John, Emily, and I met Brandon at the Lackawaxen office at 7 AM so we could drive up to the northernmost end of the Park and get a tour of it. We went to the elementary school in Hancock first so that Brandon could do a water safety program to the 2nd graders there at 8:20 AM. Their gym serves as a lunch room, as benches and tables fold up into the walls like a Murphy bed does. The kids sit on the floor while teachers, parents, and guests get folding chairs. It was fun to watch and see and hear kids' reactions.
On the way back, Brandon stopped at various access points along the river and told us that we wouldn't be going very far north, as the Northern Canoe and Paddling Service (hope I remembered that name right) takes care of the northern end. We learned a bit of the history of the small towns we went by (don't blink!) and how the locals didn't like the Park Service at first. Many of the people had moved to this area after having been "kicked out" of their homes along the Delaware so that the Delaware Water Gap could be formed. Turns out, it was the Army Corps of Engineers took over the land and water with plans to build a dam to make a big lake for recreational purposes. That stalled, the ACE ran out of funds, sold the land to the NPS, and the dam idea fizzled into nothing. But people were afraid the NPS would displace them again. That is one reason why there is so little land in which the UPDE employees have to work with. This park is 95% comprised of the Delaware River.
The Park is advocating hikes this year and provide a patch to anyone who completes their list of 6 trails, ranging from easy to difficult. We stopped to hike the most difficult trail, called the Bouchouxville Trail or Jensen's Ledges. The trail is privately owned, so we thank the owner who generously lets the public traverse it. The trail is basically straight up and back down again. I had to stop 3 times to catch my breath, but I think those 21 year olds didn't need the stops at all! At the top is a great view of the river and slopes on either side. There was also a lot of bluestone rocks, and we could see where people built cairns. Then we saw a giant stone egg, that I interpreted as a large jug with a lid on it. As if that wasn't enough, someone built a huge chair complete with arms for relaxing with a cold drink and taking in the view.
We stopped at a couple of bridges with access points on either side. The Skinner's access point is where we will be stationed once in a while. The bridge into PA and the town of Milan is out, so to get to that field office, we have to take the long way around. Just below the bridge is Skinner's Falls, which is rapids. Brandon showed us where a popular "Chute" is so that we can tell the kids about it during the summer.
When we are stationed at certain access points, we have to give the water safety talk if a livery doesn't do it, stressing the importance of wearing life jackets. We have to pick up garbage they leave behind, so we should stress that it is a pack it out place. We will be there for 8 hours, by ourselves! Skinner's Falls is a party spot, so that should be fun! (sarcasm here)