s experience and intuition to gauge the status of the mill’s functioning state. Miner has emphasized the importance of listening to the sounds of the mill, as well as the “feeling” and smell of the granite grinders as they crush corn into a fine flour.

Since my first exposure to Peirce Mill, I have conducted two interpretive programs at the mill and feel proud to have been able to share some of the history of the mill and its surrounding area.

Peirce Mill’s wooden waterwheel
Peirce Mill’s hopper with corn inside on top of the circular granite stones

As a local D.C. resident, Rock Creek Park will continue to be part of my life but now it encompasses new meaning. Rock Creek Park is more than just a natural city gem, it is a place of opportunity and discovery. Although there is still a long way to go in the way of accessibility, conservation, and preservation of park resources, there is beauty in the face of growth and development. There are so many ways to get involved with the park whether individually or through an existing NPS partner that I will be sure to continue my work with Rock Creek even after my internship ends.

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