Saturday, June 20, 2009

going big: now.

Things have been moving along faster than I could have imagined here in Cooper Landing. Had a weekend off in Seward with my friend Trina and hiked up to the Harding Ice field that leads on to Exit Glacier. Glorious day, hitched back into town for burgers and a beer, crashed out by 10pm in my tent right on the water. We were awoken by a cacophony of magpies and ravens, though a noise I would far prefer to hear over the neighbors yelling about getting their guns. After a morning of seeing downtown, hitching home was painless and even made a friend or two.

Led my first hike today. I am utterly, totally, and whole-heartedly, in love with my job. I picked up a couple coming out of our back country lodge and after the usual get to know you chat, we sunk our teeth into an afternoon hike. The local flora and fauna aren't as daunting as they were a month ago. Saxifrage no longer looks like star flower to me and lichens are fascinating to no end. The people were, I feel, genuinely impressed with this company as a whole and seemed to have a good time, especially when we saw three bears on a back road. The best thing is I get to be excited about Alaska every single time I hike someone, shuttle people, or just have small talk on the deck. Seeing the world through their eyes, not to mention my own not-yet-jaded eyes has kept me in the highest spirits possible. Days are long but we'll sleep when we're dead.

Got an email today from a Peace Corps friend. It was a journal entry from a fellow volunteer who passed out of this world March 12. Day to day life over there is what we all write about. It's what is so different at first and what becomes so familiar it hurts to deviate. Reading about lunching with friends, spitting out local words and hauling water feel good. They feel comfortable and Kate's writing was so eloquent I was immediately back in my village. I miss it and just can not quantify that emotion. Trying to tie all these extraordinary experiences together in my head leads me to a thought I have been inadvertently chasing. Go big, live now, make it count.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

life of an intern

i keep getting questions from home like, "So, tell me about Alaska." or, "What do you do...exactly?"

First thing's first. Alaska and its islands can stretch from coast to coast of the lower 48. It is MASSIVE and I get to experience a chunk of it while basing out of the Kenai Peninsula. Pretty much anything you read, watch, look at, or hear will entice you to make your way north to the land of eternal sunshine, eternal rain, and final frontiers. There are no guarantees. It might rain for days on end. You might burn your skin off in the never-ending daylight. There may be no animal sightings the entire time you're in the state or a bear could stumble right into your tent at 3am. What a lot of people forget once they get up here is that this really still is the wild. Moose wander down the main drag in Anchorage and people do still live off the fat of the land.

The "What do you do?" question is still popping up, even here among my fellow staffers. Intern is a curious word that springs to mind images of coffee drips, fax machine faux-pas, piles of paperwork and wearing a shirt that says "gimme a job, any job". What I have come to love about my job here is that I get to be involved in every aspect of this company. I've been able to make it out to our two other lodges, see and take part in the workings, meet all the staff, and really just become aware of what we are selling our guests.

A day at base camp could include going to pick up a rafting trip, making welcome files, getting familiar with the upcoming schedule, hauling logs down a mountain and then stripping them, or a day of king salmon fishing. Paper piles be damned, I totally won this time around!

The other really cool plus that came out of nowhere is the opportunity to get guiding experience. I take guests out on local day hikes and I'll be co-guiding three, larger, 9-day trips this summer up to Denali Park and the area. Pretty stoked about that as my co-guide Randy is fabulous and good times will be mandatory...even if we do burn the little piggies in their blankets.

So, that, in a nutshell is what I'm doing. Has anyone been able to get to the pics? Just want to make sure they're working.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Finally Photos!

Geez oh man!  Finally had to make an emergency call to Annie (the other boozer without any borders) and she talked me through the Picasa linking.  Now, on the right of these posts is a flowing slideshow with the currently selected album.  Click on the show and it should take you straight to the Picasa album page.  I just uploaded a bunch of separate albums (some with video!!) so peruse away!

Monday, June 8, 2009

wool sox and suntans

A few days ago, a bunch of staff participated in the annual Russian River StreamWatch fencing.  It was a great way to see how the local forestry service works.  Essentially, we moved a ton of rhibar and plastic fencing further towards the bank in hopes of warding off overenthusiastic fishermen.  The fishing season opens in 3 days and I am a little anxious to see the mayhem.  Words like "combat fishing" don't bring warm fuzzy feelings about nature to my heart.  Major bank erosion is the result as the eager beavers throw themselves down the slopes to make it to the bank as fast as possible in hopes of catching "the one".  After seeing the intensity of our own fish guides as well as hearing stories about Alaskans just shooting things without even getting out of their cars, I believe anything is possible during open season.  Though this fence will probably just rope in the bears and fishermen together and some of the plastic and zip ties will inevitably be ingested by some curious moose or porcupine, apparently the good outweighs the bad...

After that invigorating morning, a group of day off-ers headed to the Juneau Falls trailhead for an 8-mile hike.  The pic of the falls just can't convey the feel of the spray and drop in temperature as we approached.  After sitting down to snack on some granola and grapes, it was time to head out as rain clouds were moving in.  I'm hearing that last year was soggy and grey the whole time.  Though the temp has been hovering around 55 degrees (yesterday it was 80!) and I'm still wearing many layers, I have managed to score some sun on my body and restored the fish belly look I took on while out on the Bering Sea.

A weekend camping trip out to a public use cabin was a  nice treat, as was the float down the river to get there.  One of the best things about this job is the perk of access to equipment and the locality of hot spots.  Places I've read about for years are suddenly extremely accessible.  The staff here does a fabulous job of ensuring employee satisfaction which the guests can almost certainly perceive.  

In other news, I was offered a position through Ameri-corps.  Come September, I will be working with the Nevada Conservation Corps on trail building among other things.  It's a year long position, 6 months around Vegas, 6 months around Reno.  This may make it necessary to get a vehicle...not too sure how I feel about this but I want to be able to see as much as possible while out there.  

Next up, tomorrow starts at 4am as I'm going out King Salmon fishing with some folks around here.  I've never caught many fish in my life and certainly not anything bigger than the little sunfish who frequent the Grand River.  More pics to come!