Monday, December 31, 2007

Watching for 2008 from Turner's Gap

This recent comment prompted a quick trip up the mountain this morning:

anonymous said...
I'm currently re-reading "Landscape Turned Red" by Stephen W Sears and am on the chapter on the battles at Turners and Foxes Gaps. Where are you located in relation to that fight?

Turner's Gap is just up the road from (east of) Boonsboro, Maryland.

Looking east into Frederick County from Turner's Gap, at the edge of Washington County. Middletown is about six miles down the road.

Two much-visited structures mark the gap, Dahlgren Chapel (at the top of this post and below) and the Mountain House Inn. The historic Inn was Confederate general D.H. Hill's headquarters during the South Mountain fight and it is the place that the wounded General Garland was taken to die. Today the Inn is a very fancy (and, I'm told, good) resturant.

This beautiful and tiny gothic revival chapel was built in the 1880s by the widow of Admiral Dahlgren, and is (as you might imagine) a popular place to hold weddings...hmmm, how convienient is it that the resturant is right across the road? Wonder if the parson might also front a polka band.

The chapel and Inn are intersected by both the Old National Road (highway 40) as well as the Appalachian Trail (A/T).

Aside from these two remarkable buildings and an eastern view there are also lots of interpretive markers including the always well done Maryland Civil War Trails waysides as well as the ubiquitious War Department tablets (below).

Turner's Gap is the northern-most of the South Mountain Battlefields and also the site (if you keep going uphill to the north) of
Washington Monument State Park, home of Maryland State Park Ranger Al Preston, the "go-to guy" when it comes to info on the Battle of South Mountain.

Continuing South along the spine of the mountain the A/T hiker will encounter Fox's Gap, location of the Reno Monument, and several more miles Southward comes Crampton's Gap the third of the three fields of the South Mountain Battle.

South Mountain is an often-overlooked and very important battle in Lee's 1862 Maryland campaign. It's definately worth a few hours when you come out this way.

This was a nice jaunt with which to bring to a close another "Year of Living Rangerously".

Very best wishes for a happy and healthy 2008!

From Rangers Mannie and Smokey

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boxing Day on Annapolis Rock

While some are out scarfing up on post holiday sales, I scarfed down some leftover Christmas spaghetti and meatballs and went for a hike along the Appalachian Trail to Annapolis Rock, a very picturesque outcropping that towers above our part of the valley.

The view of the Rock...

and the view from the rock:

Uh-oh, looks like I left the porch light on again.

Even on an overcast day the view was spectacular!

See you on the trail.

Ranger Mannie

Comments and response:

anonymous said...
I'm currently re-reading "Landscape Turned Red" by Stephen W Sears and am on the chapter on the battles at Turners and Foxes Gaps. Where are you located in relation to that fight?

3:56 AM

mannie said...
Hello anonymous,

In relation to that fight, I'm located 145 years later.

ha ha.

Annapolis Rock is about a five mile hike north of Turners Gap. Boonsboro is just a mile or so west of
Turners Gap, and both Turners and Foxs are clearly visible from the observation room at the Antietam visitor Center.

Read critically,


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Battlefield Morning: Christmas 2007

I love being exactly where I want to be.

Happy Day,

Ranger Mannie

Monday, December 24, 2007

The simplest things: Morning Colors at Antietam

An upside of being the only Ranger working at Antietam National Battlefield on Christmas Eve is that I'm the Ranger that gets to hoist the flag.

Happy holidays to all of you from all of me.

Ranger Mannie

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Changing panorama

The weather was so crazy today.

When I arrived at the park this morning the whole valley was shrouded in fog, later it became overcast and very rainy, then the sun came out, then the wind started and brought back the rain, followed by a mix of brilliant sunshine with menacing clouds and isolated showers...spawning rainbows (four over the course of the afternoon).

The final view of the afternoon produced this beautiful full moon over the Mumma farmstead.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve, I'll be the lone ranger at the visitor center. I'm hoping for good photos.

Happy holidays to all!

Ranger Mannie

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Crystal Grottoes Fire

I was leaving the park today and as I crested the hill outside of Boonsboro I was greeted with the sight of a pillar of smoke and lots of emergency vechicles. I had my camera.

Crystal Grottoes has been a tourist attraction for decades. Regular visitors to Antietam will remember the "This is it!" sign posted at the entrance. Apparently there were no injuries, though a great amount of damage to the structure that serves as the offices and entryway for the cavern itself.

SCOOP! Crystal Grottoes burns

Crystal Grottos, a Boonsboro landmark for generations , burned down today, and I happened to be passing by with my camera. Photo above was taken about 45 minutes ago.

Video will be posted here this evening.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Still in the grip of "La Grippe"

Two forces are at work to keep me from posting about ranger life at Antietam.

First: I'm still getting over a bad cold

Second: I'm only at the park on Sundays and that same cold prevented me from performing my rangerly duties this Sunday past.

So, I'm somewhat at a loss for reflection or content, and I hope you'll pardon the paucity of posts.

I'm reposting my Antietam Illumination video. Not only to simply fill the void but to also give some extra legs to a video that I think is quite appropriate for this holiday season. A season, I will see you all on the other side of; healthy, hale, and at your service.

Best wishes for happy holidays.

Ranger Mannie

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Caught a Kid Cold: down for the count

Here's a downside of substitute teaching:

Walking into a classroom this time of year is like climbing into a very lively petri dish, with no sick pay.



Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Lunch at the White House

You may recall an earlier post focusing on an invitation my wife and I received to go party down with Laura Bush at the White House.

It was all because of this ornament on the Presidential Christmas tree (and about 350 others).

(official White House photo)

This year the theme of the White House tree was the National Parks, and each park was asked to decorate an ornament for submission to the White House.

These Plain, gold, plastic, ornaments where sent out to the superintendants of the various parks. The boss at Antietam asked me if I'd decorate the one for the battlefield. I said how about if my wife (she's the actual artist in the family, I'm the cartoonist) and I collaborate on a design? He said sure.

We got to work

The idea we came up with was pretty simple: stars, stripes, snowflakes, and little vignettes of Antietam scenes.

You can see more of Virginia's work at:

Here's what the rest of it looks like. (click on images for larger views)

Here's a link to all the finished ornaments

The finished ornament got boxed up and returned, and a month later we got the invitation for the artist and designers reception at the WH. It was a very fancy afternoon shindig, red room, blue room, Marines, all that jazz. Mrs. B came downstairs (sort of) and gave a brief and upbeat address and voiced her appreciation of the Park Service. Then she went back upstairs and all the designers and park artists returned to food, drinks, and merriment. It was a lot of glittery fun. We enjoyed ourselves.

Unfortunately we adhered to the camera ban that's posted on the WH visitor's center website. So, of course, we were practically the only ones there who hadn't brought a camera. Kind of a bummer for this photography-based blog.

Well, others may have gotten photos, but I got plenty of...

Presidential napkins!


Ranger Mannie

p.s. In response to Drew's comment below, all of the ornaments will end up somewhere within the collections of the National Archives.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Strangely comfortable

Substitute teaching is turning out to be actually enjoyable, sort of (usually).

This is very unexpected.

Going into it, I figured that subbing would be an expedient way to keep my rangering job, taking the good with the bad, paying my dues etc. But it turns out to be kind of fun.

So far I've worked 13 gigs and I have (currently) 14 scheduled into the next school year. I've got jobs lined up already this week for today , Wednesday and Thursday. I'm finding that I can work five days a week with no problem.

So the jobs are available, but why has it been such a near-pleasant experience?

Recall, reader, that one of the goals of this blog is to help ranger hopefuls find the path to rangering. With the given that there are precious few full-time Ranger positions out there, the likelyhood is very high that if you find an opportunity to work in one of our National Parks, it will be in the capacity of a seasonal Park Ranger which will provide you with endless satisfaction but only a half a year of work.. Filling that other half (as well as the pantry and gas tank) will require another job. Substitute teaching can be your ace in the hole when it comes to finding off-season employment.

Turns out that subbing might not be such a bad way to spend that off-season.

On reflection, I find that my approach to subbing is very different than when I did it two years ago. Then, I took any job offered, any subject, just to keep the revenue stream coming in. I ended up working at some pretty inhospitable schools and was scrambling all over the district. I think that I worked maybe twenty differrent buildings over the course of four months, and I never became a familiar presence at any of them...just another sub with no name.

This year, I've been very selective. My focus has been on elementary schools only, and three in particular, all but one of the above mentioned gigs have been, or will be at these three schools.

One is an elementary school here on the side of South Mountain, I can walk there. The other is in the outskirts of Hagerstown and is sort of the "showcase school" - they seem to want for nothing as far as support and resources (that's where I am this week). The third is an urban school smack in the center of everything, in one of the oldest most bursting-at-the-seams building with some really challenged and challenging kids but an incredibly cohesive staff and supportive administration.

I'm known as "Mr G" in the hallways and many of the classrooms at these schools. Kids who tried to butt-heads with me initially have been won over or have simply thrown in the towel. Most of the kids seem to really enjoy working with me, after their initial apprehensiveness. I tend to start out the day very stern and gradually let up on them as the day goes along.

I think the key to success is that I'm staying within my comfort zone: working with little kids, and not teaching math or science (I also passed on a phys ed job yesterday evening).

As I was making supper on Friday evening I mentioned this ephipany to my wife. She was very happy to hear it as she really wants me to continue on as a Ranger. As she reminded me, this is the path we chose to be on by moving here.

And so far so good.

Don't forget to raise your hand if you have something to add,

Ranger Mister G

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Ranger Dan makes my day

Today I received this comment from a fellow NPS Ranger :


I was a presenter at the recent Northeast region's Chief of Interpretation conference in Providence RI. My topic was called "Distance Visitors: Best practices of using the internet to reach visitors outside of the park." The reason I am telling you this is because I used your blog and USS Sullivans YouTube videos as examples of different ways to reach these visitors. I showed the audience your blog and how you were able to promote the work of all of the park's divisions in addition to generating interest in areas of the park that are not easily accessible, but equally important. With the YouTube videos, I showed the possibilities of reaching new audiences that may not go to park websites. The YouTube videos can generate an interest in the subject and potentially direct the user to the park website and eventually the park. I think your internet projects impressed a lot of people. I know it influenced me. I started to post to YouTube under the name rangerdan2 to test the waters.

Keep up the good work

Ranger Dan

For a seasonal ranger, this is a real mood elevator.


Thursday, December 06, 2007


Recently, my wife and I were relaxing in our library, reading, drinking a glass of wine, and just generally enjoying the evening.

She had been thumbing through the opening chapters of a book about George B. McClellan that was written a few years ago by a highly regarded historian, who took a rather unkind stance on the General's abilities and personality.

My wife held out the book and asked me of the author:

"Is this guy a dick or what?"

Brevity is the soul of many good things.

Enjoy the evening,


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Making Movies the Mannie Gentile way:

Okay, that's a take-off on a wonderful Bruce Campbell title. If you're not familiar with Bruce he's famous for cult classics like the Evil Dead and other obscure roles. A few years ago he put out a fine book entitled "If Chins could kill: Confessions of a B movie actor".

At the time it came out I was in charge of a production crew at a public access television station in Grand Rapids Michigan. The book became required reading on how to make movies on the cheap and really fast, which was what we were all about. I headed up the MoLLIE project (Mobile Learning Lab for Information Education), the short story is: we'd arrive at a school with video and editing equipment and one week later we'd taught a classroom of kids how to write, shoot, perform, and edit their own curriculum-linked videos for cablecast.

It was a lot of fun and I found that I really liked making video.

Most of my stuff is posted on YouTube (search Mannie1952). Some of it is fairly serious or straightforward and some is just silly and fun. Here's a place you can go to see any of the films I've posted:

Working at Antietam has been a real opportunity to gather and edit interesting (and sometimes even compelling) footage,

The video of the Antietam Illumination that I posted yesterday is an example of why I enjoy shooting and editing so much. That particular piece consists of footage harvested over a year and about two weeks of editing work.

I have two video cameras including a Sony VX-2100 (pictured below, which, sadly, is ill at the time and awaits full-time employment for yours truly before repairs can be explored)

Sometimes, as with the artillery piece that I'm currently doing for the Antietam website, I have to do voice overs. Here I am in my high-tech studio with a bedspread providing the sound dampening.

Once I get the footage I upload it to my computer (mac G5) and use the imovie program to do the editing. imovie is really easy and also quite aggravating. imovie is a very user-friendly but quirky program and requires a lot of cheating to get a final product.

It takes a lot of tape to make one video.

The results can be be very gratifying. And the cool thing is, sometimes you have a live audience!

Although I'll continue to concentrate on still photography for this blog, I do plan to
upload more Antietam and Civil War videos. I hope you'll enjoy them.

Stay tuned!

Ranger Mannie

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

"The Rest is Silence" Antietam Illumination 2007

This past Saturday was the 19th annual Illumination at Antietam National Battlefield. It gave me the opportunity to gather additional footage to go along with the material I shot last year. And finally I have something to show you.

Do let me know what you think.

Best wishes,

Ranger Mannie